Tuesday, 7 June 2016

#EUref - Two Choices Or Four?

On 23rd June the British public will be asked an apparently simple question. Do you wish the UK to Remain a member of the EU or Leave it?

But the question is not that simple. I suggest there are at least four possible answers:

(1) Do you wish the UK to Remain a member of the EU:

(a) Remain, positively and indefinitely?

(b) Remain for now, but keep the option to Leave under review?

(2) Do you wish the UK to Leave the EU:

(a) Without being a member of the free market in Europe?
  • There will be no Free Movement of People, and the UK border can be controlled (but Brits won't expect to be able to move freely around the EU any longer). 
  • Duties, tariffs and other import/export restrictions may then apply for trade with EU.

(b) Remaining a member of the "free market" in Europe, by joining the EEA (European Economic Area) much like Norway?
  • Free Movement of People is very likely to be a condition, at least for workers, for many years (see Red Herring for details)
  • But trade with the EU/EEA will continue much like today


The trouble is the Leave side are not being clear on whether they are promoting (2)(a) or (2)(b):
  • They seem to be promoting the full-leave (2)(a) to gain full control of country and borders
  • But in full knowledge that any UK government would have to implement (2)(b) to avoid a catastrophic transitional effect on the economy, that could easily induce a self-inflicted recession. The country won't want that!
The Leave side needs to come clean.  The voters need to know!


It is widely acknowledged amongst Remain supporters that the EU isn't what the UK wants it to be. We joined the Common Market, with no interest in a common currency or political integration.  That hasn't changed for most people. Many of us are Eurosceptics.

I for one am glad the UK didn't adopt the Euro. I advocated that at the time and feel vindicated.

I certainly don't support the idea of remaining in the EU unconditionally as in (1)(a).

I believe the right attitude is (1)(b), to keep Leave under review. This is not only pragmatic economically, but should allow the UK to exert continuing pressure for reform in the EU. I don't hold out much hope, as the central Europeans seem wedded to the idea of political integration.  But there's much the UK can do inside the EU to improve the way it runs.

More importantly we can influence major decisions. Neither would be available under either of the Leave options.


The Remain/Leave decision isn't about the present but about the future.

The world is continuing to change. Increasingly new global institutions like the World Trade Organisation and those covering tax avoidance and environmental matters are taking over, as they should. Today's world is global.

The EU in this context is becoming less relevant.  Increasingly the EU Commission is passing on regulations set at the global level to EU member states.

Brexiteers rightly say that we need to have influence in these global organisations.  An independent UK, can do that better than diluted as part of the EU delegations.  After all the UK is still the 5th largest economy in  the world, after the USA, China, rest of EU and Japan.

That is why we need to keep Leave as an ongoing option.  But I'm just not comfortable that now is the right time. Maybe 5-10 years when we can see where both the EU and these global organisations are headed.

I am voting Remain,  But only to keep Leave under review as in choice (1)(b).

It's a pity the Referendum question doesn't give the Government that instruction.  Maybe the polling organisations can fill the gap.

Further background to my decision is here, covering both the key factors and the exit timing.


  1. Interesting points you make. As a psychologist, I can predict the outcome. It will be near enough 50:50. That's because when you give people a choice between two things, they can rarely make their mind up. However, if you give people too many choices, they also cannot make their mind up. However, many studies show that when you give people a choice of three things, then they can make their mind up.

    So, to get a decisive answer the ballot paper needs three possible choices: Remain, Leave, Hold another Referendum after two years (or some such alternative). That way, the vote would be more decisive.

    So, if the Government had thought about your four options they could have come up with a ballot paper that would produce a better result than we'll get on 23rd. All that is going to happen then is the option for more political argument for another few years, leading to even greater economic uncertainty. Oh and whichever side wins, the other side will also claim a victory of some kind.

  2. Certainly looking 50:50 at the moment. Question is whether there is going to be a break-through issue that makes the choice more obvious. I;d go with this Red Herring