Majority of LFF readers oppose EU referendum

It's not undemocratic to protect our economy and international standing from the alarmist press


In our latest poll, we asked Left Foot Forward readers if they’d like to see a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. The majority (63 per cent) of respondents were opposed to a referendum, with 32 per cent saying they’d like one and five per cent undecided.



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So how does this compare with other opinion polls on the issue? Most have focused on what people would actually vote for in the event of a referendum.

YouGov’s latest found that 45 per cent of people would vote to remain in the EU, while 35 per cent would vote to leave. A Survation poll for Sky News in February found 49 per cent would vote to stay, and 51 per cent would vote to leave.

EU-sceptic Conservatives say that the knife-edge balance of public opinion means it is undemocratic to block a referendum. There are several problems with this argument. The first is that it’s cherry picking: we do not hold referendums on most public issues. There has not been one, for example, on TTIP; there was not one on military intervention in Syria or Libya.

The reason for this is that most of the electorate do not have a deep understanding of the intricacies of these issues; to build up a full picture of the economic, social, or security benefits and disadvantages of both sides would be a full-time job. What the electorate are exposed to is the simplified bias of parties like UKIP or the Eurosceptic press, who present an easily digested one-sided argument. The government cannot decide whether or not something is democratic based on whether or not it suits their aims.

Secondly, Britain’s membership of Europe is fairly low down on most of the electorate’s list of concerns. If it’s high on yours, you can always vote UKIP. UKIP have provided a voice for people unhappy with the EU; there’s nothing undemocratic about that.

Thirdly, talk of a referendum, whether or not it actually happens, is damaging in itself. The likelihood is that negotiating an EU exit would lead to a stock market crash and an economic recession. The Centre for Economic Performance have calculated the potential loss to GDP at up to 9.5 per cent; worse than in the 2008 crisis. This would lead to near-unprecedented uncertainty in the stock market in the run up to the referendum, and a loss of foreign direct investment in the UK, with investors concerned about a potential lack of exposure to the European bloc.

Fourthly, the European Union has over 500 million citizens. A UK exit would affect all of them. It is truly undemocratic to allow the UK minority to dictate the future for all EU citizens.

UKIP and right-leaning Conservatives have capitalised on the scapegoat potential of the EU; it’s an easy outpost on which to blame all of the country’s problems. Much of the press have been unforgivably alarmist in this respect; in November the sister of Alice Gross, the schoolgirl murdered by a Latvian immigrant, was forced to issue a statement asking the press to stop using the tragedy as political ammunition. Had we held a referendum in November, I am certain that a significant swathe of the public would have been influenced by coverage of the Alice Gross case.

And herein lies the problem with the EU referendum. The former EU commissioner Chris Patten called it a form of ‘plebiscitary democracy’; a platform for knee-jerk reactions on an issue which will affect the UK profoundly and indefinitely, open to manipulation and propaganda from interested players.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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17 Responses to “Majority of LFF readers oppose EU referendum”

  1. WD

    “It’s not undemocratic to protect our economy and international standing from the alarmist press”

    The “alarmist press” doesn’t have any voting power. The people of Britain do.

    Labour wants to deny that people a say on our membership of the EU, more than 4 decades after anyone had a chance to, even though there’s a clear expectation now that there will be one, most people say they want a referendum and opinion is pretty evenly split between inners and outers.

    Yes, denying an referendum on the EU because you want to stay in and fear the people won’t agree *is* undemocratic.

  2. Gerschwin

    So let me see. In the name of protecting democracy you want to stop a referendum. Interesting concept by LFF, do you also advance democracy by decrying any opinion contrary to yours as media hysteria… oh yes…you do…the only ‘democracy’ you people believe in is one where people say, think and vote for the same things as you – the cynical and evil left at work in its usual dirty way.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes, very democratic.

    Atlee agreed.
    So did Thatcher.

    But you disagree with both of them.
    You are whining because democracy – general elections – is happening.
    You are the one who is demonizing the entire left – your political correctness – as automagically cynical, evil and dirty, and hence working against democracy and being intolerant.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Rot. You have a say – it’s called a general election, and has happened every time. If you want out, get enough support for anti-European parties. You might want a dirty foreign-cash fueled campaign of lies on the TV like the AV Referendum, or a divisive and nasty campaign like the Scottish Independence Referendum, both of which have damaged Britain and it’s democracy, but I don’t.

    15% is not 50%+1, get over it. (And there’s the issue of regional voting, etc. too)

    We need to focus on important issues like voting reform (PR) and constitutional change (federalism), not things with 15% support. You might also want to block investment and make the UK worse off for a long as possible with business uncertainty (let alone your anti-trade views), but I don’t hate it that much. So sorry.

  5. Gerschwin

    So now you’re back on as Leon…how very brave of you…Yes – I disagree with them both Leon, that’s correct. No, I have no problem with a general election taking place, I thoroughly support it and yes I demonise the left because I think the left is evil, vile, cynical and disgusting. It supports democracy only when democracy offers it the result it wants and when democracy threatens something else the left calls out ‘hate speech’ ‘racism’ ‘inequality’ or whatever handy label it needs to shut down the debate and impose its views anyhow – and this article is proof positive of that.
    Stick to signing in as Leon btw, it’s pointless trying to hide as ‘guest’ because it still comes up in our disqus accounts as being from you Leon – hopefully you’ve worked that bit of idiocy out by now, you only end up making a bigger fool out of yourself.

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