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BREXIT

OPINION: New poll shows the people must get another say on Brexit

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain analyzes the surprising results of an extensive new Brexit survey.

OPINION: New poll shows the people must get another say on Brexit
Photo: AFP

For the last three years, politicians of all variations have been telling us what the British public wants, and what we voted for back in June 2016. I’ve no idea how they can possibly know what we want, when they still can’t tell us how Brexit will look and are terrified of repeating the important question, in a second referendum.

In the case of remain voters, the UK government is probably correct in assuming that we did know what we wanted. We chose the status quo and voted to keep the benefits and rights we enjoy as EU citizens, even if we didn’t fully appreciate what we might lose.

It’s another matter when the government and pro-Brexit politicians claim to have had magic vision that enabled them to see into the minds of leave voters three years ago. All these voters elected to leave the EU, but the types of Brexit they envisaged were varied, from the softest Brexit (“you’ll barely notice the difference”), to the hardest WTO-terms Brexit. Did anyone even know what a soft or hard Brexit was at that stage? We were simply told it would be the easiest deal in history, and that Britain would enjoy a glorious future.

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Photo: AFP

It is noticeable that many politicians, including Conservative party leadership candidates, have stopped repeating the well-worn mantras of 2016. Leave campaigners, such as Nigel Farage and MEP Daniel Hannan, stated back then that Brexit didn’t mean leaving the single market. Farage now sings a different song and is advocating the most damaging of Brexits – leaving with no deal at all.

Regardless of how leave voters pictured Brexit, they won’t all have the same vision now. Today, we know considerably more about what type of Brexit is possible and the implications for the British economy and citizens. Even with that knowledge, nothing is certain, with parliament failing to agree on the best way forward.

Amid the uncertainty, and the fear and anxiety experienced by Brits living in the EU, it’s important to consider how we feel now. We mustn’t make the same mistake as the British government and believe that one snapshot in time is the only moment worth considering.

On Friday 7th June, the results of an extensive new Brexit survey were published by YouGov. Many polls have aimed to establish if the British public has changed its mind, and whether the vote would go the same way in a second referendum.  

The new survey sought to look deeper by examining respondents’ first, second and last choices and the strength of their opinions on each option. Previous assumptions, regardless of the type of Brexit, were that leave supporters wanted out of the EU more than remain supporters wanted to stay. According to this survey, the opposite is true.

Participants were given a choice between the Withdrawal Agreement (Theresa May’s negotiated deal), a softer Brexit, a no-deal Brexit, or staying in the EU. Each respondent listed the options in order of preference and weighted each one depending on whether they preferred it “a bit”, “a fair amount” or “a lot” more than other options. This weighting was an important factor in accurately gauging levels of support for the options, and to establish that a second-choice compromise would likely displease both sides equally.


CYouGov survery results. Chart by New Statesman

The analysis revealed that the majority of remainers would prefer staying in the EU significantly more than any other option and would, therefore, be unhappy with any other outcome. Leavers showed a strong first preference for exiting the EU, although with varied first choices. Many felt so negatively about any other Brexit option that 24% said they would prefer to remain than see their second choice implemented.

So, whichever Brexit course of action the government might choose, as well as making remain voters unhappy, it would upset many leave voters too.

It has been a while since we heard the over-used phrase, “the will of the people”, to justify a course of action that would please hardly anyone. The next resident of No. 10 would be well advised to listen to what the country is now saying or find their reign as Prime Minister the shortest in history.

If they are unsure what the country now wants, they really need to put the question back to the British people!

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain.

READ ALSO: What Britons in Spain need to do during the six-month Brexit delay

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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