Leavers and Remainers have a variety of points of disagreement, to state the obvious. Given the often deep and sometimes rancorous divisions which still linger in some quarters, it’s always interesting to find out about areas where people with diametrically opposed views of the EU still agree to a sizeable extent.
One such example is presented in today’s Sunday Telegraph, which carries the results of a poll tracking sentiment around the Brexit negotiations. Asked the question “do you agree the EU is trying to bully the UK in the Brexit negotiations”, 67 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed, overall.
Eighty-seven per cent of Leavers thought the EU was acting as a bully – which is unsurprising, given that plenty of Eurosceptics hold their views precisely because that is their analysis and experience of the EU’s meddling, overbearing character. But, strikingly, a full 49 per cent of Remain supporters also agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, outnumbering the 36 per cent who disagreed with it to some degree.
That’s a poor reflection on the way that the EU institutions and their figureheads have conducted themselves so far. Juncker, Selmayr, Tusk et al might simply not care, particularly if they believe bullying is their best hope of victory, or at least their best route to winning fans in the remainder of the integrationist project. But if their claims to want a productive agreement as the basis of a future relationship are true, and if they intend to honour the requirement of Article 50 to strike such an agreement, then they ought to be concerned that they are alienating even their natural supporters in the UK.
The finding also strikes a cautionary note for Britain’s remaining pro-EU campaigners. Some of them continue simply to make the case for British membership of the EU, as you might expect. But there are others who have gone far darker, and now appear to be hoping for disaster, who gleefully crow about the worst possible interpretation of every dubious forecast, and who seem to take the side of EU negotiators on every utterance, the more hostile the better. That’s always been distasteful, but it also looks ever more unwise in the context of polling like this; voters on both sides dislike how the EU is acting, and they won’t be very keen on UK campaigners egging them on further.
The hard core are unlikely to recognise the possibility that they might be at risk of harming their own cause, no matter how much evidence might be presented. I wonder if Labour, which recent leaks suggest has been directly working with the EU against the UK negotiating position, is more capable of self-reflection?