Will a majority of voters in Britain’s upcoming referendum elect to remain in the European Union? (update)

Brexit would be an economic catastrophe for Britain and could well be one for the rest of Europe as well. It’s not like I’m saying something novel here[1][2][3].

But it can be difficult to disentangle the question “Is Brexit a bad idea for Britain?” from the question “Will Britain vote for Brexit?”. I suppose I’d like to think that British voters will recognize their economic self-interest and the economic interests of the people with whom they currently share EU status. And I’d like to think that they will vote accordingly. But voters often put economic considerations in the background when making up their minds, as political scientists have known for a long time[4].

Perhaps the Brexit vote will play out in more-or-less the same way that the referendum on Scottish independence did. But before drawing a clear lesson from the 2014 vote, it’s also worth remembering that (a) Scotland’s population makes up only about 10% of Britain’s, that (b) Scotland has been linked more deeply (in terms of gov’t control) and for much longer to Britain than Britain has been to the EU, and that (c) the sorts of concerns that motivated (and still motivate) the desire for Scottish independence and not quite the same as those that motivate the desire for Brexit. For instance, partisans of Scottish independence did not seek, as far as I know, to combat the “likely…fall in relative importance [of Scotland] in the world”[5] as some Brexit backers do, mutatis mutandis. And certainly the anti-migrant rhetoric was not, to the best of my knowledge, a part of the argument for Scottish independence as it has been with Brexit[6].

Britain was my home for half a decade, and I don’t won’t to see her leave the EU, but that doesn’t mean she won’t. So for now I’m going to be keeping a close eye on the polls.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/03/everything-you-need-to-know-about-britain-leaving-the-european-union/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_wonk

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-35696512

[3] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/brexit-could-drag-all-of-europe-into-disaster/news-story/492ee989ead828b0545745f7766f03bc?nk=7bb3d75d25149cb5709b9714e1164588-1457365425

[4] http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110937

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/11968813/Three-reasons-why-Britain-needs-Brexit.html

[6] http://time.com/4150676/david-cameron-european-union-brexit-talks/


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