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

This won’t be an in-depth forecast. I’m just revisiting my earlier forecast and trying to determine whether there are good reasons to change my mind or to stay put.

The polls remain pretty evenly split, with those who want to remain in the EU slightly outnumbering those who want to leave[a].

Brexit 1

The betting market gives, as of this writing, Britain a 55% chance of remaining in the EU[b], which is more-or-less in line with the polling numbers. The GJ take on things, however, is the odd man out. It’s consistently forecast a 75% likelihood that Britain will remain in the EU, though just in the last few days it’s dipped to 72%[c]. Now, we’re starting to see elites – especially from the conservative side of the aisle – start to freak out in much the same way that Republican party elites are doing so over our Trumptacular presidential primary here in the States. The Financial Times, for example says that “Britain is heading for Brexit”[d]. And Fortune interprets the departure of Ian Duncan Smith as the beginning of a Tory “civil war”[e]. Smith’s protestations that his departure has nothing to do with his sympathy for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have convinced few if any[f]. Guys, who ya gonna believe, me or your own two eyes?

The best reason (as far as I can see) for thinking that Britain won’t leave the EU is that it would be giving itself the gift of an economic disaster:

Leaving the European Union would cause a serious shock to the UK economy that could lead to 950,000 job losses and leave the average household £3,700 worse off by 2020, a report commissioned by the CBI business lobby group has warned.

In a stark warning, an analysis conducted by accountancy firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers for the CBI said that Brexit could cost the UK economy £100bn – the equivalent of 5% of GDP – by 2020 and would cause long-lasting economic damage from which it would never recover.[g]

Okay, you convinced me, friends. But it’s not so clear that the British median voter is going for it. Reasons to think that people vote for their economic self-interest have been hard to find recently in English-speaking democracies[h].

So I’m changing my forecast slightly to be more closely in line with both the polls (about which I’m leery given some less than spectacular results of late) and the betting market. Current probability of Brexit = 0.62.

[a] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11617702/poll.html

[b] http://www.oddschecker.com/politics/british-politics/eu-referendum/referendum-on-eu-membership-result

[c] https://www.gjopen.com/questions/149-will-a-majority-of-voters-in-britain-s-upcoming-referendum-elect-to-remain-in-the-european-union

[d] http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/35bef41c-ecfe-11e5-bb79-2303682345c8.html

[e] http://fortune.com/2016/03/21/british-government-brexit-divisions-eu/

[f] http://www.ibtimes.com/eu-brexit-debate-2016-iain-duncan-smith-says-resignation-not-about-referendum-2339816

[g] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/21/brexit-could-cost-100bn-and-nearly-1m-jobs-cbi-warns

[h] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/opinion/sunday/voting-and-self-interest.html


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