Cliffs at Beachy Head, Sussex, overlooking the English Channel
A sense of relief is here. The campaigning for and against the European Union has ceased (for now) as citizens in the United Kingdom go to vote today on whether this nation should Remain or Leave.
I had a chance on Wednesday to make light of the so-called “Brexit” campaign when I saw my regular postman and asked him whether he was making use of the postal ballot. He will be voting to Leave.
I say for now, because whatever happens today, or rather at around 7am on Friday, there is no doubt the result will not be the end of it.
Politicians, political parties and the country at large will struggle to come to terms with what the referendum – a “generous” concession from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker – will actually mean in reality.
I have already written about why I feel that even a Leave vote will be politely ignored, much as Scotland was short-changed on a slew of promises made to keep it in the union, the United Kingdom that is, in 2014.
Poorer people, and those who feel they are not part of the Establishment, will be the ones more inclined to vote Leave in the hope of a better tomorrow. Regions are more likely to vote Leave too.
Juncker might like you to think this is a one-off vote. The EU shakes at prospect of copycat polls
And the general population, if it heard the hardline comments of Juncker on Wednesday, that an Out vote means no further renegotiations, is only likely to be met with Leave sentiment.
Perhaps Juncker was trying to scare voters into the Remain camp, but the sheer thuggery, the lack of diplomacy in his language will make many feel he should have remained premier of a tiny and insignificant land-locked nation such as Luxembourg – itself a destination for brass plate low-tax exile businesses.
As things currently stand, the Financial Times poll of polls has the two camps neck-and-neck on 44% apiece. On Tuesday it was 45% to the Leave camp. Ironically, the poll of polls reading comes after two opinion polls on Wednesday gave the Leave camp a modest advantage. But that still leaves around 10% undecided, so there is everything to play for.
A few minutes before midnight on Wednesday I took this snapshot reading. It is updated in real time. Earlier in the day it showed Remain 75% to Leave 25%. It now shows Remain on 77% and Leave on 23%.
But before we get carried away with this, it is a bookies league. These are not much more accurate than opinion polls in predictions, although they offer an interesting alternative perspective.
My feeling is that, the sentiment is still neck-and-neck and may favour the status quo on Thursday. So I do expect the Remain camp to win, but nothing like a 75% level of support! That I think reflects more that punters see more value in betting on a Remain than a Leave.
So that’s what I think will happen. And what would I like to happen? Well, given as the Referendum is only a Grand Opinion Poll, a snapshot valid on June 23, I would like people to vote Leave in their droves. That is the only way to silence threatening remarks from the likes of Juncker and to ensure that the EU seriously engages in reform which it badly needs.
I do think that a Leave vote will also mean countries like Poland and The Netherlands could be the next to put it to a vote in their respective jurisdictions. And you can bet your bottom euro that the EU is very keen to scare members states into not even mulling the idea. So much for democracy. But as Juncker freely admitted in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which quoted his remarks, he said he was “basically not a big fan of referendums”.
But the most important thing is not to rubbish the EU, much of whose work has been admirable and beneficial over 59 years. Rather, it is vital to make the monolithic institution wake up to the reality it can no longer go on encroaching on the sovereignty of a coalition of nations and take their membership for granted. Europe will be stronger if and when the eurocrats finally accept this difficult fact.