Analysis and comment: Brexit might be best in longer term, but voters are scared by its likely turbulence

by | May 26, 2016 | ESA, History | 0 comments

With just weeks to go to the referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Union (EU), the bookmakers have now put the odds of leaving – the so called “Brexit” option – at around 3-1 (in from 4-1) – implying a 25% chance of this happening  While there has been a swing to the Brexit side mainly over voter concerns over the effect of large scale EU immigration, rated in polls as the “most important issue”, nevertheless the Remain side still leads in the opinion polls.

It is the likely economic and international turbulence which would probably initially follow a vote for Brexit has apparently put off some voters, even though many economists think that in the longer term, an independent UK could do better out of the EU.

Scare stories have been made up by both sides during the campaign – some less credible than others.

There was some amusement to be had over Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim that Brexit was a major threat to world peace. More believably, many UK industries have come out for remaining in, arguing that their own and their workers’ financial prospects depend on EU membership. This group includes Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market.

While the space industry is unlikely to be affected by a Brexit vote, given that the UK will stay in the European Space Agency (ESA), some programmes are funded by the EU.  For example the Galileo navigation system’s satellites, which are principally funded by the EU, are being built by the Airbus DS subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), acting as subcontractor to the the German firm, OHB.

Many scientists in other fields also rely on EU grants, as the British government has historically been tight-fisted when it comes to funding science.

Post Script: There have been already been allegations of the UK government apparatus being used too much to sway the view of the British public into remaining in the EU, most notably by using government funds to send out “biased” leaflets to homes across the country. Now it is Bristol council’s effort to explain the voting procedure which has caused consternation in the Electoral Commission.  The leaflet in question, a little too helpfully, appears to tell voters where to put their cross. The Electoral Commission which is trying its best to ensure a fair vote has subsequently ordered the mass pulping of the leaflet lest any more be sent out.

Update 10 June 2016:  While this EU Referendum is unlikely (thankfully) to have the blatant poll stuffing and electoral vote rigging of some pseudo-democracies around the world, there has still been quite a bit of “bending of the electoral rules”. This has been perpetrated mainly by the remain side. For apart from the few strokes on leaflets already pulled above, the remain-side supporting UK government’s latest bit of gamesmanship involves extending the registration time for voter registration. That is, in perceiving that the young are more likely to vote to stay in the EU, but also who are more likely to be “late to register” themselves to be able to vote, the UK government decided to use the excuse of a short breakdown in the voting registration website, to extend the registration deadline for a further 48 hours.  The result was that hundreds of thousands of mainly young people have now got a vote, and given the tightness of the race this move might just swing it in the remain side’s favour.

While it can be argued that letting as many people as possible have the vote is good for democracy, by bending the rules in this un-British sort of a way, the UK government really does not deserve to succeed.

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