Europe

“Scaremongering”, Hitler, Boris (again), and the view from Scotland: referendum focus groups with 34 days to go

By Lord Ashcroft

 

For this week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters Lord Ashcroft Polls visited Birmingham and, for a Scottish perspective, Glasgow. Here, the decision at hand seemed to most participants at least as important (but much, much less interesting) as the independence referendum nearly two years ago.

This was partly because the European issue was less emotive than Scottish independence: “It’s a bit anticlimactic in comparison. People were more passionate about the change in the Scottish referendum than they seem to be about the change if we leave the EU. This is a damp squib.” The 2014 vote really had led to new levels of civic engagement (“People on Facebook who used to put up videos of themselves lighting their farts are now talking about politics (more…)

World War Three, Spooks, Churchill, Boris, mortgages, ITV… referendum focus groups with 41 days to go

By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s focus groups took place in Nottingham, Loughborough and Southampton. Our undecided referendum voters had noticed plenty of news, even if they were no closer to making up their minds. “Apparently if we leave the sky’s going to fall in and World War Three is going to break out.” “The Bank of England came out today and said there could be another recession.” “Dave and Boris are having a bit of a spat. I’m not sure they’re still pals.” “The out tour bus started today.” “I read hair dryers and kettles and pressure cookers would be nobbled by the EU if we stay. Now it’s personal! (more…)

Belfast and Brighton: referendum focus groups with 48 days to go

By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s referendum focus groups took place in Brighton and, for a Northern Ireland perspective, Belfast and Newtownards. As always, participants had a range of backgrounds and political views; all said they intended to vote on 23 June but had not yet decided if they wanted the UK to leave or remain.

Having had Assembly elections to contend with, our Northern Ireland groups felt rather behind on the referendum debate (more…)

Referendum focus groups: 55 days to go

By Lord Ashcroft

 

With eight weeks to go, the latest round of Lord Ashcroft Polls focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Newcastle, Gateshead and Stevenage.

President Obama’s visit was the week’s big news. Did anything stand out? “He saw Prince George in his dressing gown.” “I thought he was here for the Queen’s birthday.” Did he say anything about the referendum? “I know he mentioned it but I can’t remember what he said now.” So much for the game-changing moment (more…)

Referendum focus groups: 62 days to go

By Lord Ashcroft

 

Over the next nine weeks Lord Ashcroft Polls will visit every region of the country to find out what undecided voters are thinking about the referendum, what they have noticed and what has passed them by, what they make of the latest claims and interventions, what they take seriously and what they dismiss, whether they are any closer to making up their minds and what is pushing them one way or the other. This week: Bury, Rossendale and Norwich.

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For the Remain camp, the week’s main event was the launch of the Treasury document claiming that households would be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030 if Britain left the European Union (more…)

“We can live without Europe – there is the rest of the world out there”: Serbia & Switzerland

By Lord Ashcroft

For the concluding round of our Europe-wide research, Lord Ashcroft Polls has ventured outside the EU for two rather different perspectives. First, to Serbia, one of the five current candidate countries hoping to join the union: what are they expecting, and does it matter to them if Britain is still there when they arrive? And finally, Switzerland, whose per capita GDP is higher than that of every EU country except Luxembourg: are they happy outside, and what would they advise British voters to do in June? (more…)

“I get restless talking about the entry of the Turks and the exit of England”: Athens & Madrid

By Lord Ashcroft

 

For our latest round of research into how the rest of Europe views the EU, Britain and the prospect of Brexit, Lord Ashcroft Polls visited two southern capitals: Athens and Madrid.

Our focus groups in Greece were timely. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned that his country was in danger of becoming a “warehouse of souls”, with more than 40,000 migrants unable to move on as neighbouring states close their borders. Not surprisingly, the issue was top of the agenda for our participants: “it is a matter of the survival of the state.” Greece would find it impossible to absorb such vast numbers, let alone integrate them, and the costs could be huge, both financially and in terms of social cohesion.

Yet there was strikingly little resentment in our groups against the migrants themselves (more…)

“If they leave, it’s the beginning of the end”: Stockholm & Riga

By Lord Ashcroft

Our latest view of how the prospect of Brexit looks elsewhere in Europe comes from the North and East: Sweden, which is struggling to maintain its social model in the face of unprecedented migration (as well as being, according to my recent survey, the most popular country in the EU); and Latvia, a former Soviet republic now two years into membership of the euro.

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“Would we need a passport to go to Belfast?” My Brexit focus groups in Dublin

By Lord Ashcroft

For the latest of our series of Europe-wide focus groups Lord Ashcroft Polls visited our nearest neighbour. As my recent polling in EU countries found, Ireland is among the keenest members of the Union, giving the highest positive rating to their membership after Malta, Spain and Poland. (The UK was the joint third least enthusiastic – only Sweden and the Czech Republic gave lower scores). (more…)

Has the renegotiation done more to boost Remain – or Leave?

By Lord Ashcroft

The summitry is over, the deal is done, and the plan David Cameron set out in his Bloomberg speech three years ago is nearing completion.

In promising the in-out EU referendum, he was determined that voters would not be asked to settle for things as they were. As he put it, “a vote today between the status quo and leaving would be an entirely false choice… It is wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right.” Instead, the new government would negotiate “a new settlement” for the UK in a more flexible, democratic, accountable European Union with the single market at its heart.

The scheme had several virtues from Downing Street’s point of view (more…)