DEBUG: blog_post
Does "No-deal" mean "Remain"?
11 Dec, 2018

Some think so – but that does not give ground for hope

Some voters think that when people talk of “no-deal” that means that the UK does not have Brexit and that we stay in the EU. London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg looked at some opinion poll questions. They are clear that no-deal is a Leave option. So support for Remain is not being understated. The lesson is that we have to campaign better for Remain, not just for a People’s Vote.

A figure doing the rounds is that 84% of those asked thought that “no-deal” meant that we stay in the EU – though I have not found a published survey about what people thought that the phrase “no-deal” meant.

It would be a reasonable mistake. I wish to sell you my car for £4,000. You offer £2,000. I reject the offer. No deal. I don’t have your money. But I do still have the car. Nothing has changed.


Questions in Opinion Polls

When YouGov asked in November 2018, the options included:

  • Britain should reject the draft deal and leave the European Union without any deal”
  • Britain should stop Brexit and remain in the EU after all

And: “If you HAD to choose between the following, which would you prefer?

  • Britain accepting the draft Brexit deal and leaving the EU
  • Britain leaving the EU without a deal

And “If you HAD to choose between the following, which would you prefer?

  • Britain leaving the EU without any deal
  • Britain having a new referendum on whether or not to leave the EU

People answering the survey must have understood that no-deal was a Leave option. Moreover, the split in support for different options between Remainers and Leavers (based on their 2016 votes) makes clear that people understood no-deal to be a Leave option. So, for the last question 88% of Remainers but only 18% of Leavers wanted a referendum, while 12% of Remainers and 82% of Leavers wanted no-deal.

Similarly, Survation’s September 2018 options included “ ‘No deal’ – Britain leaves without a specific deal, and gains full control of immigration, laws and trade, but British exports to the EU are hit by tariffs and other barriers.”

In November 2018, Deltapoll asked people to choose between:

  • The UK should accept the withdrawal agreement that has been agreed and leave the EU
  • The UK should reject the withdrawal agreement and leave the EU without any agreement being in place
  • Britain should remain in the EU”

Under transferable voting no-deal beat Remain by 52:48. But it is pretty clear “without any agreement” is a Leave option.


The Daily Express is clear

Its 21 September 2018 explainer says “Leaving without any deal would mean an immediate Brexit, without the 21 month transition period agreed upon with Brussels”. They perhaps misunderstand the transition period; but there can be no doubt that no-deal means Leave. Similarly the article on 14 November 2018 under the heading “No Deal Brexit Explained” looks at the impact if “we leave the EU without a deal”.

So Leavers’ house newspaper is giving a clear message about the meaning of no-deal.


What MPs say

Some MPs report a number of constituents as believing that no-deal means Remain.

However MPs more frequently report constituents asking “why have we not left already?” and saying “we should stop talking to Brussels and just go now”. The latter suggests that people understand no-deal to be a form of Brexit – even if they have perhaps not realised what it actually entails.



No doubt there are people who think that No-Deal means Remain. It is however hard to believe that they would sustain that view if they were asked to fill in an opinion poll, given the clarity of the questions.

So the high support for no-deal in opinion polls genuinely reflects Leave voters’ desire to quit the EU. It would be a false comfort to believe that intention to vote Remain is somehow understated.

That ties in with the poll findings that on the core question of the merits of Brexit the country is still split half and half, even if ours is now the larger half.

That reflects how little positive campaigning we as a movement have undertaken for EU membership, as opposed to pointing out what is wrong with Brexit. We have also focussed too much on the economic harms. For sure they are a part of the picture; but basing a whole campaign on the economy, as we did with Stronger IN, will produce the same result.

We need to go over to campaigning for a positive vision of the UK’s membership of the EU, emphasising the EU’s rôle in promoting peace and good relations between peoples, glorying in freedom of movement, explaining our shared European heritage, showing that one can be English and European.

In the end, perhaps the most significant figure is that as many as 40% in the Deltapoll sample said they would not vote or did not know. It’s all to play for in the campaign.





Views expressed in this article reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe