Brexit march June 2016

The quickest glance at my posts and tweets will tell you two things: (1) we just voted on a multi-faceted complex issue with too little understanding further muddied by the lies pedalled by both sides, and (2) I believe everyone in the UK is better off by our remaining in the European Union.

There's a reason Margaret Thatcher concurred with Lord Attlee in describing referenda as "a device of dictators and demagogues" – the same reason the UK has representative parliamentary democracy and not direct democracy. (If only David Cameron had paid more attention in class.)

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg describes the resultant mess as a "debilitating cocktail of hubris, incompetence and dishonesty".

Yet putting the well-known shortcomings of direct democracy to one side for the moment, we must accept that just shy of 52% of voters went to the polling stations last month and put a cross against Leave. The majority has spoken, right?

Neither Leave nor Remain is perfect, of course, yet to my mind the Leave argument is akin to trashing your car because the ride is a bit bumpy, so I find myself asking ... which majority should we be thinking about?


The hashtag #wearethe48 has emerged in recent days, self-referencing the 48% who voted Remain. It's a bit weak if you ask me, particularly if you compare it to #thefiftypointtwo.

What do I mean by "the fifty point two"?

Well no-one appears to be arguing that we can negotiate a Brexit under the now famous Article 50 in less than two years. Indeed, Iceland negotiated with the EU for five years, despite having only one major product, fish, and a population of a third of a million. Negotiations failed.

But let's be stupidly over-optimistic for a moment and assume we can close a deal in 2018. What might the population, as we know it today, think then? Time for some quick maths. Let's assume:

  1. Everyone votes in a June 2018 referendum the same way they did in June 2016 (ie, we ignore the reports of Leave voters regretting their decision)
  2. Those too young to vote this year vote in future years in proportion to 18-24-year-olds this year.

And hey presto, we find that 50.2% vote in 2018 to Remain, and that majority keeps growing after that.


My calculations are available to review here. The calculations are not straightforward and simplification has been chosen in favour of the Leave campaign. It would be valuable to have this analysis repeated by a psephologist.