It’s been another bad week for “Remoaners”. Those who warned the UK economy would nosedive if we voted for Brexit faced another wave of broadly favorable data.
Since the UK’s historic referendum in June, the widely-threatened Brexageddon hasn’t happened. On the contrary, consumer confidence has rebounded, retail sales are up and the housing market has remained firm – pleasing homeowners while further exasperating first-time buyers.
What are we to make of David Cameron’s “deal” with the European Union? How does it affect the probability Britain will vote to leave the EU in the referendum now confirmed for 23 June?
The Prime Minister achieved very little, to my mind, in his negotiation with other EU member states. In fact, he severely weakened his cause. The chances of Britain leaving the EU have sharply risen, I’d say, since Downing Street last weekend revealed some rather threadbare concessions. “Brexit” is now a very real possibility – and any UK-based business that thinks otherwise is probably ill-informed.
David Davis is, in his own words, “intensely relaxed”. As we meet in Howden, an attractive market town nestled in the Yorkshire constituency he’s held since 1987, the Former Shadow Home Secretary and one-time Tory Leadership candidate certainly seems laid back.
Tieless, and with a beaming smile, Davis guides me to a delightful local pub for an unflashy lunch. Over scotch eggs and spicy chicken, the Tory backbencher Downing Street most fears launches into frank conversation.
“The Conservatives have just had a wake-up call with a baseball bat,” says the Former Minister for Europe. “What we’ve just seen was a very, very clear statement from a lot of people, half of whom previously voted Tory, that they’re not happy”.
The “wake-up call”, of course, was UKIP’s outright victory in last week’s European elections – chalking-up 27.5pc of the vote, ahead of Labour on 25.4pc and the Tories on 23.9pc, with the Liberal Democrats trailing on 6.9pc. Nigel Farage’s party also took 163 local council seats – more than tripling their tally, despite what Davis describes as an “anti-UKIP media onslaught”.