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How to resolve Brexit!

Colin Irwin   Sat 06 Apr 2019   updated: Thu 19 Sep 2019

Watch the talk on how to resolve Brexit on the Worldwide Wednesday YouTube Channel here:

Did Brexit need a Peace Poll?

‘Did Brexit need a Peace Poll?’ compares two deeply divided societies. Northern Ireland where peace was achieved between Protestants and Catholics in the 1990s, and Brexit Britain where ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ continue to be ‘at war’ over the UK’s relationship with the EU. Dr Colin Irwin explains how the politicians used conflict resolution best practice in Northern Ireland to test all their options for peace against public opinion and achieve the Good Friday Agreement. But in Brexit Britain these lessons from Northern Ireland were ignored by Prime Minister May who insisted on ‘her deal or no deal’ with disastrous results.

Download the WAPOR Paper:

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Did Brexit need a Peace Poll WAPOR

Yes – Brexit did need a peace poll

Colin Irwin   Wed 20 Mar 2019   updated: Tue 23 Apr 2019

Prime Ministers are always concerned about their legacy and how history will regard them after they have left office. For Prime Minister Tony Blair his most significant policy failure was the Iraq War and for David Cameron it was losing the EU referendum. For Prime Minister May, above every thing else, she did not want to be remembered as the Prime Minister that split the Conservative Party condemning them to years in opposition or split the Union with the loss of Scotland or Northern Ireland. So she wanted a EU Withdrawal Agreement that would satisfy Conservative MP ERG Leavers while also avoiding a second EU referendum that might be a prelude to a second Scottish referendum in which the Scots would vote for independence and continued EU membership. So both a national consensus Norway style deal and/or a People’s Vote were never going to be her preferred policy options. It was her deal or no deal. The Prime Minister’s interests and the interests of the Conservative Party were placed above the national interest and in this context research and research funding was dominated by the NGOs that supported the Remain and Leave camps and by the agenda of Prime Minister May’s Government. Support for a national consensus would only come when and if the Prime Minister’s option totally failed. On Tuesday the 12th of March, the Government’s proposals for leaving the EU were voted down for a second time by a margin of 149 votes and the Prime Minister in her statement to the House of Commons said the other options of no deal, a second referendum or some form of soft Brexit were now “choices that must be faced.” Clearly public opinion research and public diplomacy was now needed in support of this new agenda and on March 20th May’s Government asked the EU for an extension to Article 50 which would give time for such research.

The five short articles and three Brexit pilot peace polls published on The UK in a Changing Europe website were restricted to the format for Google Surveys. On the plus side they were very inexpensive and easy to run but were limited in style and word length as they were run on an Android app platform. Significantly the questions were also limited to blocks of ten short questions. However, the questionnaire, In Search of a Settlement, used to detail all the elements of the Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement contained 252 questions and was run as a small booklet in face-to-face interviews (Irwin, 2002). None of the polling done in an effort to resolve Brexit was undertaken to this level of sophistication to detail all the possibilities for the future arrangements for the UK and EU because that was not part of the Withdrawal Agreement. But this bridge now has to be crossed with all the possibilities for trading and other social and security arrangements being tested against public opinion ranging from World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, to Canada-style deals, to a Customs Union and/or Single Market arrangements, similar to a Norway-style deal with perhaps elements taken from existing European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) treaties to produce some kind of European Community 2.0 type deal, or more, or less? (For recent reviews on these options see Wallace, 2019 and Trefgarne 2019). The A New Framework Agreement (1995) was used to set an agenda for both the In Search of a Settlement Northern Ireland peace poll and subsequent Belfast Agreement. Similarly the Political Declaration (2018) can do the same for a UK/EU agreement with each element unpacked and tested against public opinion for all the possible options available.

This was not done to resolve Brexit because the Government only wanted their deal and no other deal. But that is ‘water under the bridge now’ and in an effort to mitigate the inevitable Parliamentary party political dysfunction over the future UK/EU relationship a programme of research that addresses all these issues should be undertaken proactively with willing Parliamentarians, as was done in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the hundreds of polls on Brexit that are in the public domain are, to some extent, just the tip of the iceberg of the polling completed with significant amounts of polling undertaken privately by the major political parties and UK Government. But the degree of sophistication achieved in Northern Ireland by engaging with the politicians from all the parties elected to the negotiations has never been duplicated elsewhere and, most importantly, all the results of all those peace polls were made public to both inform the public and bring the public with the politicians to an agreed consensus on the way forward. The same now needs to be done for Brexit. Critically, such public diplomacy peace polling will not only inform the British public and their elected representatives what they want but also those in Brussels and across the EU with whom the future arrangements have to be negotiated. To date the Brexit negotiations have been a resounding failure consuming and paralysing Parliamentary politics to the exclusion of other domestic and foreign policy issues that should have rightfully been addressed since the referendum of 2016. This paradigm needs to change with the future research serving the needs of the nation, not the government alone and not the narrow interests of Leave or Remain lobbyists.

Indicative Votes

On Monday March 25th amendment (a) moved by Sir Oliver Letwin in the House of Commons was passed by 329 votes in favour to 302 votes against and the main Motion (as thereby amended) was then passed with 327 votes in favour to 300 against. It provided for a procedure to allow ‘the House to debate and vote on alternative ways forward, with a view to the Government putting forward a plan for the House to debate and vote on…’ This was done to allow MPs to complete a series of ‘Indicative Votes’ on options chosen by the Speaker of the House that reflected the kinds of options for resolving Brexit tested here. However, the methods used here are designed to ‘square the circle’ between the wishes and opinions of Parliamentarians and the wishes and opinions of the people they represent. It has not been used to provide Parliamentarians with a method of voting for various options although it would be most interesting to try it and see how it worked out. Accordingly, in the first instance, Parliament should use voting methods they are familiar with and trust.

To this end, Sir Oliver Letwin suggested in the debate leading up to the vote on his amendment that the first vote should be for Members’ first choice only, to discover and reveal the political topography of the House on all the options available. This seemed to be most sensible but then, as several members pointed out and as the research reviewed here indicates, this might not bring the House to a resolution of the issues at hand and certainly would not identify the best possible compromise. With this point in mind the voting system used in the House of Commons to select Members of Select Committees was proposed but there was then some discussion as to how many options should be rank ordered to do this. Again experience from Northern Ireland might help here where those Members are familiar with the single transferable vote system (STV) that allows any number of candidate options to be rank ordered as illustrated in Table 1.

In the Northern Ireland Assembly Members there can also designate their political identity as Unionist, Nationalist or Other. Similarly Members of the House of Commons could designate themselves as Leavers or Remainers having voted Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum. A conflict resolution analysis from this perspective, as well as political party analysis, would also be most revealing and as an academic exercise would have been tried if research funding for such an exercise had been made available in 2018. It would also be interesting to see how such a method, analysis and outcome would compare with Members noting the value of each option on the five point ‘essential’, ‘desirable’, ‘acceptable’, ‘tolerable’ and ‘unacceptable’ scale used in Northern Ireland and around the world. Even if this is not done to help resolve these issues in Parliament it still can be done for all the issues that remain unresolved and are yet to be negotiated and settled between the UK and EU as was done in Northern Ireland between Unionists, Nationalists and Others. Finally, it should be remembered, to take one more lesson from Northern Ireland, that the Belfast Agreement was tested in a referendum to give it political legitimacy. Likewise the Brexit peace process may still have some way to go.

In the first Indicative Vote held on Wednesday March 27th 16 motions were proposed and 8 selected by the Speaker of the House of Commons. These are listed in Table 12 along with the results for the three attempts by the Government to pass their Withdrawal Bill. The motions rejected by the Speaker tended to be duplicates of those selected, or ‘aspirational’ motions such as ‘(A) Constitutional and accountable government’ which in public opinion terms would be characterised as ‘motherhood and apple pie’ and therefore meaningless, or items that could not be realised as they had already been rejected in negotiations. Parliamentarians were characterising these motions as ‘unicorns’.

The two motions that came closest to passing were a ‘customs union’ having lost by only 8 votes, and a ‘confirmatory public vote’, which lost by 27 votes. Both of these motions failed by fewer votes than the Government’s Withdrawal Bill, which, even on its third attempt lost by 58 votes. In Northern Ireland this outcome would have been seen as a clear victory for potential compromise and a way forward. But the UK public had not been properly prepared for Indicative Votes with a programme of public opinion research and public diplomacy so even The Guardian (2019), a liberal newspaper, reported this outcome as a failure with the headline “Parliament finally has its say: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No” and “Commons rejects all eight alternatives in indicative votes” when in fact it was a success to be built on from a conflict resolution perspective.

This supposed political ‘failure’ was further reinforced by Sir John Curtice (2019) in his review of public opinion polling on the Common Market 2.0 or Norway-style Brexit option published on March 29th. Critically he selectively cited data that supported his conclusion that “a Norway-style Brexit could find itself in much the same position as Mrs May’s deal proved to be – with few friends who are willing to take it to heart” while ignoring research that came to the conclusion that it was potentially the most preferred Brexit outcome (Grant et al 2018). But the Government failed to support this compromise when it was brought to the House for a second time on April 1st. However with Labour Party support it now lost by only 21 votes while the Customs Union proposal narrowly lost by only 3 votes (Table 13). Accordingly the proposer of the Common Market 2.0 compromise, Nick Boles MP, resigned from his party and joined the opposition benches.

Conclusion

On April 2nd, following an eight hour cabinet meeting Prime Minister May announced that she would now seek to negotiate a compromise to her Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, with the Opposition, in an effort to draft legislation that would pass in the House and facilitate the UK leaving the EU. But the polarised politics of the past two years had not prepared the British public for that compromise and the research and polling community had similarly failed in this regard. In this context the ‘Father of the House’ (its longest standing Member) Ken Clarke MP (2019) recommended that the country now needed a long extension so as not to rush the negotiations for new arrangements between the UK and EU and also to start to mend relations between Leavers and Remainers in both Parliament and the wider UK public.

When Theresa May lost her majority in the House of Commons in the General Election of 2017 she was advised by her Conservative Party Chief Whip, Julian Smith MP (2019) that she should seek a compromise on her Brexit deal if it was to pass in the House of Commons. But she did not, believing that by will of personality she could overcome the facts of Parliamentary arithmetic. Such misplaced self-confidence and hubris is characteristic of many political leaders that ‘soldier on’ against the realities of their circumstances, unwilling to compromise with opposition forces in numerous unresolved conflicts around the world. In the end all such politicians and their societies have to come to terms with the necessities of managed conflict resolution or remain destined to become frozen conflicts. Arguably the divisions over Europe in the British Conservative Party are a frozen conflict and until that fact is recognised and addressed history may continue to repeat itself with ethnic entrepreneurs in the body politic all too willing to play the populist, narrow nationalist, ‘identity card’ for short term electoral advantage.

On April 10th the European Union granted Britain an extension until October 31st 2019. But in the context of contested EU elections on May 23rd the prospect of using that extension to mend the divisions between Leavers and Remainers would be more than problematic. A longer extension was probably needed to undo the damage done over the past several years (Renwick, 2019). But even so the prospect of using Citizens Assemblies (Jayanetti, 2019) and peace polls to mend those divisions would be very challenging in the absence of a proactive approach to conflict resolution. In Northern Ireland the British and Irish Governments opposed the use of independent peace polling there, but the ten political parties elected to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement overruled the two governments in their negotiations business committee and went ahead with the peace polls against the two governments wishes. Similarly the Parliamentarians in Westminster should form an all-party business committee (Lucas, 2019) in the House of Commons to manage and implement a programme of Brexit reconciliation, and by taking ownership of it ensure its success in the National interest. Finally the EU should complement these efforts with a programme of their own to deal with the negative effects of identity politics at the core of Brexit politics in the UK and elsewhere. Like Britain the EU had experimented with Citizens Assemblies (Butcher and Stratulat, 2018), but like the UK they had also prevented those researchers from running and publishing effective peace polls (EUSurvey, 2019) . Objective independent polling and transparency is needed on both sides of the Channel.

For tables, data, references and a full analysis download the attached WAPOR paper.

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Did Brexit need a Peace Poll WAPOR

Brexit: Finding the best possible compromise

Colin Irwin   Fri 22 Feb 2019

When politicians fail to bring peace to their society ravaged by the forces of bloody conflict they always blame ‘the people’ saying they wanted a deal that would bring peace but that ‘their people’ could not accept it. Most of the time such claims are lies, people generally do want peace and all the benefits that flow from peace and the problem really is that the peace deal ‘on the table’ is not in the interests of the political elites and their allies charged with negotiating a peace agreement. And so goes the world (1), is Brexit any different?

This is an empirical question. What compromise on Brexit could the people of the United Kingdom accept given the political will of their leaderships to take them down that road? In my first Brexit pilot peace poll I tested the views of Leavers against Remainers using the conflict resolution techniques that worked so well in Northern Ireland (2). But in the UK it is not the Protestant/Unionists and Catholic/Republicans that have to make peace it is the Conservative and Labour Party supporters. So in my second Brexit pilot peace poll I asked what political party the informant generally supported in addition to their preference to leave or remain in the European Union. Table I (in attached pdf below) lists the results for Leavers and Remainers and Table 2 lists the results for Conservative and Labour Party supporters for eight different options: the PMs Withdrawal Agreement, No-Deal, a Permanent Customs Union, a Norway-Style Deal, a Canada-Style Deal, Remaining in the EU, a Compromise Agreement, and a ‘People’s Vote’ Referendum.

As with the first pilot the individual results can not be taken too seriously as the sample contains only one hundred interviews using Google Surveys and the level of ‘No Answer’ is rather high. But this problem can be mitigated by not looking at the raw per cent results but rather at the rank order of the results. In my experience when working on conflicts these rank orders do not change very much between small difficult to get samples and larger samples providing the samples are representative of the groups being compared. This is done in Table 3 (see attached pdf file) for Conservative and Leave voters and for Labour and Remain voters and the results are very revealing.

For the Labour party supporters the top three priorities are ‘Remain in EU’, a ‘’Customs Union’ and a ‘People’s Vote’ with a ‘Norway-Style Deal’ and some sort of ‘Compromise Deal’ fourth and fifth. The pattern of the rank order for Remainers is almost identical with a ‘People’s Vote’ and ‘Remain in EU’ first and second but with a ‘Customs Union’ now down to fourth perhaps because, for Labour voters, a ‘Customs Union’ is party policy and that is why it is second on their list. Significantly ‘No Deal’ and the ‘PMs Deal’ is at the bottom of both the Labour party and Remainers lists with a ‘Canada-Style Deal’ just above them at sixth position.

However, a ‘Canada-Style Deal’ is first on both the Conservative and Leave lists this being the preferred option for so-called hard line Brexiters. So not much chance of a compromise there. But the second choice for Conservatives is a ‘Compromise Deal’ and for them this would be the ‘PMs Deal’ third or a ‘Norway-Style Deal’ fourth. Interestingly the ‘PMs Deal’ drops to fifth place in the Leavers list as they are not always loyal Conservatives and hard line Leavers are content with ‘No Deal’ which is second on their list behind a ‘Canada-Style Deal’. Significantly a ‘Norway-Style Deal’ is fourth on both the Leavers and Conservative lists and also fourth on the Labour list so, if this were a conflict resolution exercise to stop a violent conflict, then I would conclude that a ‘Norway-Style Deal’ could form the basis for a compromise peace agreement. Interestingly Grant, Rohr, Howarth, Lu and Pollitt (3) come to essentially the same conclusion in their study of these issues using a cost benefit analysis approach. Given that these rather different methodologies come to the same conclusion perhaps the results of these analysis should be taken more seriously as a solution to the Brexit problem now.

Another approach to resolving this problem proposed by a number of Labour and Conservative party MPs is to combine the top preference for Labour party supporters with one of the top preferences for the Conservative party supporters namely a ‘People’s Vote’ to remain in the EU against the ‘PMs Deal’ approved in the House of Commons (4). From a conflict resolution perspective, in a ‘fighting killing war’ this strategy probably would not work as we could not expect the parties to that war to respect the result. But it might work for Brexit. Certainly it is worth a try and if it doesn’t work and if everyone is still dissatisfied with the result then they can always fall back on the ‘Norway-Style Deal’ compromise.

Google Survey Data Files:

This Brexit Pilot Peace Poll was collected between 17 February and 19 February, 2019. The full data files for all three of these polls are available here:

https://peacepolls.etinu.net/cgi-bin/publications?instanceID=1

References

(1) Irwin, C. J., (2012) The People’s Peace, CreateSpace, CA. Available at: http://www.peacepolls.org/peacepolls/documents/002539.pdf

(2) Irwin, C. J., (2019) A way through the Brexit impasse? a Brexit pilot peace poll, The UK in a Changing Europe, 7 February. Available at: https://ukandeu.ac.uk/a-way-through-the-brexit-impasse-a-pilot-brexit-peace-poll/

(3) Grant J., Rohr C., Howarth D., Lu H and Pollitt A., (2018) What sort of Brexit do the British people want? The Policy Institute at King’s and RAND Europe. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/publications/what-sort-of-brexit-do-the-british-people-want-2018.pdf

(4) Helm, T., (2019) Back May’s deal, then hold people’s vote: plan to end Brexit deadlock, The Guardian, Saturday 9 February. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/09/back-theresa-may-brexit-deal-then-hold-peoples-vote-backbencher-plan

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Brexit Compromise

A Brexit Pilot Peace Poll

Colin Irwin   Mon 04 Feb 2019   updated: Mon 11 Feb 2019

In my series of blogs on Brexit I have suggested that Brexit needed a peace poll (1), that much of the polling done on Brexit was partisan and misleading (2), and that as Brexit was creating deep divisions in UK society pollsters should use conflict resolution best practice to analyse their data (3). With this point in mind I have completed a Brexit peace poll pilot to illustrate how this can be done.

Firstly the questions in a peace poll should be agreed and drafted with the cooperation of the parties to the conflict. In this case that should be the Parliamentarians elected to the House of Commons. But for the purposes of this pilot I have simply taken the relevant items from the House of Commons Order Paper No. 239 Part 1 that lists the Governments European Union (Withdrawal) Act, and all the amendments proposed by Parliamentarians (page 26-38) for selection by the Speaker on Tuesday the 29th of January.

From a conflict resolution/negotiations perspective this Act and amendments can be loosely characterised as being ‘substantive’ elements of an agreement or ‘procedural’ elements for getting to an agreement. Using Google Surveys I was able to test nine solutions for resolving Brexit against each other, with a tenth question asking the informant if they would vote ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ if a referendum was held today (Table 1 in pdf below). I would then be able to compare the opinions of Leavers and Remainers on these issues, and see if a compromise could be found anywhere, that they might be able to agree to. The same was done for nine procedural issues (Table 2 in pdf below).

From Table 1 we can see Leavers do not want to stay in the European Union at 79.9 per cent ‘unacceptable’, while Remainers do not want to leave the EU without an agreement at 71.8 per cent ‘unacceptable’, and Leavers do not want a referendum to leave or remain in the European Union at 81.8 per cent ‘unacceptable’. So nothing to agree to there at this time. But if we take a look at the other end of this five point scale, at what Remainers and Leavers consider to be ‘essential’ (Table 3 in pdf below) then we get a slightly different picture. The number one priority for Remainers is ‘a permanent customs union for trade with the EU, strong relationship with the single market, shared institutions and alignment on rights and standards’ at 47.6 per cent ‘essential’. The same item is third on the Leavers list at 17.5 per cent ‘essential’ but significantly it is only 20.2 per cent ‘unacceptable’ so perhaps something can be done with this.

Other options include a Canada-style deal and a Norway-style deal and they are possibly ‘doable’ but they presently require a Northern Ireland backstop which Leavers want removed at 45.4 per cent ‘essential’ while Remainers consider it ‘unacceptable’ at 26.8 per cent. On the other hand the ‘permanent customs union’ approach does not need a backstop so perhaps this is ‘the lesser of the evils’ in this case given its otherwise more general ‘acceptance’ by Leavers’ at 30.8 per cent.

With regards to the procedural issues (Table 4 in pdf below) it is interesting to note that Remainers do want them ranging from a high of 45.5 per cent ‘essential’ for a vote on any deal agreed to by MPs, to 42.7 per cent for MPs to vote on various deals (an Indicative Vote) to ‘ruling out a no-deal scenario and preparing for a People’s Vote with an option to remain in the European Union’ at 41.9 per cent ‘essential’. When phrased in this way Leavers consider this form of referendum to be 55.6 per cent ‘desirable’ so if the Brexit process has to go ‘down this road’ then perhaps this is the way to go. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Leavers are far less enthusiastic about the various procedural options on offer as they want Brexit and presently it is the law.

This Google survey of 100 interviews was collected between February 2 and February 4. It is only a pilot costing a very modest £160. Clearly a larger survey is needed with input from the Parliamentarians who wrote the draft law and amendments tested here. I am a little concerned that my “Remain’ or ‘Leave’ question got such a high ‘Remain’ response so I do not think that result or the general result for the UK population as a whole should be cited here. But comparing the opinions of Remainers and Leavers as ‘indicative’ of what is happening to opinion is valid and I doubt if a more thorough survey would come to conclusions very different to the ones I have drawn here.

Although the pilot only has an N=100 sample I am used to working with small samples around the world as I am generally working on conflicts where such samples are often very hard to get. The thing then is to know what one can draw conclusions from and what one can not. With this point in mind although the overall sample may not be as good as we would like by taking out the most polarised groups (in Northern Ireland Protestants and Catholics for example and in Brexit Britain Remainers and Leavers) we can compare the differences between these two groups with some certainty.

I was thinking of running the pilot again for political party breakdown to compare Labour and Conservative supporters. But the results would not be so definitive in this case as some Conservatives are Remainers and some Labour Party supporters are Leavers. So to do this I think we really do need a much better sample.

Also there is a problem with the Google Programme. I had to include “I prefer not to answer’ in every question up front so the 'No Answers' are a bit high. It is possible that quite a lot of Leavers said they ‘Prefer not to answer’ in question one and that is why the Leave result is a bit low. This problem can be overcome by using ’stock’ questions on this issue that have been tested by various polling companies and that are know to work well.

So I think the poll should be run with a better sample and questions and that comparisons should be made between political parties as well as Remainers and Leavers. Inevitably the Conservatives and Labour Party supporters will be closer on all the issues tested here than the Remainers and Leavers.

Finally I should add that the level of ‘unacceptable’ for Protestants for the Power Sharing option that became the Belfast Agreement was 52 per cent (Table 5). But I suspect that Conservative ‘unacceptable’ for a permanent customs union would be less than 20 per cent so resolving Brexit is a ‘walk in the park’ compared to doing the Belfast Agreement! And the other options such as a Norway-style deal are almost as equally acceptable. But I did not want to say too much about this from the pilot as these similarities are all within the margins of error. So someone really should run these polls again to the best possible polling standards with a bigger sample!

The results for the Brexit Substance Pilot poll can be viewed here:

https://surveys.google.com/reporting/survey?survey=2peeanr4iuxgulkbl6zlyvwkcy

And the results for the Brexit Process Pilot poll here:

https://surveys.google.com/reporting/survey?survey=a3ksqmr55otbkcnrmsmhwiqwq4

And the data files for both polls are available here:

https://peacepolls.etinu.net/cgi-bin/publications?instanceID=1

Finally a free book on peace polling is available here:

http://www.peacepolls.org/peacepolls/documents/002539.pdf

References:

(1) http://ukandeu.ac.uk/did-brexit-need-a-peace-poll/

(2) http://ukandeu.ac.uk/lies-damned-lies-and-brexit-statistics/

(3) http://ukandeu.ac.uk/making-peace-in-two-deeply-divided-societies-northern-ireland-and-brexit-britain/

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A Brexit Pilot Peace Poll Updated

Making peace in two deeply divided societies, Northern Ireland and Brexit UK

Colin Irwin   Thu 24 Jan 2019   updated: Wed 30 Jan 2019

In his keynote address at a conference on ‘Brexit and Public Opinion 2019’ organised by the UK in a Changing Europe Sir John Curtis quite rightly underlined the point that ‘remainers’ and ‘leavers’ are strongly polarised on issues concerning the future relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Union. In this context he also suggested that there was little or no support for any one solution to this problem as, like Parliament, there was not a clear majority of the British public in favour of one solution or another. Again the facts from the various public opinion surveys cited by Sir John suggest that he was right and in the following discussion he pointed out that even in Northern Ireland more than 50 per cent of Unionists voted ‘yes’ for the Belfast Agreement. True again but this fact misses the point that both Northern Ireland and Brexit UK are two ‘deeply divided societies’ and to get to a compromise in Northern Ireland in which both Unionists and Nationalists / Protestants and Catholics agreed a political way forward we had to get them there from a base where support for that compromise was not 50 per cent plus but closer to 10 per cent. Critically, if we had used Sir John’s methods for analysing public opinion in Northern Ireland we would never have got to peace! Clearly this assertion needs to be supported with some public opinion facts.

Sir John cited the results of a poll commissioned by the Change Britain campaign and completed by BMG. In this study eight options were tested ranging from leaving the EU on a Canada-style deal, to a Norway-style deal, the government’s withdrawal agreement and a second referendum with informants being asked to select their most preferred option. Firstly, with so many options on offer it is difficult to get above 50 per cent for any one option and, most importantly, we do not know what informants second and third choices might be and therefore do not know where a compromise might be found between leavers and remainers or between Conservative and Labour party supporters.

As a tool for conflict resolution analysis this methodology is worse than useless as it highlights differences without identifying common ground. Similarly when eight options for the resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict were tested against public opinion only 11 per cent of Protestants and 10 per cent of Catholics accepted the power sharing compromise that became the Belfast Agreement. For Protestants remaining in the United Kingdom without sharing power with Catholics was their number one choice at 49 per cent but it was also the last/eighth choice for Catholics at 33 per cent (see table in pdf attached). So power sharing was the way forward.

But in the real negotiations of the Belfast Agreement we had to deal with literally hundreds of issues and test them against public opinion to help the negotiators come to a compromise and it simply is not possible to rank order hundreds of options. So we came up with a qualitative scale that would achieve the same result for each and every item. The negotiators wanted to know what their publics considered to be ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘tolerable’ or definitely ‘unacceptable’ and when we used this five point scale the politicians could see exactly what each side needed in an agreement and what they would never agree to. A settlement of the Northern Ireland problem was the result with more than 50 per cent of Protestants voting ‘Yes’ for power sharing and the Belfast Agreement. We can do exactly the same for Brexit to find out what remainers and leavers, as well as Conservative and Labour supporters, can compromise on to mend the divisions in the UK body politic and a draft question and questionnaire is provided in the attached pdf to do just that.

The UK is taking on many of the characteristics of deeply divided societies found around the world. This fact needs to be recognised and acted on by the political leadership. Such leadership is not easy, indeed it is very difficult, but the research community can help by providing that leadership and the public with facts and analysis from conflict resolution best practice. In this regard the polling methods used in Northern Ireland are best practice and should be used to analyse and resolve Brexit

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Making peace in two deeply divided societies

In the heated discussion leading up to the Meaningful Vote scheduled for Tuesday the 11th of December the Express reported, from an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, that the ‘Brexiteer Gisela Stuart masterfully shut down Remain campaigner Gina Miller after she suggested there is now increased support for a second Brexit referendum’ (Bosotti 2018). Gina Miller cited a poll published in the Independent that said ‘People were... for a new referendum by 46 per cent to 30 per cent’ (Watts 2018), while Gisela Stuart cited research undertaken for Change Britain noting that “The public want their MPs to vote against a second referendum” by 51 per cent to 45 per cent (BMG Research 2018). Additionally the Change Britain research also claimed a ‘Canada Plus’ agreement was the most ‘strongly preferred’ outcome while the Independent said a ‘Majority of country now think Britain should remain in the EU’. Remarkably BOTH the Independent poll and the poll for Change Britain were carried out by the same company BMG Research. How can this be and how are Parliamentarians supposed to make sense of these diametrically opposed conclusions, and in so doing make what may be the most important decision of their political careers to guide the country forward for generations to come?

The Northern Ireland peace process was far too important to leave the public opinion research in the hands of partisan organisations and pollsters who would bias the questions, methodologies and analysis to fit their client’s agenda. In Northern Ireland a programme of independently funded academic polling research (Irwin 2012) was undertaken as a partnership between the Queen’s University of Belfast and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Critically this research was also undertaken with input from all the parties to the negotiations to ensure objectivity so that the results would be taken seriously and acted on. Clearly Brexit now needs the same approach. So what has gone wrong with the polling undertaken by BMG Research and others, and how can it be corrected?

Firstly, with regards to support for a second referendum the result depends not only on when the poll was run but also on the question asked. For example Lord Ashcroft (2018) in his November poll asked ‘Should there be a second referendum, to decide between leaving the EU on terms agreed in the draft Brexit agreement, or remaining in the EU?’ resulting in 38 per cent ‘yes’ and 47 per cent ‘no’ because this question disenfranchises ‘leave’ voters. Conversely when asked ‘Should there be a second referendum, to decide between leaving the EU on terms agreed in the draft Brexit agreement, or leaving without a deal?’ the result is only 31 per cent ‘yes’ and 50 per cent ‘no’ because this question disenfranchises remain voters. However, in a Survation poll (Walters 2018) also run in November the result was 48 per cent in support of a ‘People’s vote – a referendum – asking the public their view?’ and only 34 per cent opposed. In Northern Ireland and around the world people generally like to exercise their franchise and critically the Survation question does not disenfranchise anyone. Implicitly both remainers and leavers are invited to express ‘their view’. Interestingly the BMG Research question gets a result somewhere in-between the Lord Ashcroft and Survation questions as they ask ‘If there is a vote, should your MP vote FOR or AGAINST another referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU? with an additional option for their MP to abstain.

These very different results now make sense and the correct approach to dealing with this issue is to either have the stakeholders, the Parliamentarians collectively agree what is the correct question to ask or, alternatively, run the various alternate questions and then have a discussion as to why they produce different results. That is the discussion that should have taken place between Gisela Stuart and Gina Miller on the Andrew Marr show, but didn’t, and an opportunity to enlighten the public was lost. Statistics do not have to be lies they simply have to be understood. But what about the BMG Research result in the Independent that suggests the British public want to remain in the EU and their poll for Change Britain that suggests, given a choice, the British public would choose a Canada plus deal. What is happening here?

Regrettably, the polling organisations that have tried to differentiate the British public’s preferences for different Brexit outcomes have not used best practice in both the design and analysis of their questions, pioneered in Northern Ireland and tested in a dozen other countries around the world. Firstly the options used in Northern Ireland and elsewhere were drafted by constitutional lawyers who could write both accurate and clear proposals that could be tested against public opinion, while, at the same time not leaving any important options out (Irwin 2012, page 9). The eight options tested by BMG Research do not meet these standards, e.g. No Brexit and No Brexit Plus (Clarke and Johnson 2018). Secondly BMG Research used a method that does not allow the informant to separately evaluate every option on offer against all other options by, for example, asking for only a first and last preference. Similarly although YouGov (Curtis and Smith 2018) use a simple question that asked the informant to rank order just three options, which works well with the Alternative Vote (AV) system, they then go on to analyse the same data using the Condorcet method that is far from transparent to the average reader. They would have done better to use the tried and tested methods that worked in Northern Ireland and published in the Belfast Telegraph for public diplomacy purposes (Irwin 1996/2000).

The bottom line to all of this is that the British public and MPs are not enlightened by all this public opinion research but rather find themselves frustrated by a lack of clarity, objectivity and transparency that only leads to the further confusion of Brexit in the minds of the British public. Arguably, the British Parliament has not served the British people well in resolving Brexit. Regrettably the British public opinion industry has not helped in this regard as much as they could. They could and should have done very much better. Independent research of a higher standard is required.

References

Ashcroft, Lord, (2018) My new Brexit poll: good for Theresa May, bad for her deal, Lord Ashcroft Polls. Friday, 23 November. Available at: https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2018/11/my-new-brexit-poll-good-for-theresa-may-bad-for-her-deal/

BMG Research (2018) Change Britain/BMG Poll: Deal or No Deal Understanding the Public’s Preferred Brexit Outcomes, BMG Research, Posted 10/12/18 available at: https://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/change-britain-poll-dec18/

Bosotti, A., (2018) ‘UK still wants Brexit!’ Leave activist has Gina Miller FACE FACTS challenging Remain poll, EXPRESS, Monday 10 December. Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1056512/Brexit-news-Gisela-Stuart-Gina-Miller-UK-EU-withdrawal-latest-second-referendum-vote-May

Clarke, C., and Johnson, A., (2018) We don’t need to leave the EU to control immigration, Mrs May, The UK in a Changing Europe, 20 November. Available at: http://ukandeu.ac.uk/we-dont-need-to-leave-the-eu-to-control-immigration-mrs-may/

Curtis, C., and Smith, M., (2018) May’s Brexit deal leads in just two constituencies as it suffers from being everyone’s second choice, YouGov, 6 December. Available at: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/12/06/mays-brexit-deal-leads-just-two-constituencies-it-

Irwin, C., (1996/2000) Northern Ireland – Polls and Public Diplomacy, PeacePolls. Available at: http://www.peacepolls.org/cgi-bin/generic?instanceID=10

Irwin, C., (2012) The People’s Peace, CreateSpace, CA. Available at: http://www.peacepolls.org/peacepolls/documents/002539.pdf

Walters, S., (2018) British people back May’s Brexit deal: Exclusive poll shows most voters back PM’s plan as the best offer for the UK, Mail Online, 27 November. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6435545/British-people-Mays-Brexit-deal-exclusive-poll-finds.html

Watts, J., (2018) Majority of country now think Britain should remain in the EU, poll reveals, Independent, Sunday 9 December. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-deal-theresa-may-uk-vote-economy-mps-remain-a8673926.html

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Lies, damned lies, and [Brexit] statistics

Did Brexit need a Peace Poll?

Colin Irwin   Sat 17 Nov 2018

With the British Social Attitudes polls tracking a consistent preference to remain in the EU with only 22% choosing leave in 2015 Cameron went for a referendum in 2016 expecting to win a ‘remain’ vote (NatCen 2018 p119). But these polls failed to measure the impact of identity politics on the referendum campaign in the hands of skilful ethnic entrepreneurs. With all the benefits of hindsight this error was corrected in their 2018 report (NatCen 2018 p137).

Inevitably, the negotiations to leave set up a dynamic that polarised public opinion around the UK/EU negotiating positions and in this context ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ supporters commissioned partisan polls in support of their separate agendas in addition to more objective tracking polls run by the major polling companies. Academic studies also tracked changes in voter preferences for a negotiated agreement (Grant et al 2018) and ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ voter priorities suggesting 40% were potential swing voters (Pagel and Cooper 2018).

However, these studies fail to take account of the political identity/emotive aspect of the choice the electorate would make in a contested referendum. Significantly, in this context if the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement in Parliament then ‘leavers’ will play the ‘blame game’ and persuade much of the 40% swing vote that the EU is not the kind of institution that the UK should be a part of. Perhaps what is needed now is a conflict resolution approach to problem solving?

As part of the Northern Ireland peace process and negotiations all the major procedural and substantive issues and decisions that had to be made were tested against public opinion with questions designed and agreed by party negotiators. With all the benefits of hindsight the same could have been done to help develop a consensus for the terms of Brexit but that is now done with the 585-page draft Brexit withdrawal agreement endorsed by Cabinet and published on 14 November 2018.

Visiting the substantive elements of this agreement with a view to amending it would not be helpful at this time. Additionally if the agreement between the UK and EU passes through Parliament then again polling on this would serve no useful purpose. However, if the agreement does not get Parliamentary backing then the Government will find themselves having to resolve a procedural problem about which there is presently no consensus.

For example should the UK leave with no deal? Or should the government ask for more time with an Article 50 extension? Should the agreement be renegotiated? Or should the government call a general election? Or should there be a second referendum (People’s Vote) and most critically of all what should the choices be for such a referendum and with what wording? In the Brexit context such a scenario is particularly problematic given the ambiguous meaning of ‘no deal’.

With all these points in mind a ‘Peace Poll’ that engages with all the principal Parliamentary Brexit stakeholders to develop and test all the unresolved procedural issues, including those associated with a second referendum (franchise, timing, questions, meaning and understanding of options etc.) could help Parliamentarians reach an informed decision on procedural issues.

Additionally, it should be remembered that in Northern Ireland the parties to their peace agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, signed up to it because they had a stake in it, they took ownership of it through multiparty negotiations. So if no agreement is now reached the Government may want to take this lesson to heart and try a multiparty national consensus approach in the UK.

However, even if this withdrawal agreement is accepted in both the UK and EU Parliaments then the UK still has to negotiate their future relationship with the EU over the coming years. In this context it will also be important to mend bridges so painfully damaged by polarised negotiations between ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’, and between the UK and their Continental partners in Europe, whatever that future relationship may be. To this end all best practice in conflict resolution needs to be employed to achieve the desired outcome, including the ‘Peace Polling’ methods developed in Northern Ireland and around the world (Irwin 2002, 2012, PSR 2017).

References

Grant J., Rohr C., Howarth D., Lu H and Pollitt A., (2018) What sort of Brexit do the British people want? The Policy Institute at King’s and RAND Europe. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/publications/what-sort-of-brexit-do-the-british-people-want-2018.pdf

Irwin, C. J. (2002) The People’s Peace Process in Northern Ireland, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke and New York and http://www.peacepolls.org/cgi-bin/greeting?instanceID=1

Irwin, C. J. (2012) The People’s Peace: ‘Pax Populi, Pax Dei’ - How Peace Polls are Democratizing the Peace Making Process, CreateSpace, Scotts Valley, CA. Available at: http://www.peacepolls.org/peacepolls/documents/002539.pdf

NatCen (2018) British Social Attitudes 35, The National Centre for Social Research, London. Available at: http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/39284/bsa35_full-report.pdf

Pagel C. and Cooper C. (2018) People’s Vote analysis: 40% of the public up for grabs by either side, politics.co.uk. Available at: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2018/10/25/people-s-vote-analysis-40-of-the-public-up-for-grabs-by-eith

PSR (2017) Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, August 1, 2017. Available at: http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/696

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Did Brexit need a Peace Poll?

Colin Irwin and Seongwon Yoon

Two frozen conflicts

All peace processes are different, different peoples, histories, places, time lines and how they got in the mess they are in and how to get out of it. This is true of Cyprus and Korea but there are also some similarities and if we focus on those there may be some peace making lessons each side can learn from the other. Both Korea and Cyprus are ‘frozen conflicts’, Korea since the Armistice in 1953 and Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. Although not all conservatives are intransigent, in general, the conservative politicians in both Cyprus and Korea have made the process of peace negotiations far more difficult. Both Cyprus and Korea are separated North and South by the Green Line in Cyprus and DMZ in Korea. The South in both Cyprus and Korea is economically well developed while the North is less so and this results in the Southern populations in both Cyprus and Korea being very sceptical about the prospects of reunification as that process may create as many problems as it solves. Also, neither country can make peace all by themselves. Cyprus requires the agreement of their Guarantor States, the UK, Greece and Turkey while China and the US participated in the Armistice agreement for Korea and they, in turn, will have to play a crucial role in ending the Korean War. Finally, in this context, security is the most critical issue for both Cypriots and Koreans, both North and South, and this issue must be resolved to every parties’ satisfaction as part of a peace agreement and new political arrangements going forward.

A liberal Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades, who had supported the failed 2004 UN Annan Plan was elected in the South of Cyprus in 2013. In 2014 a UN Joint Declaration(1) for renewed peace negotiations was signed and a liberal Turkish Cypriot, Akinci, was elected President in the North in 2015. Similarly, liberal or progressive leaders took office in both Koreas: President Moon Jae-in in the South; and in the North, the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un looks to be heading in quite a different direction to his father, Kim Jong-il, resulting in the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration on the 27th of April this year. But the agreement signed in Cyprus in 2013 has not resulted in a settlement of the Cyprus Problem. The conflict there remains frozen. However, Korea’s future prospects for peace took another step forward with the joint signing of an agreement at the US-Trump/NK-Kim summit on the 12th of June in Singapore. Hopefully that process will be more successful than the failed UN, Cyprus, UK, Greece and Turkey summit at Crans-Montana in Switzerland last year.

Confidence Building Measures

Significantly, on this critical point of success and failure there are some very substantial differences between the two summits and the preparations made to help achieve a positive outcome. In Cyprus the leaders shunned a programme of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) while the Koreans have given their Cypriot counterparts a ‘Master Class’ in CBM, public diplomacy and personal statesmanship that has shifted South Korean public opinion in ways that Greek Cypriots can only dream of. Critically Clause 7 of the UN Joint Declaration signed by the Cypriots in 2014 only requires that: ‘The sides will seek to create a positive atmosphere to ensure the talks succeed. They commit to avoiding blame games or other negative public comments on the negotiations. They also commit to efforts to implement confidence building measures that will provide a dynamic impetus to the prospect for a united Cyprus.’ No CBMs are specified here and no penalties for non-compliance included. It was only an aspiration of negotiation not a condition.

However, the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the Korean’s listed a number of specific CBMs and publicly, at the signing, more CBMs were announced and have been, or are in the process of being implemented. Notably, Pyongyang’s participation in the Winter Olympics under a unified flag and promise to shut down its nuclear test site and to suspend nuclear/missile tests before the summit. Seoul removed propaganda loudspeakers across the DMZ right after the summit. Then, Pyongyang shifted its clocks to align with the time in the South and dismantled its nuclear test site on May 24th as agreed. Following the 12 June Singapore summit the scheduled CBMs included: establishing a liaison office at the boarder town of Kaesong, military talks (June 16), talks between sports officials (June 18), Red cross talks regarding the separated families (June 22), and a DMZ Peace Train Music Festival (June 23/24). Most importantly, and it was this that so dramatically shifted South Korean public opinion, the day of pageantry, symbolism and expressions of public friendship and good will between the two leaders resulted in a shift of 50 per cent, from 14.7 before their first summit to 64.7 after the summit, believing denuclearization and peace was possible.(2) Significantly, this positive attitude remained firm at 66.5 per cent the day after President Trump temporarily cancelled his summit on May 24(3) and possibly rose further following Kim and Moon’s impromptu second summit on May 26 to get the US/NK June 12 summit back on track.

The Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades may not be able to get quite such a dramatic result in the South of Cyprus but less than half the Korean shift in public opinion is all he needs to get a peace ‘package’ through a referendum. Both he and Akinci were given an opportunity to do this at the opening of the Greek Church, in the Turkish Cypriot occupied ancient city of Famagusta, on the Easter leading up to the failed summit in Crans-Montana. Again, this year the same opportunity was there but the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders did not take it to demonstrate that peace on their island was possible and their future would be better for it.

Peace processes are generally best known for the agreements, declarations and treaties signed and made. But this tale of two peace processes underlines the importance of CBMs both symbolic and substantial. With this point in mind, given the Cyprus experience, the authors developed a peace poll to test Korean CBMs in Korea(4) in the hope that some of them would be put into practice. Happily, events overtook these efforts with the Koreans implementing CBMs at a pace and with great effect that was not anticipated. This questionnaire was written to complement a similar programme of work undertaken in Cyprus(5). Regrettably those suggestions remain undone and the Cyprus peace process remains frozen. The Greek Turkish Forum(6) has recommended the Cypriots implement these CBMs but they are painfully slow to do so and would do well to look to the Koreans for inspiration.

With all these points in mind perhaps the time has come for the UN Security Council and Guarantor States to require the Cypriots to implement a significant programme of CBMs before they sponsor another round of negotiations and summit? As for Korea they should keep doing what they are doing so well. Implementation of the agreement made in Singapore on the 12th of June will not be easy and CBMs will continue to have an important role to play in their peace process for months and years to come. Significantly at the June 12 summit President Trump also undertook to suspend South Korea/US war games but only in so far as North Korea negotiates in good faith. This should be regarded as a substantial CBM as North Korea has always considered these joint military exercises as rehearsals for invasion. However, the war games can be reinstated at any time while the measure of removing sanctions imposed by America and her allies would require international coordination and cooperation to get them re-established.

Security North and South of the DMZ and Green Line

But what about those negotiations at the US/North Korea summit that must resolve outstanding security issues and the failed Cyprus negotiations and summit, are there also some lessons to be leant there? Security for Greek and Turkish Cypriots is the most important issue for the two communities going forward. Similarly security for all Koreans on the Korean peninsular is the most important issue for them. Neither Cypriots or Koreans want a return to the conflicts that divided their communities and in this context Koreans and Cypriots, both North and South, all want arrangements to be put in place that ensure their security the day an agreement is signed and for years and generations there after.

Two distinctly different proposals were suggested for doing this on the Korean peninsular. One was the ‘Libya model’ that requires North Korea to denuclearise completely before peace is made, and only then can they enjoy all the benefits promised by America with the lifting of sanctions that allow North Korea to develop economically with China and South Korea. The other is the ‘Progressive model’, which allows for complete denuclearisation by North Korea in return for security guarantees over a period of time. Inevitably ‘the devil is in the detail’ with such a model in terms of verification and how North Korea’s security can be assured. Those details have to be worked out and might include a formal end to the Korean War and establishment of a credible East Asian security regime.(7)

Similarly there are two distinct models for peace and security on Cyprus. At the Crans-Montana summit Anastasiades for the Greek Cypriot community wanted “zero [Turkish] troops and zero [Turkish] guarantees” from day one of any new agreement that would establish a bi-communal, bi-zonal federal state as part of the European Union. However, Akinci for the Turkish Cypriot community advocated a phased reduction in the draw down of Turkish forces from the island in tandem with new arrangements with regional partners, a ‘Treaty of Friendship’ had been proposed in addition to the security benefits that would come with EU and NATO membership.

The ‘Libya model’ advocated by National Security Advisor, John Bolton, was rejected by North Korea as ‘unilateral denuclearization’ that, in their view, would threaten their security. Similarly Akinci could not accept Anastasiades proposals for “zero [Turkish] troops and zero [Turkish] guarantees” from day one of any new agreement and the Crans-Montana summit failed. If there is a lesson to be leant here in this ‘tale of two peace processes’ then it is surly this: ‘unilateral disarmament’ be it nuclear or conventional is not going to lead to security, peace and the economic benefits that flow from security and peace. The US Administration saw the error of their ways and adopted a variant of the ‘Progressive model’ at the June 12 summit and hopefully too, the Cypriots will learn from that success and agree a ‘Progressive model’ that works for them.

Lessons learnt

Perhaps there are also lessons in this ‘tale of two peace processes’ for other frozen conflicts? Firstly, the successful Northern Ireland peace process was supported by an extensive programme of peace polling and public diplomacy.(8) Korea appears to be doing the same but as they do not have to test their agreements at a referendum their programme of CBMs and public diplomacy is there as much for the international audience as it is for their domestic constituencies. If the two Koreas can be seen to be making peace then the international community should do everything they can to support them and they appear to be doing so. Israel and Palestine also regularly test a potential peace agreement against public opinion to demonstrate what ‘package’ and ‘incentives’ will win a referendum.(9) But like Cyprus they do not have in place a comprehensive programme of CBMs. On the contrary the movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem has been characterised as a Confidence Diminishing Mechanism (‘CDMs’) with an accompanying loss of public support for US led negotiations in the Arab World.(10) The lines that separate symbolic CBMs from substantial CBMs, and substantial CBMs from substantial agreements and actions are a little arbitrary. Suffice it to say that Confidence Diminishing Mechanisms should be avoided and all CBMs should be welcomed, even the small ones that the Northern Ireland politician David Ervine famously characterised as ‘Baby steps’, because those baby steps led to an end of war and the Belfast Agreement.

Secondly, the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons was negotiated and implemented over time in Northern Ireland because the Irish Republican Army viewed unilateral decommissioning, before the Belfast Agreement, as an act of ‘surrender’, and that was unacceptable to them. So out of sight of any cameras their weapons were placed ‘beyond use’ under the watchful eye of international monitors. Security issues must be addressed with cold precision but so too must the sensitivities and respect of the parties involved in Northern Ireland, North Korea, Northern Cyprus and Palestine. Arguably such respect for the ‘other’ is the most important CBM of them all and in this regard the Americans appear to have given the North Koreans as much ‘space’ as they can to manage denuclearisation with their domestic audience. For the Americans ‘Complete Denuclearisation’ means ‘Complete Verifiable Irreversible Denuclearisation’ and possibly the North Koreans accept this interpretation privately but, for now, the Americans appear to have accepted a significant degree of ‘constructive ambiguity’ on this point to give the North Koreans an opportunity to do what is expected of them.

The ‘Progressive model’ may or may not work but it has been given every chance of success by establishing good will through public diplomacy and CBMs at the highest levels. At the 12 June summit the North Korean flag and Stars and Stripes, in equal size and measure provided a backdrop to the words of praise and expressions of gratitude shared by Kim and Trump. There are no guarantees for success but generals making war and politicians making peace must be opportunistic and be willing to risk their reputations for the prize of success. Following the Turkish Presidential elections on June 24th Anastasiades and Akinci have one more chance to make peace this year. Will they embrace it and take it?

End Notes

1 UN Cyprus Talks (2014) 11 February 2014 Joint Declaration on Cyprus. Available at: http://www.uncyprustalks.org/11-february-2014-joint-declaration-on-cyprus/

2 RealMeter (2018, April 30), ‘? ???·?? ??’ ???? ??, ?? 78% ? ?? 65% [A sudden turn of the South Korean perceptions of North Korea’s willingness to denuclearization and peace: Distrust 78% ? Trust 65%]. Available at: http://www.realmeter.net/

3 RealMeter (2018, May 28), ???·????, ?? 67% vs ?? 20% [Prospects for denuclearization and peace: Positive 67% vs Negative 20%]. Available at: http://www.realmeter.net/

4 Irwin, C. J. and Yoon, S. (2018, March 12) South Korea – Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Available at: https://peacepolls.etinu.net/peacepolls/documents/blog-000958-20180601233506.pdf

5 Irwin, C. J. (2017) Cyprus Peace Poll 2 – Confidence Building Measures – ‘Peace is not enough’. Available at: https://peacepolls.etinu.net/peacepolls/documents/007937.pdf

6 GTF Statement 28th February 2018, Available at: http://cyprus-mail.com/2018/03/09/statement-sent-two-leaders-greek-turkish-forum/

7 JUN Bonggeun, June 12 U.S.-DPRK Summit: Preparations and Prospects, Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, IFANS FOCUS, IF2018-12E, May 21, 2018.

8 Irwin, C. J. (2002) The People’s Peace Process in Northern Ireland, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke and New York.

9 PSR (2017a) Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, August 1, 2017. Available at: http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/696

10 Gallup International (2017) Attitudes Towards the Recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Gallup International Association opinion poll of 24 countries across the globe, December. Available at: http://www.gallup-international.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2017_USA-Decision-on-Jerusalem.pdf

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A Tale of Two Peace Processes: Korea and Cyprus - Updated with security issues and references

A tale of two peace processes: Korea and Cyprus

Colin Irwin   Fri 25 May 2018   updated: Thu 19 Sep 2019

Colin Irwin and Seongwon Yoon

All peace processes are different, different peoples, histories, places, time lines and how they got in the mess they are in and how to get out of it. This is true of Cyprus and Korea but there are also some similarities and if we focus on those there may be some peace making lessons each side can learn from the other. Both Korea and Cyprus are ‘frozen conflicts’, Korea since the Armistice in 1953 and Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. Although not all conservatives are intransigent, in general, the conservative politicians in both Cyprus and Korea have made the process of peace negotiations much more protracted. Both Cyprus and Korea are separated North and South by the Green Line in Cyprus and DMZ in Korea. The South in both Cyprus and Korea is economically well developed while the North is less so and this results in the Southern populations in both Cyprus and Korea being very sceptical about the prospects of reunification as that process may create as many problems as it solves. Also, neither country can make peace all by themselves. Cyprus requires the agreement of their Guarantor States, the UK, Greece and Turkey while China and the US participated in the Armistice agreement for Korea and they, in turn, will have to play a crucial role in ending the Korean War.

A liberal Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades, who had supported the failed 2004 UN Annan Plan was elected in the South of Cyprus in 2013. In 2014 a UN Joint Declaration (1) for renewed peace negotiations was signed and a liberal Turkish Cypriot, Akinci, was elected President in the North in 2015. Similarly, liberal or progressive leaders took office in both Koreas: President Moon Jae-in in the South; and in the North, the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un looks to be heading the opposite way compared to his father, Kim Jong-il, which resulted in the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration on the 27th of April this year. But the agreement signed in Cyprus in 2013 has not resulted in a settlement of the Cyprus Problem. The conflict there remains frozen. Korea’s future prospects for peace may well be decided at the upcoming US-Trump/NK-Kim summit in Singapore on the 12th of June. Hopefully they will be more successful than the failed UN, Cyprus, UK, Greek and Turkey summit at Crans-Montana in Switzerland last year. But on this critical point there are some very significant differences between the two summits and the preparations made to help achieve a positive outcome. In Cyprus the leaders shunned a programme of confidence building measures (CBMs) while the Koreans have given their Cypriot counterparts a ‘Master Class’ in CBM, public diplomacy and personal statesmanship that has shifted South Korean public opinion in ways that Greek Cypriots can only dream of.

Significantly Clause 7 of the UN Joint Declaration signed by the Cypriots in 2014 only requires that: ‘The sides will seek to create a positive atmosphere to ensure the talks succeed. They commit to avoiding blame games or other negative public comments on the negotiations. They also commit to efforts to implement confidence building measures that will provide a dynamic impetus to the prospect for a united Cyprus.’ No CBMs are specified here and no penalties for non-compliance included. It was only an aspiration of negotiation not a condition. However, the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the Korean’s listed a number of specific CBMs and publicly, at the signing, more CBMs were announced and have been, or are in the process of being implemented. Notably, Pyongyang’s participation in the Winter Olympics under a unified flag and promise to shut down its nuclear test site and to suspend nuclear/missile tests before the summit. Seoul removed propaganda loudspeakers across the DMZ right after the summit. Then, Pyongyang shifted its clocks to align with the time in the South. In addition, North Korea’s dismantlement of its nuclear test site (May), the DMZ Peace Train Music Festival (June), the reunion of separated families (August), and President Moon’s visit to Pyongyang in the fall of 2018, etc. are all in the pipeline. Most importantly, and it was this that so dramatically shifted South Korean public opinion, the day of pageantry, symbolism and expressions of public friendship and good will between the two leaders resulted in a shift of 50 per cent, from 14.7 before the summit to 64.7 after the summit, believing denuclearization and peace was possible.(2)

The Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades may not be able to get quite such a dramatic result in the South of Cyprus but less than half the Korean shift in public opinion is all he needs to get a peace ‘package’ through a referendum. Both he and Akinci were given an opportunity to do this at the opening of the Greek Church, in the Turkish Cypriot occupied ancient city of Famagusta, on the Easter leading up to the failed summit in Crans-Montana. Again, this year the same opportunity was there but the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders did not take it to demonstrate that peace on their island was possible and their future would be better for it.

Peace processes are generally best known for the agreements, declarations and treaties signed and made. But this tale of two peace processes underlines the importance of CBMs both symbolic and substantial. With this point in mind, given the Cyprus experience, the authors developed a peace poll to test Korean CBMs in Korea (copy attached) in the hope that some of them would be put into practice. Happily, events have overtaken these efforts with the Koreans implementing CBMs at a pace and with great effect that was not anticipated. This questionnaire was written to complement a similar programme of work undertaken in Cyprus(3). Regrettably those suggestions remain undone and the Cyprus peace process remains frozen. The Greek Turkish Forum(4) has recommended the Cypriots implement these CBMs but they are painfully slow to do so and would do well to look to the Koreans for inspiration.

With all these points in mind perhaps the time has come for the UN Security Council and Guarantor States to require the Cypriots to implement a significant programme of CBMs before they sponsor another round of negotiations and summit? As for Korea they should keep doing what they are doing so well. Implementation of any agreements made in Singapore on the 12th of June will not be easy and CBMs will continue to have an important role to play in their peace process for months and years to come.

1 UN Cyprus Talks (2014) 11 February 2014 Joint Declaration on Cyprus. Available at: http://www.uncyprustalks.org/11-february-2014-joint-declaration-on-cyprus/

2 RealMeter (2018, April 30), A sudden turn of the South Korean perceptions of North Korea’s willingness to denuclearization and peace: Distrust 78% ? Trust 65%. Available at: http://www.realmeter.net/

3 Irwin, C. J. (2017) Cyprus Peace Poll 2 – Confidence Building Measures – ‘Peace is not enough’. Available at: https://peacepolls.etinu.net/peacepolls/documents/007937.pdf

4 GTF Statement 28th February 2018, Available at: http://cyprus-mail.com/2018/03/09/statement-sent-two-leaders-greek-turkish-forum/

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Korea Herald
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ROK CBM Poll Questionnaire

Cyprus Lessons: How to melt a frozen conflict

Colin Irwin   Sun 06 May 2018

The world is plagued by a number of frozen conflicts that hold themselves, their regions and occasionally the whole world to ransom denying their people peace while stoking the fires of geopolitical conflict. Israel and Palestine is the most well known of these frozen conflicts and Syria has the potential to become one along with the transnational Sunni/Shia split and radicalised international terrorist groups. Frozen conflicts can be ended by one side defeating the other, e.g. Sri Lanka, or by peace agreement, e.g. Northern Ireland where, significantly, the agreement reached was endorsed in a referendum supported by a programme of public diplomacy and opinion research. Similarly it should be possible to resolve the Cyprus frozen conflict but so far all efforts have failed. What has gone wrong, can the Cyprus problem be solved, and if so are there lessons to be learnt there that can benefit the rest of the world?

I first got involved in Cyprus when I was invited to make a presentation of the methods used in Northern Ireland to the Greek Turkish Forum in Istanbul in 1998. At that meeting, chaired by the US President’s Special Envoy Richard Holbrook, I persuaded the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to start with a peace poll that focused on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). They agreed but the proposal was not followed up resulting in the failed peace process and referendum of 2004. Lessons were learnt and local Cypriot NGOs were created to fill this gap with funding from the UNDP and Interpeace. Then, following the resumption of negotiations in 2014 I was invited to run a series of peace polls in support of negotiations in 2016/17 as part of a final ‘push’ to reach an agreement.

This paper reviews three peace polls conducted in 2016/17 using the Northern Ireland methods that require the negotiating parties to agree all aspects of the research agenda including the questions asked. The results of these polls are reviewed and compared with results from other conflicts using the same or similar methods. In Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka a ‘peace package’ would always overcome potential difficulties inherent in the various elements of an agreement not acceptable to both parties. However, this is not the case in Cyprus where the benefits of a settlement have yet to be fully demonstrated. Significantly, no one is getting killed in Cyprus rendering the status quo acceptable.

Confidence Building Measures were an important part of the Northern Ireland peace process and although the polls indicate the people of Cyprus want an extensive program of CBMs to be implemented, they have been resisted by the Greek Cypriot side as ‘normalization’ of the status quo. But ‘normalization’ can be avoided if the CBMs focus on ‘symbolic’ issues of peace making first rather than ‘substantive’ elements of a final peace agreement. Experience in Northern Ireland and polling in Cyprus, Israel and Palestine suggest that this strategy will work both there and elsewhere in the world.

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Cyprus Lessons: How to melt a frozen conflict