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How can the next EU referendum be won?

The key issue: Another referendum on the European Union can only be won by being smarter in terms of emotions, voter research and involving civic society.

Why it's important: With authoritarian Russia and China flexing their muscles more now than ever, European leaders must engage with their voters in better ways to secure our open, liberal and democratic values.

Evidence: I spoke to the leader of Ireland's main opposition party, Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil. He told me that the keys to victory, in the second referendum that his country held on the EU's Lisbon Treaty, were to:

  • engage with the electorate emotionally

  • use voter research better and

  • involve civic society more.

Insight: Martin, who was a government minister during Ireland's second Lisbon Treaty vote, said to me:

"You cannot take any referendum for granted. It has to be heavily researched in advance [to find out] where are the electorate, what are their feelings."

"The Brexitiers [in the UK] had much more emotionally compelling sloganeering ... [The remain side] lacked that emotional pulling power."

He also said:

"You must involve civic society more. Political parties on their own won't win it. We had a civic young people's movement formed, non-party aligned.

"Britain should have had young people out, organised, on every chat-show, saying 'this is our future'. We had intelligent, high-quality people popping up. Different voices, new voices .... It was a much more organised campaign."

What's next: The situation around Brexit is very fluid just now. Another UK referendum is not impossible, though it may not come soon. Elsewhere, anti-EU parties may force through similar referenda in the coming years. Any more EU membership votes will be fiercely fought.

Take action: Those on the pro-EU side need to work much harder and smarter when it comes to emotional engagement, voter research and utilising civic society. At Stratagem Global, we have significant experience and expertise in emotional messaging, research and civic society engagement, so get in touch if you'd like to know more.

Micheál Martin, leader of Ireland's Fianna Fáil party.

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