The US election results - liveblog

Nicky Woolf liveblogs the result of the 2012 presidential election.


I think it's time now to call it - Barack Obama has been reelected as President of the United States. Still no Romney acceptance speech, though, which may mean he's preparing a legal challenge. My instinct is that he won't, though.

So that's it for another four years of Presidential election! Until Chris Christie starts his Republican primary campaign tomorrow morning...

Thank you all, and good night.



Well now it really is all over bar the shouting, and all that remains is for Romney to make his acceptance speech - which he is being very reluctant in getting around to, I must say. My grouching over premature calling of states - Roger from the Obama for America Defiance field office explains things to me: 



...I have allowed myself a small whisky.



Then again, Obama is now winning in Virginia, from what I can see. So he is over the total, and I doubt now Ohio will need to count its provisional ballots.



NBC is calling Florida for him too - which would begin to make this look like a massacre. But I'm not so sure. Ohio, from where I'm sitting, is way too close to call. So is Florida. I'm not going to call this, my previous entry excepted, until I see Romney make a concession speech.



OBAMA WINS OREGON, OHIO - AND THE ELECTION. It's all over now bar the shouting. And the drinking. And there's a lot of both going on right now in Columbus.



CNN currently has the electoral college Obama 238 - 191 Romney. New Mexico and Colorado, both likely to go Obama, would put the President in a place where Florida or Ohio would tip him over the edge - and MSNBC has just called Iowa for the President.



I cannot stress how close this race now is. In each of the three crucial swing states, that's Virginia, Florida and Ohio, less than a single percentage point separates the candidates. This election teeters on a knife-edge.



An electoral map update. These are called differently media-by-media; MSNBC, for example, which has just called Minnesota for Obama, has Obama on 172 to Romney's 174. RealClearPolitics has Obama 163 - Romney 184, while the Huffington Post has Obama on 173 to Romney's 174.

This is because the networks call states as they come in, without waiting for official confirmation, a very confusing state of affairs sometimes. But really the difference is in who calls what, when - some news organisations are less cautious about calling states than others. Make no mistake, this election still comes down to Florida and Ohio.



So it's looking a lot like Todd Akin's a goner in his Missouri Senatorial race. Claire McCaskill's got almost 100,000 votes on him with nearly a third of precincts reporting. The "make stupid comments about rape" candidates are dropping like flies this evening.



Obama is currently 2 points up in Ohio with over half the state reporting, and a skin-of-his-teeth .5 of a point up in Florida - but Florida's nearly 90% reported. If he keeps this up, things are looking pretty bad for Mitt. But it's all so close - a few Republican precincts in each state reporting late, and it could all look very different. It's all down to Ohio, and Florida, just as predicted.

Meanwhile, the confetti is falling for Sherrod Brown here in Columbus, and I imagine he's off to celebrate. His work here is done.



This is a genuinely heartwarming experience.




"today in Ohio, the middle class won," says Brown. His voice, always gravelly, is almost entirely gone - he speaks in a joyful, but hoarse, whisper. "Citizens united may be a new name in a 21st century suit ... but it's an old game of the rich trying to rig the system for themselves." The crowd are holding up signs with "$40m" with a strike-through on it.

He's positively beaming. Brown really deserves this victory - he's fought a great campaign against an absolutely unprecendented about of outside money. The crowd love him.



If I was Obama, a two-point lead in Ohio with half the state to count would make me very, very nervous indeed.



Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah. Romney remains narrowly ahead in Virginia, Florida remains essentially a tie - slight Obama lead, perhaps, but minescule.

In Ohio, Obama is holding on to a lead - but not a big one. This is still a very, very close election.



MSNBC has the current total at:

Electoral College: Barack Obama 168 - 153 Mitt Romney



And meanwhile, the Democrats are willing plenty of the Senate seats they want. Elizabeth Warren beats Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Joe Donnelly beats Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Sherrod Brown comfortable holds off the challenge from Josh Mandel here in Ohio - despite the extraordinary money spent by super-PACs on Mandel. All of which bodes well for the overall result.



This is one of the calls that really matter:




With Florida still too close to call, things are looking good for the President here in the crucial state of Ohio. With around 20% of districts reporting, the President is ahead by more than 130,000 votes - 52.24% to 46.31% - almost the opposite of Virginia. But of the three states - Virginia, Florida and Ohio - the President can afford to lose one or two of them, Romney can't.

MSNBC has just called Pennsylvania for Romney - which I think is a premature move as less than 10% of districts have reported. Obama is well ahead in those that have, though.



Whooops at the party as "Virginia - Too Close To Call" comes on the TV screen. It's too close to call, but unfortunately Obama is losing there 52.12% - 46.22%, with about 60% of precincts reporting. It's not looking good in Virginia.

Meanwhile, though, New York and Michigan have called for Obama, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming and Louisiana for Romney.

Electoral College: Barack Obama 123 - 148 Mitt Romney



MASSIVE SURPRISE here - Tennessee and Arkansas go for Romney.

A little experiment in live-blog sarcasm for you folks there.

That takes the total to: 

Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 88 Mitt Romney



This is the situation in the Ohio Democrat election night media centre. On the far right you can see Nice Guy Mike from the Cleveland Jewish News.



Virginia is still miles away from being called. Only 873 of 2588 precincts have reported results. That's going to take a while.

Ohio is counting; but as yet, while there's some tantalising data coming in, largely from absentee ballots in Cleveland, it'll still be a while before a bigger picture starts to emerge.

Florida is closer - 38.35% of precincts are reporting, with a minescule edge for Obama - 50.09%, with juts over 38% of precincts reporting. We could be looking at a 2000 situation there if it stays that close.



Real Clear Politics has called Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma for Romney, and Delaware, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island for Obama.

That makes it Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 71 Mitt Romney



Florida is currently at Romney 2,265,239 (47.72%) Obama 2,445,934 (51.53%) with (at my guess) about half of the total votes reported. A win here for Obama basically sews him up the election.

Ohio is reporting a closer race - Obama 653,911 (57.21%) Romney 475,210 (41.57%) at current count - that's mostly absentee ballots, plus a reported 0.06% of counties - far, far too close to call.



Polls in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee all close now. All together, that's 172 electoral votes up for grabs.

Jesse Jackson is behind me, talking to the cameras.



The Ohio Secretary of State's office has posted some results of Ohio's absentee ballots - the vast majority of them from Cuyahoga county - which means Cleveland. Statewide of absentee ballots counted, Obama has 383,700 - 66.17%, to Romney's 190,383 - 32.83%.



Overheard on the phone outside the party: "yeah, there's laws against it. But there's laws against a lot of things."

He continued: "Someone used my vote in 2008. I applied for an absentee ballot in 2008 and didn't use it, and somebody voted in my place."

No idea of the context of it, and no idea who he was. But it's an interesting snippet.



Remember how I said Virginia would look Republican early and then the blue counties would cut in? RealClearPolitics' returns-counter currently has Virginia at Obama 43.5% to Romney's 55.3%.



Polls here in the great state of Ohio close in ten minutes - though anyone in line at the deadline will get to vote - the line that both campaigns are pushing through to their supporters right now is "stay in line".

But it has to be said, it is bloody freezing out there.



Counting still ongoing in Virginia. Like in Ohio, where the President's field offices outnumbered Governor Romney's three to one, Obama's ground game here has been impressive. But will it be enough?



Forgot to put it in earlier - Indiana has also been called for Romney; hence the total of 19, that's Indiana's 11 and Kentucky's 8 electoral college votes.



The first results are in! MSNBC has called Kentucky for Romney and Vermont for Obama. Kentucky is worth more electoral college votes, though Virginia is currently TCTC - Too Close To Call

Electoral College: Barack Obama 3 - 19 Mitt Romney



...And polls are now closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and - this will be the one all eyes are on - Virginia. Early showings in VA will be Republican-leaning (tweets the Manhattan Institute's Ted Frank), with blue counties reporting later on. Virginia will be a crucial early indicator of how the night will go.



Some crucial early polling news from Buzzfeed about the third-party libertarian candidate for President...




Logistical disaster! The Cleveland Jewish News has arrived, in the form of a pleasant bearded man named Mike. I have shunted to the end of the trestle table. If I play my cards right, I'm hoping Mike will let me stay. 



This morning, I accompanied students from the senior class of Hicksville high school to the polls up in Defiance county. Austin Laney voted Republican. "I'm going to be pretty disappointed if Obama wins," he told me. His friend Andrew Willis voted Democrat: "It felt good, like I'd played my part. It's kinda neat, cos I'd never [voted] before."

"If Romney wins, I'll be really disappointed," he says. 

Austin Metz, on the other hand, had been planning to vote Republican - but switched his vote at the last minute to Obama. "Because I'm going to college next year, and it affects the cost."

"This is the biggest thing I've done since being 18," says Brady Meyer. "It makes me feel powerful."

He says he voted for Romney, but says: "I don't think either of [the candidates] are any good, though."



The former Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, did a brief press call just now, and is predictably predicting a victory for Obama and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. So far, so spin - I think he's right, but he'd be saying it even if it was wrong, and over at the Republican party I bet John Kasich, the current Republican Governor, is predicting a win for Romney and Mandel.

I asked him about the provisional ballot issue, and he looked troubled. "It could. I hope it doesn't [come down to provisional ballots], because we know provisional ballots can't be counted for several days," he tells me. "I think it would be very unfortunate if it happened." I ask if Husted's directive on Friday, so late in the day and so confusing to poll workers and voters, might be cause for a legal challenge if it does. "If this comes down to the provisional ballot issue, it is possible that could end up being a court-involved process," he says. "I hope not. I don't think that would be good for the country, I don't think that would be good for Ohio."

But then again, there are all those lawyers standing by.



So I just noticed that I posted the tweet by @fivethirtyeight at exactly 5:38. Not sure what that's a sign of, but it's sure as hell a sign.



Amazing figures from the New York Times' Nate Silver:




It's not just the Presidential race that depends on Ohio. The Republicans are hoping that Josh Mandel, a 35-year-old Marine veteran, will un-seat the popular incumbent Sherrod Brown, tipping the balance in the Senate. But Brown is an extremely popular Ohioan, while Mandel has appeared slippery in his campaign - and RealClearPolitics is posting a 5 point lead for Brown in its polling average.

Amusingly, the Guardian's James Ball just linked me on Twitter to a story in the GayStarNews about some cousins of Mandel, who take issue with him about his stance on gay marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The cousins took out an ad against him that says: "Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize." It goes on: "'We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the armed forces. ... And yet, you have argued that she, like many gay and lesbian soldiers, should be forced to live a life of secrecy and lies."

You can read the whole story here.

And the newspaper that ran the cousins' ad? By strange coincidence it is the Cleveland Jewish News, whose seat I am currently occupying...



Seats in the Ohio Democratic Party Election Night Celebration are limited. Currently, your correspondent is squatting in the hope that the rightful Ohio publication doesn't arrive and claim it. Here's the label:



If this election comes down to the wire, or ends in legal action; if Ohio is, as it's predicted to be, the crucial tipping-point - triggering a long and torturous adding-up of provisional ballots that could last until the 16th - one name will become horribly familiar to a country already sick to the bone of politics: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

I wrote early on about attempted electoral irregularities in Ohio – irregularities in which Husted was involved.

Provisional ballots are going to be key if Ohio is close. These are ballots that are filled out under the voter ID laws if someone is unable to present their identification at the polling-booth. If someone fails to present ID at a polling station they can still vote, but they have several days to present their ID. On Friday, Husted issued a directive that part of the form required for provisional ballots had to be filled-out by the voter – not the supervisor at the polling-station. Under Husted's directive, the vote will be discounted if the area is left blank. Lawyers on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless are already fighting Husted in federal court over the decision.

Another potential tripping-point: everyone in Ohio was sent an application form for an absentee ballot this year; if many people filled it out, but then decided to vote in person, there would be space for another legal challenge there. At the centre of these nightmares would be Husted.

Remember the name.



There have already been a number of reports of derring-do around the polling stations. Here in Ohio, some areas have seen alleged intimidation by voter-watch groups - while there are also reports of a accredited election watch official being threatened with a gun in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Ohio and Pennsylvania are still extremely divided on the issue of voter ID, the new law supposedly designed to eliminate in-person voter fraud. Critics say that it unfairly discriminates against black and elderly - and therefore likely Democrat - voters. With lawyers for both parties poised like vultures to descend on any irregularities - MSNBC is reporting that there are 2,200 in Ohio alone - this could end up being a very long night indeed.



The Hilton is media central right now. Here's a picture of all the satellite trucks lined up outside on Main st:



This New York Times graphic shows just how much the electoral college calculus is against Romney tonight; of the 512 likely permutations of swing states, Obama has 431 ways to win to Romney's mere 76. Though there can always be surprises.



Hello and welcome to the New Statesman's live coverage of the US Presidential election results. I'm in the Ohio Democratic Party's event at the Hilton hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Polls close here in just over four hours, and the state's media is whipped into a frenzy. I'll be bringing you all the results as they come in. It's expected that a winner will be known before 11PM Eastern time - 4AM UK time - but if the race is as close as some are predicting, there could be legal challenges and other delays that could last well into next week. Specifically in Ohio, the counting of provisional ballots is mandated by state law to take until the 16th - a torturous process for the state to endure - especially as most here are already tired of being under the world's political microscope. Most predictions are for an Obama win - the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight model is giving the President a better than 90% chance of victory in the electoral college. Stick with us for all the twists and turns as they happen.

Barack Obama. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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How a devolved immigration policy could work in Brexit Britain

London and Scotland could keep free movement, or something close to it. 

Just a few short months after the vote to Leave, Britain and the European Union appear to be hurtling towards confrontation – and mutual self-harm. At the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), we believe that what we need is not “hard Brexit” or “soft Brexit” but “smart Brexit”.

At the moment, too much of the debate is characterised by clinging on to obsessively ideological positions, or attempting to relitigate the referendum because you didn’t like the result. There is far too little serious policy thinking taking place.  

Firstly, we should demand that politicians think again on immigration policy. Recent polling has shown that the country is split on whether to prioritise the economy or immigration control in the negotiations. Given this, it would be reasonable to expect politicians to attempt to accomplish both. Yet politicians on both left and right have marched off to the extremes.

Theresa May has indicated that we are heading towards a one-size-fits-all closed borders system; Jeremy Corbyn has made an absolute commitment to freedom of movement, defining immigration as a problem of austerity economics. Both positions are overly simplistic, unoriginal, and show little regard for our democracy or national interest. We should begin by disentangling the different strands of the immigration debate. 

The referendum exposed three broad contours to the immigration question. The first is that different parts of the country have different interests; the benefits and costs of immigration are not evenly distributed, particularly with regard to jobs. Second, there is an important cultural dimension about consent – expressed as "nobody asked us" – and the pace of change in specific communities. It was striking that the areas with the highest levels of immigration strongly voted Remain; but those with the fastest pace of change voted strongly Leave. Third, that there are public concerns about the impact of immigration on public services and housing.

A devolved immigration system would allow different parts of the country to act according to their (divergent) interests. It could work by using certificates of sponsorship to require employers to specify the place of work and residence of the employees they sponsor; and by setting region-specific quotas for these certificates by sector (and possibly pay level).

Such an approach would better secure our national interest by recognising our regional differences, boost democratic decision-making and so address consent, and go some way to address the impact on public services and housing. It would work for both EU and non-EU migrants. There are international precedents, such as Canada. 

A regional solution

Under this option, different regions would determine their interests and then either set quotas for specific sectors or determine that some or all sectors should have no restrictions, differentiated by EU and non-EU migrants. In sectors which required work permits, employers would need to draw down against agreed quotas. Employers would be required to register a place of work for migrant employees, and ensure that their home address was in a commutable distance from their place of work. For those sectors without restrictions, registration would take place but would not be subject to quotas. It would mean some additional rigidity in the labour force - migrants workers would not be able to be redeployed from one part of the country to another without affecting each region’s quotas. 

The key to such an approach is London. The capital is a huge draw for people from overseas - it would have to decide to sustain free movement for a devolved system to have any chance of being effective. There would simply be too much risk of backdoor entry to London if it were to set quotas. Londoners, like the rest of the country, are split on immigration. Nonetheless, they elected a Mayor who openly supports free movement, London’s globally-orientated services sector benefits strongly from immigration, and voted strongly for Remain. There is every reason to believe that London would decide to continue free movement for EU citizens. 

The crucial step for such an approach to have legitimacy would be to have democratic control of setting work permit quotas. For Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and London, the devolved democratic structures are already in place to make decisions on immigration. Not only did Scotland vote strongly to Remain, when Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave her first major post-Brexit speech at IPPR in July, she described the importance of free movement for Scotland. The Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies are clearly well-placed to make decisions for their parts of the Union. 

Democratic solutions for other parts of the country would need to be bespoke. One approach might be to form “Grand Committees” of existing elected representatives in different regions. These would bring together elected council leaders, the newly-elected Metro Mayors, and Members of Parliament, with voting in an electoral college, determined by population size. They would then consult with the public and employers, examine the evidence, and make the decisions for which the public could hold them to account.   

Goodbye, net migration target

Elected politicians would need to be able to make informed decisions, based on analysis of the skills base and the workforce requirements for sectors in each region. It would be vital to have proper consultation processes with employers and with citizens and communities. 

Such an approach would also require the devolution of the education and skills systems. If employers cannot seek skilled labour from overseas, they will need to be able to secure skilled workers at home. The entity responsible for immigration policy would need to make skills policy, too. 

National immigration policy would be reserved for those areas that are properly national, such as refugee resettlement and asylum policy for those fleeing persecution. By focusing national political choices on matters of principle, it would enable us to have a more moral conversation about our obligations in the world. It would stop us from conflating the people fleeing the terrible destruction in Syria with those looking for a boost to their pay from higher wages in Britain than in Eastern Europe. It might just enable us to begin to act like responsible members of the international community again. We should also embrace what could be termed “cultural free movement”: allowing all EU citizens to visit and to study across the UK visa-free. This would tap into the nobler – and popular – aspects of the European project, and might be used to secured our continuing participation in pan-European scientific research and the Erasmus programme. Immigration controls on the citizens of European countries should be reserved for employment, through work permits.    

It would also require the net migration target to be abandoned, as it is completely inconsistent to have a national net target with devolved controls. This would be a good thing: it would provide political cover to abandon a particularly stupid piece of policy. As IPPR has argued for many years, it makes absolutely no sense to lump together American bankers, Polish builders, and Syrian refugees and count them all as the same. Furthermore, a recent IPPR report concluded that the numbers are probably shoddy anyhow. They simply don't stand up to serious scrutiny. If you believe the official figures, tens of thousands of people get university degrees and then disappear into black economy jobs earning cash-in-hand every year. It’s just not plausible.

So, how can a devolved immigration system help?

Professors and fruitpickers

A devolved immigration system would recognise that different parts of the country have different interests. Strong majorities in London and Scotland have voted for political leaders that openly support free movement of people. In other parts of the country, there appears to be a stronger consensus that free movement is not in their interests. 

The East of England, for example, might conclude that it needed migrants to work in the fields of the fens and to work in research laboratories in Cambridge’s world leading institutions, and place no restrictions on fruit pickers and professors. But it might also decide to set quotas for skilled jobs in light manufacturing, and to direct the skills system to train local workers for those roles instead of opening those opportunities up to migrants. This would mean that the immigration system could be optimised to the interests of different parts of the UK. 

Moreover, a devolved approach would humanise the debate on immigration. It would require practical choices determined by regional needs. It would remind us that migrants are people who do essential jobs like work in our hospitals (I imagine every part of the UK will want to keep the NHS functioning). It would demand that local employers make the case to local politicians. It might just take us away from high level statistics and low level instincts. It would take us from the politics of the gut being fought in the gutter to a more responsible discussion. 

Critics will say that this will end up with free movement in a complex and bureaucratic way. Even if this was the case – it is not clear that it would be – it would mean that people would have decided for themselves that migration was beneficial. Some degree of messiness is inherent in any compromise solution; and the incremental complexities of a devolved rather than national system are marginal. If Britain found its way to free movement by democratic consent rather than by Whitehall diktat, that would surely be preferable. Then, the question, “what have the immigrants ever done for us?” might well receive a Monty Pythonesque response. 

Tackling the pressures

Proper management of immigration means addressing its consequences. In a world where public sector budgets are being cut, services have struggled to cope with demand. Most studies have demonstrated that migrants, in the aggregate, are net contributors to the public purse but that does not take away from the pressures felt locally. Politicians on the left and right have alighted on some common ground in their approach - all major parties support a migration impact fund. Yet a migration impact fund, whilst necessary and useful, is ultimately marginal.  

The real solution must be to address the underlying allocation formulae that create these distributional problems. In addition to his pointless, destructive, and unnecessary reorganisation of the NHS, Andrew Lansley also tampered with the allocation formula that distributes NHS budgets across the country. It was reweighted to increase the significance of age, meaning that areas with more older people received disproportionately more money, while resources were moved away from younger, poorer areas. 

This was an act of grotesque political cynicism. It had the effect of redistributing from poorer typically Labour-voting areas to older, wealthier Tory-voting areas. But the other affect was to shift resources away from places with high immigration, since migrants are typically young themselves and have higher fertility rates. It was a far more significant – and cynical – decision than the abolition of the pitiful migrant impact fund. And so reinventing the migrant impact fund is merely tinkering at the edges.  

Similarly, blaming immigration for the housing crisis is easy but wrong. A large number of new arrivals certainly adds to the pressure. But it pales in significance when compared to our abject failure to build enough houses. Britain has roughly double the population of Canada and yet builds just one-third of the new homes every year. The solution to the lack of affordable housing is to build more homes. No immigration policy is going to solve the housing crisis. 

What are the drawbacks?

A devolved immigration system certainly has some drawbacks, both in substance and implementation. As with any sector-based approach to immigration, there is a risk of getting the numbers wrong resulting in skills shortages for employers, or putting firms off from investment by creating uncertainty about the labour supply. Those areas that had decided to introduce particularly draconian controls might find that employers decided to move elsewhere. This is no more true than at a national level, as reports from international firms reconsidering their investments illustrate.  

Operationally, it could become complex and bureaucratic. The foolish dismantling of the Government Digital Service has seriously eroded central government’s capacity and capability to do things in an efficient, modern way. As with all immigration systems, people will be tempted to abuse it, and it would need to be robustly policed. Moreover, this system would place greater responsibilities on employers - they would have to face stiffer penalties if they abused – or permitted abuse to take place – the system. Part of the price would be the inevitable steady drumbeat of stories in the xenophobic parts of the press finding people working where they were not registered. But these drawbacks – whilst important – are massively outweighed by the benefits. 

Immigration and the Brexit deal

The international response to the government’s strident signals about immigration control has been fiercely negative. The hostility of tone – verging on xenophobia – was regarded with shock and disgust in many European capitals. The political dynamic between British politicians and their European counterparts has quickly become toxic. We are heading down the path of "Mutually Assured Destruction" (MAD). 

For the most part, European leaders see the EU as an inextricable part of their national interests, which is precisely why its preservation is top of their agenda. Right now, their judgement seems to be that Britain must be seen to be worse off because of Brexit in order to prevent the Exit contagion catching, just as they were determined to punish Greece so that the debt crisis would not spread to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. After all, as Nigel Farage himself pointed out, there are somethings that are more important that GDP, and most European leaders believe preservation of the EU falls into that category. 

Speaking privately, one European cabinet minister recently told me that his country would be pushing for the “worst possible deal” for the UK because “a good deal for you would cause chaos for us, and even if you were seen to be treated fairly, that would push us towards the exit door”. At present, the mindset is that Britain must be seen to pay a price, and there is a very real risk that the EU forces us to choose between our car industry and our financial services sector. This is yet another reason that we need to be seeking common ground, not pursuing a divisive approach in the country or internationally.  

A devolved immigration system might enable EU leaders to say that free movement had been secured because it would continue in London and Scotland (and possibly in other regions too) along with nationwide “cultural free movement”. Given their fidelity to the principle of free movement, it would still require them to make quite a departure from their existing position. But in a devolved immigration system, we might just find our common ground. That, perhaps combined with paying a hefty fee, might be just about enough to secure our access to the single market and participation in some of its key institutions – vital if we are to be regulation makers rather than takers – or at the very least tariff-free trade for tradable goods and passporting for the City of London. It would certainly be a more attractive offer than us pulling up the drawbridge or being "pro having our cake and pro eating it".

Finally, there is a wider issue at stake here. As we enter into the negotiations, we will need much more smart thinking about nuanced solutions. At the present, our political leaders – on left and right – appear to be spending more time posturing and swaggering than thinking. Our Conservative Prime Minister and recently re-elected opposition leader are sacrificing the national interest on the altar of party management, the perpetual problem in British politics. We should demand Smart Brexit, and we should demand more creative thinking from our government, its leaders, advisers and officials. In this period of turmoil, the British people deserve nothing less.    

Tom Kibasi is the Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.