Which version of Brexit did Britain vote for?

Jon Danzig |

Before the referendum campaign, the Tory government flagged up three different versions of Brexit. If you’re a Leave voter, which one did you vote for?

The fact is that Leave voters didn’t opt for any specific version of Brexit. Each option wasn’t even properly discussed during the campaign, let alone put on the ballot paper.

The only option for Brexit supporters was one simplistic, undefined word. Leave.

Now, leading Brexiters try to cover up that anomaly by claiming, ‘Leave means Leave’. But that’s just daft. And meaningless.

As we have discovered over the past three years, Leave can mean many things.

Theresa May’s version of Leave was rejected by Parliament three times.

Brexit ministers resigned one after the other because they couldn’t agree with the form of Leave proposed by the government after the referendum.

Now, the new Tory government under Boris Johnson seems hell-bent on going for a no-deal Brexit (often referred to as leaving on WTO terms).

But that wasn’t even an option promoted or properly explained in the referendum. And since nobody knew about it, let alone understood it, how could they have voted for it?

Back in the day, before the referendum campaign, when the Conservative government was pro-Remain, they presented the three main Brexit alternatives – all of which, said the government then, would cause damage to Britain.

THE NORWAY OPTION – means Britain would leave the EU but still have free and frictionless access to the EU Single Market, by far Britain’s most important and lucrative export and import market. But this option would mean Britain continuing to pay the EU and obey its rules – including free movement of people – without any say in them.

THE CANADA OPTION means Britain would have tariff free trade with the EU, but not the highly cherished and valuable frictionless trade. And there would only be limited access for our services sector, which makes up almost 80% of our economy.

THE WTO OPTION (often referred to as ‘no-deal’) means relying on World Trade Organisation rules. But that would mean new tariffs and complicated, costly procedures on UK trade with the EU, hurting British consumers, businesses and employment. It would also suddenly and catastrophically end all EU membership benefits, affecting all our daily lives.

None of these options were presented as choices in the referendum that voters could opt for. The only option was for a meaningless and undefined Leave.

Ridiculous, really, when there were at least three versions of Leave, and probably many more.

What did Brexit voters expect? That they would vote for a vague ‘Leave’ and then leave it to the government and Parliament to decide which Leave we’d get?

That hardly makes sense. It would be the equivalent of getting the estate agent to sell your home, and then leaving it entirely in the agent’s hands to choose your next home, without any further say by you.

  • No Leave voter voted for one version of Leave, because one version of Leave was never offered.
  • And for sure, no Leave voter voted for all versions of Leave – because that would be impossible.
  • On the other hand, there was only one version of Remain. We’d had it for over 40 years and we knew what it was.

If the country had voted for Remain, there wouldn’t then have been years of agonising and negotiating which version of Remain we’d get. We already had it. We’d carry on as normal.

  • Which is why, when you think about it, Remain won the referendum by a landslide.

Look at it this way.

  • 16.1 million voters voted for Remain – not a vague option, but a clearly defined Remain which we’d had for many decades. Remain didn’t need defining. We all knew what it was.
  • 17.4 million voters voted for a vague, undefined Leave. Nobody knew which Leave they would get. Voters were not asked which version of Leave they wanted, even though there were at least three.

Let’s say, for arguments sake, that the three main versions of Leave had been on the ballot paper, and they each attracted one third of the total Leave votes.

That’s 5.8 million votes for each of the Leave options – Norway, Canada and WTO.

That’s still far short of the 16.1 million votes for Remain.

Let’s put it another way. Let’s say Remain was put on the ballot paper, alongside only ONE clearly defined version of Leave – Norway, Canada or WTO.

Is it at all probable that just one of those Leave options alone would have got as many as the 16.1 million votes that were cast for Remain?

It’s highly unlikely. Many Brexiters disapprove of the Norway or Canada options, and polling indicates that most voters don’t want the WTO (no-deal) option.

In those circumstances, it’s more than probable that presented with such a real choice, many Leave voters would have opted for Remain.

The Leave campaign would have struggled to win if they’d had to specifically define the version of Leave they were selling.

Which is why Leave was such a con.

  • It was much easier to sell to the nation a vague and idealistic idea of Brexit, rather than the realistic, down-to-earth details.

The only way to find out for sure is to put an honest, real-world choice back to the people.

Let’s now have a new ballot, which gives voters the choice of Remain, alongside a properly defined option or options for Leave.

Such a choice has NEVER been offered to the nation before, and it’s now long overdue.

Why didn’t our political masters think of doing this in the first place? It could have saved the country years of angst and upheaval.

  • 7-minute video: The EU referendum was flawed



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