Copyright 2016 Johnathan Kemp
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Table of Contents
At the time of writing the United Kingdom is anything but united. It is divided by the issue of membership of the European Union. The aim of this book is to briefly examine the nature of the EU referendum, the outcome of the referendum, and the way that outcome has been interpreted as a mandate for action.
Reassessing the interpretation of the EU referendum result
It is my intention to demonstrate
1. That the referendum question was fundamentally flawed.
2. That to interpret the result as a mandate for leaving the EU is unjustified.
3. That the evidence provided by the referendum suggests a majority in favour of preserving the benefits offered by membership of the EU even if a case for leaving the EU is claimed.
4. That the most valid or legitimate interpretation of the referendum result is that of a landslide in favour of Remain.
These assertions are not the commonly presented view of the referendum. The votes cast present as a small majority in favour of Leave. My claim is however founded in the referendum result and the nature of the referendum question.
This is a strong assertion to make and it is certain to be met with hostility by those who wish for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. It would be easy to attempt to avoid the argument by resorting to name calling. There is already in the national press an attempt to shut down discussion by referring to those who raise issues as “Remoaners”, “Remainiacs”, “Bremoaners”, and even “Traitors”. This practice serves our democracy poorly.
It would be easy also to assert that “we had a vote and Leave won – end of story” again this is to attempt to avoid any further discussion. It is also to ignore the complexity of the issue of leaving the EU. A complexity that the EU referendum question failed to explore.
A sound democracy can only be achieved by informed debate based on accurate evidence based information, valid argument and by a willingness to consider different points of view. I invite all those whose initial reaction is a hostile one, to put aside their emotions for a short while. Read what I have to say and then, if you disagree with my argument, offer a counter argument. That is how democracy is supposed to work. Besides, given the nature of my claim, aren’t you just a little curious, maybe just enough to read on?
The answer is defined by the question
One Fateful Morning
Some moments are more memorable than others. This morning was one of those memorable moments. Yesterday voters, all over the UK, had visited polling stations to cast their vote. The campaigns were over and the time to decide had come. Two options “Remain” and “Leave” were the only choices available to the voters. The result would shape the future of the UK for years to come. Recent polls had been mixed, some showing Remain ahead, some Leave. There had been no exit poll to provide any hint of the likely outcome. That fateful morning I turned on the TV, switched to the news channel, and discovered that there was a risk of rain. But below the weather forecast a scrolling message declared
“Remain 36.9%, Leave 63.1%”
Now what would happen?
Two versions of an event
The answer to a question is shaped by the question that is asked. The “fateful morning” described above takes the vote of the General Election 2015 but considers what if this vote had been the result of asking a different question in a hypothetical referendum? Before we consider this further we will take a quick look at what actually happened.
General Election Result May 2015
Because there were a number of different parties contesting the election the vote was divided between the various parties. The more parties you have, the smaller the share of the vote each party should get, if every party is preferred equally. This election was unusual in that in many seats more than three larger parties were contesting the seat. Thus any one party would do well to get 37% of the vote. At 36.9% of the vote the Conservatives had a minority of the total vote, but they were the largest minority. Unfortunately in the UK we use a first past the post system. Such electoral systems heavily favour the party that gets the most votes, giving them a disproportionate number of seats when compared to their share of the vote. But even with a proportional system the Conservatives would have been the largest minority and would have had the right to attempt to form a government.
So viewed as a General Election the result is a win for the Conservatives, with 36.1% of the vote, who indeed went on to form a government.
Figure 1 below shows the outcome of the General Election for 2015
Hypothetical Referendum May 2015
By March of 2015 the Conservative and Liberal coalition government was coming to the end of its term in office. Using the May election voting figures, to provide an indication of peoples preferences, we can imagine what the result of a referendum might have been.
The question to be asked
“Do you want the Conservative party to remain in office or to leave”
with the options
[1. Remain in office
2. Leave office]
In Figure 1 above there is a cyan coloured column, taller than the rest and on the right of the graph, labelled “Not Conservative”. This represents the adding together of the share of the vote achieved by all the parties except the Conservatives.
Immediately the Conservative result of 36.9% of the vote is completely dwarfed by the 63.1% of the vote against the Conservatives. What was a victory for the Conservatives in a general election has been turned into a disaster. This has been achieved by the simple device of changing the question asked. Specifically the question asked has allowed several competing, different alternatives to the Conservatives to have their support accumulated under a single “Leave Office” option. Effectively “Leave Office” is the same as “Not Conservative”.
What might have happened next?
In the above imagined example based on the 2015 General Election the vote for the Not Conservative option was 63.1%. How might the resulting situation have developed?
Stacking the odds to get the outcome you want
Whenever there is a choice between three or more options you can stack the odds against one of the options. You take the option you don’t want to win and put it on its own. You then group all the other options together and offer them as one single option.
Given options A, B, C you can stack the odds against A by defining the choice as a binary choice (choice between two options)
“Do you want A, or do you want something other than A”
2. Not A]
(Option 2 above effectively includes B and C, plus anything else you can throw in during the campaign)
Despite the deficiencies of a first past the post system, to set the Conservative party up for a fall by phrasing the vote as a “One” versus “All the rest” contest would have been blatantly undemocratic.
It is interesting to compare the level of information provided by the different approaches. When you ask voters to pick one option from
the voter is able to indicate which option they prefer.
However if you ask the voter to pick option
2. Not A]
what actual information is available to you?
Sometimes it can be politically expedient to confuse the issue. If you want to claim that support for an option is high than the last thing you want is for a vote to show that support is lower than you expected. However if you can combine that option with other options, you can claim the combined vote total as an indication of the level of support for your preferred option. Despite never having put your option to a vote.
Loss of mandate for action
The big problem with turning an “A or B or C” choice into an “A or Not A” choice, effectively a choice between “A” or “BC”, is what happens after the referendum.
If the single option “A” wins there is a clear mandate.
If the many option “Not A” wins what do you do now?
Whenever you have a choice between more than two options it is possible to stack the odds against one of the options by redefining the vote in a way that creates a “One” versus “All the rest” choice. The ill thought out or unscrupulous use of “One” against “All the rest” contests can turn an election or referendum result on its head.
Turning famous victories into defeats
To show how the result can be distorted by turning a “One from many” question into a “One versus the rest” binary choice, consider three post war landslide elections.
This is how three famous landslide victories in general elections, since the second world war, would have been over turned by the simple measure of turning the question into a “One versus the rest” binary choice. They are ordered in ascending order of percentage of the vote achieved.
Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour Landslide
There had been no Labour government since the Thatcher victory of 1979. This all changed with the Labour victory in 1997. Tony Blair was to succeed in two further general elections.
Actual Result Summary
Figure 2 below shows the result of the 1997 General Election
If however the election had been run as Labour versus the rest
Everyone else 56.8%
One landslide overturned. The power of configuring a choice between three or more options as a “One versus the rest” contest, should not be over-estimated. It always stacks the odds against the option placed in the “One” position. The odds get worse the more options there are.
Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Conservative Landslide
1979 saw a landslide victory for the Conservative party under its leader Margaret Thatcher. This victory ended consensus politics and marked a major change in economic priorities for the country. It was the precursor for two further general election victories for Margaret Thatcher. Britain would have been a very different country if the Thatcher victories had never taken place.
Actual Result Summary
Figure 3 below shows the result of the 1979 General Election
If however the election had been run as Conservatives versus the rest
Everyone else 56.1%
Again the effect is to overturn the result.
Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour Landslide
In a contest against two other major parties and a number of other candidates Labour’s achievement of close to half of the vote can legitimately be described as not just a landslide, but the biggest landslide in postwar politics.
Actual Result Summary
Figure 4 below shows the result of the 1945 General Election
If however the election had been run as Labour versus the rest
Everyone else 52.3%
Put the Labour vote on one side of a “One versus the rest” contest and the Labour majority becomes a minority.
In every case the effect of defining the election as a “One versus the rest” contest distorts the result taking victory away from the “One” side of the contest and handing it to the ill defined “rest”.
How to spot a “One versus the rest” Contest
There are a number of warning signs to look out for.
1. Is one option a vote for something whilst the other side is a vote against that something?
2. Is one of the choices a collection of different alternatives that are competing with each other?
3. Do both options provide a clear course of action that addresses the key issues of the debate if they win the vote?
The 2016 European Union Referendum
Why was there a referendum on EU Membership?
The provision of a referendum to decide the United Kingdom’s future membership of the EU began as a commitment made in the Conservative party’s 2015 manifesto. An issue of high complexity that is of critical economic importance to the United Kingdom was reduced to a binary in-out choice to tempt Euro-sceptic voters to give their vote to the Conservatives.
“So the choice at this election is clear: Labour and the Liberal Democrats won’t give you a say over the EU. UKIP can’t give you a say. Only the Conservative Party will deliver real change in Europe – and only the Conservatives can and will deliver an in – out referendum”
and later in the same document
“We will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU. And then we will ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave. We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome.”
The Conservative party won the 2015 General Election and subsequently the European Union Referendum Act 2015 was passed. The act defined the question that would be asked
“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
With two options to choose from
“[Remain a member of the European Union”
“Leave the European Union”]
Issues with the reasoning behind the Referendum
But there are clear questions about the reasoning behind the referendum question.
What evidence there is suggests the Government at the time did not think that “Leave” could achieve a majority. Since a majority for “Remain” would require no further action, perhaps there was seen no need to complicate the matter. It appears the Government was engaged in an exercise to placate and defuse the right wing of the Conservative party and UKIP, rather than to understand the will of the people.
This was naïve and ignored the effect of turning a many option question into a binary choice with Remain placed in a “One versus the rest” contest, standing alone against the combined yet conflicting alternative versions of Brexit.
What did voting “Remain” mean?
Those who chose “Remain” would be indicating a preference across a wide range of issues, all of which would need a position taking on if a “Leave” result should occur. Figure 5 identifies some of the key issues of any decision to leave the European Union and it shows the stance taken by anyone who selected “Remain”.
Figure 5 below “What a Remain Vote Means”
What did voting “Leave” mean?
The only information that could be conveyed by a “Leave” vote was that relating to the specific question of Membership of the European Union.
Figure 6 below “What a Leave Vote Means”
A “Leave” vote could signify nothing more.
During the EU Referendum debate, much was said about what “Leave” would mean. But none of this could be captured by the Referendum, due to the nature of the question asked.
“Leave” was not a single option, but was in effect several different options that were mutually exclusive and in competition with each other. This is a point of view that is robustly denied by those who supported the Leave campaign as it would completely undermine their position and challenge the mandate they now claim to have. However the evidence that “Leave” was an adding together of multiple different conflicting views is clear, both in the nature of the EU debate and the confusion that has followed the Referendum.
The meaning of “Remain”, across a range of issues, was clearly defined as “Remain” was a single option. “Leave” was effectively “Not Remain”, putting “Remain” in the “One” position of a “One versus the rest” contest.
Was “Leave” really a single option?
There can be no doubt that the Government knew, long before the EU Referendum, that “Leave the European Union” was not a single option. The UK Government produced document
“Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union”
dated March 2016 and made it available on the internet. This document is some 56 pages long and comprehensively covers the issues involved. It is difficult to read it without wondering why an issue this important, this complicated, this technical, and critical to Britain’s future should be decided by a referendum.
This document identified a number of issues that would need to be considered including
1. Full access to the EU’s free-trade Single Market, for which it recognises we would have to accept the free movement of people.
2. Loss of membership would remove the UK’s ability to influence the rules under which the Single Market operates.
3. Full access would require a UK contribution to the EU’s programmes and budget.
4. An approach based around a Free Trade Agreement with the EU would reduce these obligations but would reduce access to the Single Market, particularly in services.
5. Outside the EU single market we would lose our preferential access to 53 markets outside the EU, until we could negotiate our own trade agreements with these countries.
6. Outside the EU, if the rights of UK citizens living in the EU were to be maintained, then there would need to be some form of reciprocal arrangements for EU citizens living in the UK
In section 3 of the document it lists three alternatives – ways of leaving the EU.
The Norway Model
A) The Norway model. Norway is in the European Economic area but not in the EU. The Norwegian model provides a high degree of integration with the Single Market and requires Norway to follow the rules of the Single Market including free movement of people. Figure 7 shows the position the Norway Model takes on the key issues and compares its position to that of Remain. It can be seen that they differ only on the issue of membership.
Figure 7 below “Leave: The Norway Model”
A Unique UK Deal
B) A negotiated bilateral agreement. Two examples of models for this option are discussed. The approach Switzerland has taken and the EU-Canada agreement that is still being negotiated. This option can be described as a “unique UK deal”
The single biggest issue in the negotiations is probably that of Freedom of Movement versus tariff free access to the Single Market. Some Leave campaigners have argued that the UK could end Freedom of Movement whilst retaining tariff free access to the Single Market. EU officials have however on many occasions indicated that this is not possible. Leave supporters who advocate a unique deal for the UK will be forced to split into two camps.
1. Those for whom ending Freedom of Movement is vital, even at the cost of losing all the trade advantages provided by the EU.
2. Those for whom international trade is the priority even if this means the continuation of Freedom of Movement.
Figure 8 shows where this approach stands on the various issues. It is clear that this approach leaves much unanswered. This is in part due to the uncertainties of what can be achieved during negotiation. However any negotiation has to begin with an initial starting position and what this should be is not agreed upon by Leave campaigners.
Figure 8 below “Leave: Unique UK Deal”
Reversion to World Trade Organisation Rules
C) World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership. The UK would revert to our membership of the WTO as our basis for trade. This is in itself potentially problematic in that the UK’s current status at the WTO is defined by the EU’s schedule. If the UK leaves the EU and is no longer covered by the EU’s schedule with the WTO, then it will need its own schedule setting out the parameters for future agreements. This would require agreement from the other 160 WTO member countries. Some WTO member countries could seek to use this situation to further their own aims. Examples include Spain who have a disagreement with the UK over Gibraltar and Argentina who dispute the status of the Falkland Islands.
Falling back on a WTO schedule as the basis for trade is the default outcome of leaving the EU once article 50 is triggered, if no mutually acceptable agreement can be reached with the EU. It is also the most extreme option for leaving the EU. Figure 9 illustrates the WTO option’s position on the key issues.
Those who favour this outcome have every incentive to make negotiations with the EU difficult, as this will increase the likelihood that no agreement can be reached.
Figure 9 below “Leave: WTO (Default if there is no deal)”
Comparing Remain and the Leave Options
Whilst some“Leave” voters may not have described there preferences in terms of a “Norway model”, or a “Unique UK deal”, or “WTO”, these alternative potential outcomes for leaving the EU break down into the type of “Brexit” that would deliver the outcome they wanted. When a “Leave” voter claims the vote was a vote to control immigration, they are rejecting a “Norway model” for Brexit. They are supporting either the “WTO” option or optimistically hoping for a “Unique UK deal” Brexit that delivers what everyone on the EU side of negotiations has said is not available – access to the single market and an end to freedom of movement.
The EU referendum makes no mention of the various options for “Leave”. Shown beside each other as in Figure 10 and it is clear that “Leave” is not a single position common to everyone who voted for it. “Leave” is several different positions, that disagree with each other and are competing with each other.
Figure 10 below “Remain compared to all Leave options”
The UK and the Question of EU Membership
Deciding the EU question is to decide how the UK will organise its trade with the rest of the world.
The first trade option “Remain in the EU” represents our current position as a member of the EU. The other three options represent the various options identified in the government document “Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union” and which represent the options available to those who would leave the EU.
The EU Single Market is based around the “Four Freedoms” which is at the heart of the idea of the European Union. These are
This is why Freedom of Movement and tariff free access to the Single Market are considered inseparable by the EU.
It is clear from Figure 10 that
1. As defined in the referendum “Leave” is simply a vote against “Remain”. A vote to “Leave” provides no indication of a voter’s preferred option for any of the issues displayed in Figure 10 other then EU membership.
2. “Leave” is not a single option, and it never was. The UK cannot leave the EU without taking a position on all the issues shown above. The very basis on which people decide whether to leave or remain lies in their preferences for how each of those issues are resolved.
3. In the event of a “Leave” majority there can be no clear mandate as support for the alternative versions of “Leave” is obscured by the act of combining them into a single option.
The EU referendum question fulfils all three criteria listed earlier for “How to spot a one versus the rest contest”. Essentially the “Remain” vote was set up to fail by the question that was asked in the EU referendum.
When the EU referendum was proposed it appears there was little expectation that there could possibly be a majority vote for “Leave”. If there had been perhaps someone might have given due consideration for what the implications of a “Leave” majority would be. Maybe then there might have been some reconsideration of the appropriate question to ask.
The EU Referendum
Much has been written about the EU referendum campaign. It was probably the most polarised and vitriolic campaign in my lifetime. What became clear about the Leave campaign was that “Leave” meant different things to different people. Whilst everyone campaigning on behalf of “Leave” wanted the UK to no longer be a member of the EU, a variety of descriptions of what “Leave” could mean were offered to the voters.
There were those who wanted an emphasis to be placed on still having tariff free access to the single market and continued usage of the 53 trade deals that came with it. They accepted that this would also mean continuation of freedom of movement.
There were others who simply wanted to have nothing to do with the EU and would have been happy to just walk away and fall back on WTO terms.
Then there were those who were happy to promise that we would be able to have tariff free access to the single market with all the benefits it entailed, whilst not having freedom of movement. The argument was even made that the mere act of voting for “Leave” would force the EU into giving the UK what it wanted.
In short the failure to define what a “Leave” vote would mean, beyond the simplistic point that the UK would no longer be a member of the EU, allowed a variety of fundamentally different and mutually exclusive ideas to be presented to the voters as being what “Leave” could mean. This gave the Leave campaign a significant advantage over the Remain campaign. “Leave” became a concept that could never be pinned down. It kept transforming as the campaign progressed. “Leave” became the option of choice for anyone who just wanted to vote as a protest against the current Government. Others were persuaded that to vote “Leave” would lead to the redirection of EU payments to the National Health Service. Significantly failing to define “Leave” helped people to vote without having to attempt to understand the issues involved. Had the various alternative forms of Brexit been offered as separate voting options, then the voter would have had at least to consider and indicate a preference regarding the critical issue of priority with respect to EU trade benefits or curtailing freedom of movement.
The EU Referendum Result
Percentage of the electorate
Fail to vote or spoiled 27.8
Figure 11 below “Response of the electorate”
Figure 11 shows the EU referendum result. This single image shows the undecided state of the British people. It is nonsense to claim that Leaving the EU is the “will of the British people” when you can see that “Leave” had the support of only 37% of the electorate. The figure of 27.8% also shows how much needs to be done to engage more people in our democracy.
Figure 12 below “EU Referendum Result”
Percentage of total votes
Figure 12 shows just how close the result was. It is interesting to compare this graph with which shows the 1945 Clement Attlee Labour landslide as a one versus the rest contest. Attlee polled 47.7% of the vote, which makes Remain’s result of 48.1% an even greater achievement, once you realise that “Leave” was at least three different competing options rolled into a single voting option. Despite the interpretation being taken by the UK Government the reality is that “Remain” achieved a landslide, “Leave” did not.
What happened next
*“Leave” was declared the winner of the referendum.
There has since been a constant barrage of articles and headlines to define the “Leave” vote as a vote to control immigration above any other consideration. Part of this campaign has been to vilify anyone who questions the legitimacy of the referendum outcome or the way that outcome is now being interpreted.
On the 3rd of November three judges in the High Court ruled that the
“Government does not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50”
The response from the Brexit supporting press was some of the most hostile to date, with headlines including “Enemies of the people” and “Judges versus the people”.
Manipulating the claimed mandate
The terms “Soft Brexit” and “Hard Brexit” have now come into existence. A “Soft Brexit” being anything that focusses on keeping access to tariff free trade and the international trade agreements that go along with it, and an acceptance of free movement. A “Hard Brexit” being an end to free movement and a willingness, even eagerness, to fall back on WTO trade rules.
No clear mandate could ever come from a “Leave” response to the referendum question. The only thing that most “Leave” voters could agree on was that they wanted to cease to be a member of the EU. The grouping of competing different views on Brexit into a single vote option has ensured that there is no record of votes that can indicate the level of support for any specific version of Brexit. However the supporters of a “Hard Brexit” are loud and militant. Supported by the right wing press they are rapidly defining the “Leave” vote as a vote against Freedom of Movement and an end to access to the Single Market, despite there being any evidence to support this claim from the referendum result.
All this demonstrates how the “Leave” vote was not a vote for a single option, but continues to be an unresolved contest between a number of competing views. “Remain” was forced by the nature of the referendum question into the “One” role in a “One” versus “All the rest” contest.
A variety of legal questions have been raised.
But none of this addresses the fundamental issue of the undemocratic nature of the referendum.
In their manifesto the Conservative party promised to “honour the referendum, whatever the outcome”. But they cannot. The question asked in the EU referendum effectively denied them any information as to what “Leave” actually meant. When they pursue their own agenda for whatever Brexit means to them, they are not honouring the referendum. Whatever path they take will have many “Leave” voters up in arms as well as no support from those who voted “Remain”.
The fact is that in this referendum “Remain” won a landslide victory against the various varieties of “Leave” that exceeded even the 1945 Labour landslide.
Figure 13 below Remain versus Leave
The size of the landslide becomes apparent as soon as you consider what would have to be true for there to be a mandate for any one version of Brexit.
Figure 14 below “The challenge facing any Brexit option”
Since Remain achieved 48.1% of the vote, any version of Brexit would require at least 48.2% of the referendum vote to have a mandate. This would leave 3.7% of the vote to be shared out between the other options for Brexit, and this is ignoring the existence of voters who just voted to redirect EU payments to the NHS and those who just wanted to make a protest.
Six months after the referendum and there is still no clarity over what Brexit will mean. Infighting continues between the various advocates of Brexit. Surely if one version of Brexit had overwhelming support there would have appeared some consensus by now? Can any Brexit supporter provide any evidence to demonstrate that their preferred version of Brexit has anywhere near the support that has been proven to exist for Remain?
Some EU Referendum fallacies
The Leave vote represents the will of the British people
The Leave vote represents the vote of 37.47 percent of the electorate. What is less appreciated is that the electorate was based roughly on the electorate used for a General Election plus UK citizens living in Gibraltar. This included Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK, but excluded EU nationals resident in the UK, unless they were nationals of Malta or Cyprus. It also excluded those aged 17 but under 18, an age group that would be eligible to vote in a Scottish election. Research at the time indicated a greater level of support for Remain by the young. Also excluded were many British ex-patriots living in the EU who had not had a UK residential address in the last 15 years. Other ex-patriots who were eligible to vote were unsuccessful due to problems in getting their postal voting papers to them in time, or due to inconsistencies between the postal voting documentation and local postal service standards for package sizes and postal charges. British ex-patriots were a significant group for whom any action to leave the EU could be extremely detrimental. Full details of who was allowed to vote can be obtained from the link in the references section.
The Leave vote was a vote against immigration
For some this is certainly true. But many other issues were also raised during the campaign by the Leave camp. For some Leave voters the objection was to being in a political union, but they still wished to retain access to the single market, something unlikely to be achievable if freedom of movement was to end. Other voters were attracted to the idea of funds becoming available to the NHS, whilst others voted as a protest against the Cameron government. The nature of the referendum question makes it impossible to identify the actual level of support for ending freedom of movement, particularly if this is at the cost of losing access to the single market.
Leave voters all want the same thing
Yes they all voted to “Leave the EU”. But when they voted the nature of what that would mean was not available to the voter. The biggest area of disagreement is likely to be around the issue of ending freedom of movement versus retaining access to the single market and 53 international trade agreements. For some ending freedom of movement is a priority, for others retaining access to the single market is a priority. For those who prioritise access to the single market there will be some who would prefer to remain in the EU, rather than fall back on WTO terms of trade.
We had a vote, Leave won, end of story
Asking whether you want to “Remain in the EU” or “Leave the EU” without specifying the form in which “Leaving the EU” would take could never be the “end of the story”. If someone asked you “do you want to go out?” would you decide to “go out” without either first asking the question “where are we going to go?” or at least reserving the right to change their mind if you did not like their choice of destination? The “story” will only end when the details of what form Brexit will take are finally available. Then the Government will have to decide whether it wishes to retain any pretence of democracy, or whether it will simply try to force through its limited vision for our future in Europe.
Many “Leave” voters will have expectations about the form of Brexit they want to happen. There are different options for Brexit and Leave voters do not all support the same options.
This book is a response to the claim that Leave won. Whatever your view, the ongoing debate about what form Brexit should now take makes it clear that the story is no where near over. The EU referendum left many questions unanswered.
Support for Leaving the EU will continue at its current level
The case for Remain or Norwegian Style Brexit
The case that the result of the EU Referendum was a landslide for Remain is now clear. There is absolutely no evidence available to indicate that any single version of Brexit can come close to the level of support that Remain achieved in the Referendum.
For those who still insist on interpreting the evidence provided by the EU Referendum as a mandate for Brexit, then the case for a Norwegian style Brexit is overwhelming.
showed how the only difference between the aspirations of the “Leave” voters who support a Norwegian model and “Remain” voters was actual membership of the EU. If only 2% of the Leave vote were supporters of a Norwegian model you have an overall majority for keeping every benefit the European Union offers.
There is complete disagreement on every issue other than membership, between those who would support a Norwegian model of leaving and those who would support a WTO option. Hence any attempt to pursue a “Unique UK Deal” will become a battle ground between these two rival camps.
The question is whether the Government actually wants to honour the result of the referendum, or to placate an aggressive and vocal hard line Brexit agenda that cannot obtain a majority in a vote but may drive it through anyway.
The United Kingdom is at a crossroads. It is not just our economic future that is at stake but also the nature of our democracy. Those who voted “Remain” have been barraged with demands and expectations to “Honour the result of the referendum”. They are now being expected to remain silent whilst the Government, devoid of any electoral mandate for any specific form of Brexit, makes it up as it goes along. Meanwhile the hard right clamour ever more stridently for a so called “Hard Brexit”.
It is time for those who voted “Remain” to recognise that the referendum was a loaded question that stacked the odds against a “Remain” outcome by defining the referendum as a “One” versus “All the rest” contest. Once you recognise this the significance of the “Remain” vote and the landslide it achieved becomes clear.
It could be that after Article 50 is triggered and the negotiations with the EU are completed, that some kind of a vote on the agreement may be offered. If this were a choice between accepting the agreement or falling back on WTO conditions, this would be consistent with the Government’s current undemocratic approach. If it included the option to “Remain” then it would finally present the legitimate contest between “Remain” and any specific Brexit option that we have been denied all along. Of course if a choice between “Remain” and any one or more specific options for Brexit had been offered the electorate in the beginning a phenomenal amount of public money could have been saved; massive economic uncertainty avoided; the pound sterling would not needlessly have suffered such devaluation; and much international ill will would not have been generated.
“Remain” voters are not “Remainiacs”, “Remoaners”, or “Bremoaners” and they are certainly not traitors. They are democrats who are trying to defend the democratic process against those who would abuse it for their own ends. The majority of people in this country want to remain engaged with Europe. They want to trade tariff free with Europe and to be able to travel and work anywhere in Europe.
A note of qualified admiration
There are those who fought the “Leave” campaign, who would like to see the United Kingdom completely separated from the EU, politically, legally and economically. They welcome the opportunity for the UK to simply leave the EU and fall back on World Trade Organisation terms. They are now much closer to achieving their goal.
I have to admit they played a weak hand well. They knew that in a straight vote the option to Brexit in this way could never have achieved a majority of the vote. However they avoided a straight vote and instead achieved a fudged vote in which the option to Remain was forced to fight against a constantly changing, vaguely defined idea of “Leaving the EU”.
It did not matter that no minimum level of turnout, or minimum percentage of votes received, was required before action would be considered justified to Leave the EU, as the referendum was only “advisory”.
With virtually all expert opinion supporting “Remain” they succeeded in convincing people to “Ignore the experts”. Against a lacklustre Conservative dominated Remain campaign, Leavers resorted increasingly to propaganda rather than fact to eventually convince a small majority of voters to support them.
The idea of a representative democracy is that you appoint people who have the mental capacity, specialist knowledge and expertise, to run the Government and thus the country on your behalf. Why? Because that knowledge and expertise ought to lead to better decisions being made. When our elected representatives start to promote the idea of rejecting expert advise it is time to worry. When they issue constantly changing sound bites designed to win popular support, irrelevant of the accuracy or truth of what is said, then its time to fear for the future of representative democracy. If experts can’t be trusted why should we listen to these self appointed experts instead?
Since the referendum result these hard line Leavers have continued to dictate the agenda.
It may be an object lesson in how to conduct a campaign against the odds. The odds are however now stacking against saving the United Kingdom’s future in Europe.
Now is not the time to go quietly whilst night falls around us.
Now is the time
* to recognise that the 48% are the majority, not the minority.
There has to be a chance for those affected by Brexit to review the specific terms of that Brexit and for it to be put to a vote that includes the option to Remain. This is not seeking to re-run the referendum again. It is the opportunity for those who claim Brexit is the will of the people to prove it. Always remember No version of Brexit has ever demonstrated it has anywhere near the level of support that exists for the UK to Remain in the EU.
People are facing real difficulties in the UK and have been for many years. There is common ground to be found in identifying and resolving the causes of the inequalities that create so much harm and deprivation. People need homes they can afford to live in. They need employment that offers some security and pays enough to live on. Our young need to be able to take their education as far as they can without being crippled by debt. The NHS needs defending and financing. Social care is in crisis.
Leaving the EU can only make this situation worse as it drains away public funds. Itwon’t change this and it won’t solve these problems, because it is not the cause of them. Only by focussing on the real causes of our current problems, rather than seeking scape-goats, can we find a way forward together. But that is a matter for another book
Thank you for reading my book. If you have enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favourite retailer?
About the author
I am in my sixties now and have been a student of economics since before the UK joined the European Union. I passionately believe that the formation of the European Union has been one of the most important events of my lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a European citizen as well as a citizen of the UK. The freedom to live and work anywhere in the EU is something I could never have dreamed of when I was a child. Having known what it is like not to have that freedom, I will not relinquish it willingly now.
You can find me at Shakespir
[+ Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour Landslide result+]
[+ Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Conservative Landslide result+]
[+ Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour Landslide result+]
Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 can be found at
[+ European Union Referendum Act 2015+]
Alternatives for the UK outside of the EU document can be found at
[+ World Trade Organisation and UK Status+]
[+ EU Referendum – the result+]
[+ Bank of England reaction to a “Leave” vote+]
[+ High Court ruling on using the Royal Prerogative+]
[+ Brexit supporting press response+]
[+ Possible judicial review to decide if the UK Government would be acting unlawfully if it took the UK out of the wider European Economic Area+]
In June 2016 the United Kingdom held the European Union Referendum. The result has been almost universally interpreted as a win for those who want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Often the result is discussed as if it was an overwhelming victory for Leave. This book offers an alternative interpretation of the result, based on rational argument derived from the available evidence. It challenges the UK Government interpretation of the referendum result as a mandate for taking the UK out of the EU. Instead it maintains that there is a legitimate and valid case for interpreting the EU referendum result as a landslide victory for Remaining in the EU. It is a wake up call for all those Remain voters who feel obliged to respect the result of the referendum. They can respect democracy and continue to promote a future for Britain in the EU. It is also a challenge to those Leave supporters who cling to the idea that Brexit is being brought about by adhering to democratic principles.