On the 23rd of June 2016 the United Kingdom had a referendum to decide whether to stay in the European Union or not.
On the 24th of June 2016 at 07:20 BST the final results were announced. 52% of the votes cast (17.4 million people) were to leave while 48% of the votes cast (16.2 million people) were to remain.
The Brexit debate had raged in earnest for months before the referendum and the main pre referendum arguments for leave had been sovereignty, control of immigration and not having to listen to stupid EU regulations (even if they were eventually repealed) such as discarding bananas that are too bendy or cucumbers that are too straight and prohibiting producers of bottled water to claim that water is hydrating after a three year investigation found there was no evidence to prove it.
The main pre referendum arguments for remain had been that it would destroy the economy and that we’re all stronger as part of the EU.
I, having a brain, recognised that the likelihood of the economy tanking as badly as predicted by some was slim, because the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world. There would almost certainly be some downturn but that was not likely to last for too long and would be a small price to pay for the return of sovereignty and democracy. Additionally, if we can’t control our borders then the uncontrolled influx of immigrants would cause an economic disaster anyway.
But these were pre referendum arguments which became (almost) obsolete the moment the results were announced. Brexit had been won and there was no use pointing out to Leavers how much financially worse off they would be or how xenophobic they were. A democratic referendum had been held, people had voted, the results had been announced and Parliament were legally bound to carry out the will of the people. There was nothing Remainers could do.
Or was there?
Well actually … there was. We’ve seen plenty of Remainer shenanigans since that day, but they’re all based on one argument that for some fathomable reason, was only mentioned or even thought of on the 24th of June 2016 7.21 BST.
The Main Post Referendum Argument for Stopping Brexit: The People Didn’t Know What They Were Voting For
First let’s admire the manoeuvre.
Remainers are not attempting to directly challenge the results of a free and fair referendum. That wouldn’t be appropriate, or without using British understatement, would be completely and utterly undemocratic. Instead they’re trying to undermine the results by suggesting there was a fundamental flaw in the process which invalidates the results and opens the door to a second referendum which does not have that fundamental flaw, because everyone now knows they’re supposed to vote Remain.
Sneaky. On its own it’s not an undemocratic manoeuvre. If there is a flaw in a voting process, then the results are indeed invalid. The problem is, I have a suspicion that some Remainers only think there was a flaw in the voting process because the results were not what they wanted – which is what makes this manoeuvre undemocratic after all.
And the flaw in the voting process: Well, the people didn’t know what they were voting for.
There are three things that Remainers claim the voters didn’t know.
The first is what the word ‘leave’ meant. Which at first sounds silly, because everyone has a basic understanding of what the word ‘leave’ means. What is meant by this is that the voters didn’t know what the word ‘leave’ referred to – yes, I know, that’s a much clearer way of putting it, which proves I should be in charge of everything. As well as being a political union, the EU is a single market and a customs union. Did ‘leave’ mean leave everything or leave the political union but remain in the single market or the customs union? Did it mean leave the single market or customs union but remain in the political union. Perhaps ‘leave’ meant remaining in the political union, single market and customs union but being unhappy about it.
The second thing that Remainers claim voters didn’t know is how difficult it would be to get a trade deal. The Leave Campaign guaranteed us that securing a great trade deal with the EU would be easy but after years of negotiations it has proven to be anything but. Not only that, but failed negotiations mean the possibility of a no deal and surely a guarantee of a good deal means a guarantee of no no deal. Therefore, the voters also didn’t know that we might end up with no deal.
The third thing that Remainers claim voters didn’t know, was that the evil Leave Campaign was lying to them about almost everything. This more or less boils down to the difficulties already mentioned and the all-important NHS lie. The Leave campaign said the UK would save £350 million a week to spend on the NHS and the truth is it’s only £137 million a week. Damn it! And who says it will definitely go to the NHS? Maybe some of it will be spent on education god forbid!
I’ve even heard some Remainer politicians smugly ask, “Where’s the £350 million for the NHS they promised we’d get when we leave the EU?” apparently unaware that we haven’t actually left yet. But no one’s said politicians were our best and brightest, although plenty have said they weren’t.
How Each of the Three Things Remainers Claim the Voters Didn’t Know Are Being Used to Stop Brexit
As mentioned above, if there’s a fundamental flaw in a voting process it invalidates the results. The ‘people not knowing what they were voting for’ is the fundamental flaw being used to stop Brexit.
Here’s how each of the three things Remainers claim the voters didn’t know are being used to stop Brexit.
Some argue that voters not knowing what ‘leave’ referred to is enough to invalidate the results of the referendum. But this is a problematic argument because it’s very difficult to suggest that most voters had absolutely no idea what they were voting for. They may not have understood everything, they may not have understood exactly what ‘leave’ meant, but they certainly understood that the referendum had something to do with leaving the EU. Therefore, a more mainstream Remain position is that there can be some type of leaving – this much the voters did understand and vote for – but since the full extent of the voters understanding of what ‘leave’ referred to is unknown, it’s not clear that there’s a requirement to do any more than the minimum amount of leaving.
And that’s why you’ve all heard the phrase soft Brexit.
A soft Brexit means a partial Brexit, a minimum Brexit and not a maximum Brexit, because the maximum we can conclusively infer from the 17.4 million leave votes is a minimum Brexit.
This by the way, is why all the calls for compromising are utterly disingenuous. The proposed compromise is between the hard-line Brexiteers that want a complete break with Europe and the Remainers who want to remain in the EU with some sort of soft Brexit serving as the compromise and isn’t a compromise the grown-up thing to do even if emotional manipulation is not. But as explained, since the UK voted to leave the EU 52% – 48% and even the Remainer’s can’t really justify not leaving at all and are forced to admit voters knew some leaving would be involved so the referendum results require the minimum of a soft Brexit, any compromise should be somewhere in between soft and hard Brexit – say a firm but yielding Brexit. Proposing a compromise from the position you want (Remain) but not the position you have to accept (soft Brexit) which then, by happy coincidence, lands at the position you’ve already accepted is merely a way of looking like you’ve made a concession to force the other side to make a real concession or risk looking like they’re unwilling to compromise.
This is how Remainers are using the ‘people didn’t know what leave meant’ argument to stop Brexit. By magnanimously agreeing to a pretend Brexit.
They’re also trying to stop Brexit by using the ‘people didn’t know how difficult it would be to get a trade deal’ argument.
The Leave Campaign promised a great trade deal with the EU and people voted to leave on that basis. They didn’t know they might have to leave with the “financial disaster” that’s a bad deal, or even worse with the “economic catastrophe” (please read in an even more hysterical tone than “financial disaster”) that’s a no deal scenario. They didn’t know that the EU who want us to remain in the EU and the politicians who want us to remain in the EU wouldn’t be able to negotiate a Brexit deal to leave the EU, between them.
Since the only way leave voters expected to leave was with a good deal and without bringing about the financial ruin that would occur with a bad or no deal, that’s the only way the UK can leave, anything else would not be what leave voters voted for. And if a good deal doesn’t materialise, since we can’t leave with a bad deal and we can’t leave with no deal … well, we’ll have no option but to remain in the EU. We tried our best to carry out the will of the people … honest … we even agreed to a soft Brexit. But since even a soft Brexit can only be carried out with a good deal that has yet to materialise – which is not all that surprising given we’ve defined a good deal as one that guarantees zero negative financial consequences and the only way to achieve that is by remaining in the EU – we’ll just have to call the whole thing off.
As for the argument that the Leave Campaign was lying about almost everything including the MONEY FOR THE NHS, that is used to convince those people who argue that the ‘people not knowing what they were voting for’ as a fundamental flaw for invalidating the referendum, has a fundamental flaw. Namely, that voters are well aware for at least eighteen years before they’re allowed to vote, that whenever there’s a vote the people don’t know what they’re voting for. Everyone knows that politicians lie or massage the facts or present things in a deceiving way, and that unless you give up your job and do years of full-time research there will be many things you won’t know.
In fact, if there’s one thing all voters know with absolute clarity about any vote, it’s that they don’t really know what they’re voting for.
Which is why Remainers have to point to all the things the voters didn’t know, so the cumulative effect would convince even those who expected not to know some things, that this time there were enough things they didn’t know, that it would be a flaw in the voting process, invalidating the results of the referendum and stopping Brexit.
Why the ‘People Didn’t Know What They Were Voting for’ Argument for Stopping Brexit Is Wrong
The main post referendum argument for stopping Brexit is that the people didn’t know what they were voting for. Everything else Remainers say hinges on that.
There is, however, one teeny tiny flaw with this argument.
And that is … it’s wrong.
You see, it was only after the results were announced that Remainers suddenly became concerned that no one knew what ‘leave’ meant and I wondered why this was only being thought about now. David Cameron had announced the referendum on the 20th February 2016 and the referendum had taken place on the 23rd of June 2016 so why during the intervening four months had not a single politician or media outlet asked the most important question of all, “What does ‘leave’ actually mean?”. Why did we not have four months of incessant analysis highlighting the fact that no one knew what ‘leave’ meant and demanding the government clarify a matter that was fundamental to the entire process of the referendum?
The answer is simple. There was no need to ask what ‘leave’ meant as the meaning of leave formed almost the entire argument against leaving with Remainers repeatedly warning everyone that leaving would mean the undesirable consequence of leaving the single market!
As you can see from here, it was explicitly stated over and over that leaving meant also leaving the single market. By Remainers. Let’s look at their behaviour in perspective. Before the referendum they tried to scare us away from the idea of leaving by saying, “but we’ll also leave the single market”, and when they lost the referendum, they tried to stop Brexit by pretending that we hadn’t understood what they were saying.
It was also stated by ostensible Leavers like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.
It was also stated by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
I think my favourite is the time when Andrew Marr said that even if Brexit wins there would be room for the Prime Minister to negotiate keeping us in the single market, to which David Cameron responded by reminding him that the “out” campaign wanted to leave the single market and despite not having to “make that choice” they had. So the British public would be voting to “leave the EU and leave the single market.”
I don’t think there can be a clearer explanation of what the Leave Campaign meant by ‘leave’ than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom emphasising to us that while in practice the UK could leave the EU and yet remain in the single market, that was not the choice the Leave Campaign had made.
So it’s clear that ‘leave’ meant leave the single market to anyone who understands the phrase ‘leave the single market‘.
Now I grant you that despite David Cameron repeating himself 28 times, there may have been a substantial number of people who still didn’t know what ‘leave’ meant. After all, not everyone follows politics. Not everyone watches the news ten times a day. Not everyone spent hours scrutinising the ins and outs of all the minute details associated with leaving the EU and debating them in their newly created ‘is Brexit a good idea’ societies.
Some people actually have a life.
And one day I hope to have one too.
But they could have put some effort into finding out. It’s not as if the information wasn’t readily available. It’s not as if we don’t have google. It’s not as if there wasn’t any time to find out – Coronation Street has two ad breaks for crying out loud. And even if you’re an Eastenders fan, I’m sure you could have googled the goals of the Leave Campaign at the same time. It’s not as if you won’t answer your text, Whatsapp and Facebook messages because you’re concentrating on the show!
I know. I’ve just suggested some personal responsibility. The most heinous of all crimes. Take a moment to recover.
The truth is that it was even easier than a 15 minute google search to find out what ‘leave’ meant. All you had to do was understand what ‘remain’ meant and with a minimally functioning brain you would have understood what it’s opposite ‘leave’ meant. Did ‘remain’ mean remain in the political union but leave the single market? A partial remain? A soft remain? Of course not. ‘Remain’ meant remain in all the entities of the EU that we’re currently part of. Why would ‘leave’ mean anything but leave all the entities of the EU that we’re currently part of?
What about not knowing how difficult it would be to get a great trade deal with the EU?
Well obviously that assurance was only meant for normal negotiating conditions where the people on each side try to get the best deal for themselves or the people they represent. However, since Mrs May went to the EU crying her eyes out about the fact that her subjects had voted the wrong way, begged their forgiveness and asked how the UK could make it up to the EU, it’s no surprise at all that the wonderful EU – who some people would love to remain part of – are not being too cooperative, are trying to extract all manner of punitive damages and are trying to take further control over the UK as fully explained in Mrs May’s surrender … I mean withdrawal agreement.
In other words, we have a parliament with mostly Remainer MPs including much of the government and the Prime Minister, who I’m not convinced really want to implement Brexit, and who are having difficulties getting a good trade deal – it’s always difficult to do something you don’t want to do, well, though it’s very easy to do something you don’t want to do, badly – who then turn around and blame the Leave Campaign, who would have tried to implement Brexit properly, for promising it would be easy!
That may be true, I hear Remainers say in response, but at the end of the day Leave voters expected to leave with a good deal so we can’t leave without one. The answer to that is leaving with a good deal was not a deal breaker. It was the icing on the cake. Just because there’s no icing doesn’t mean we should throw away the cake.
This also explains why the final thing Remainers claim the voters didn’t know about, namely all the apparent Leave Campaign lies, is irrelevant. I’m not saying it’s ok to lie, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have wanted to know about certain things before the referendum. I’m saying nothing that has come to light post the referendum – such as not being able to get a good deal – or been apparently exposed as a lie were deal breakers that changed my mind about leaving the EU. That’s because they don’t affect my reasons for wanting to leave. I wanted Brexit to return UK sovereignty to the UK government. I wanted Brexit so that we have control over our laws and our borders. I wanted Brexit so that we could do something about the common occurrence of people being elected and suddenly deciding that some stupid regulation about bananas is imperative. No new piece of information has altered this. No apparent lie has suddenly made me change my mind, “What! No money for the NHS after all! Well if that’s the case, I don’t want sovereignty! I accept being governed by unelected and unaccountable officials in Brussels. What! It’s more difficult than we thought to get a trade deal! Well if that’s the case I want the UK to follow EU directives when it comes to immigration.”
This is the fundamental flaw in the Remainer argument. They argue that since people didn’t know what they were voting for, the results are invalid. This principle is absolutely true but only in regard to things that would have changed the voters’ mind. If for example, we would have suddenly found out that leaving the EU would for some reason not return sovereignty to the UK government, then not knowing that beforehand would make the referendum invalid as even Leavers would probably not have voted to leave. But finding out that insignificant, trivial matters which have nothing to do with the reasons why people voted to leave, were misunderstood, did not materialise or a lie, doesn’t invalidate the referendum.
The fact that politicians think insignificant, trivial matters would make us change our minds about wanting sovereignty, control of immigration and being subject to a myriad of absurd regulations, proves that it was they who never understood what we wanted.
Either that or they’re prepared to say anything to get their own way. Now Remainers may succeed in stopping Brexit or they may not, but they can’t stop everyone noticing what’s been highlighted by the whole Brexit exercise – that our politicians are either stupid or selfish.