When 17.4 million people rushed to the polls on the 23rd of June to vote for Britain to leave the European Union, an electoral turnout record, it is fair to say they had a variety of motives. Some wanted greater control over the number of people coming from Europe each year, some wanted Britain to be able to make her own trade deals with developing countries around the world, some like many in my home county of Cornwall wanted total control of its fishing waters and a revitalisation of a once great fishing industry, and finally – some wanted a return of the unrestricted sovereignty of our parliament. There are many who are currently trying to exploit the supposedly unclear nature of the EU referendum question to push their own agenda’s and keep Britain inside the European single market. Something that has been coined a ‘soft’ Brexit.
‘Once again, this is not what Brexiteers voted for’
Proponents of this ‘soft’ Brexit, whose members include the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, claim that as nothing on the ballot paper alluded to us leaving the single market, we have no duty to do so. Make no mistake; there is absolutely no mandate for this. Firstly. staying in the single market, means (as Switzerland and Norway exemplify), a continuation of the disastrous free movement of people policy. A policy, which a recent poll suggests that as much as 70% of the British people oppose. As controversial as it may be, one of the key issues of the referendum was immigration – with many of the working class Brexiteers voting on this basis alone.
A continuation of free movement (a direct consequence of access to the single market), based on a sly technicality of wording, would be the ultimate insult to those that campaigned so hard for Britain to leave the European Union – and would amount to a total fudge of the wishes of the white, male, working class voter that happens so often in Westminster. Remaining a part of the single market means staying in the customs union, which in turn means Britain’s trade deals are negotiated by the EU trade bloc we would be a part of.
Consequentially, this would keep Britain unable to make trade deals of her own, thus rendering Liam Fox’s position as secretary of state for International trade totally fruitless. More importantly, it would keep Britain restrained by the needs, wishes and negative profiles of the other members of the trade bloc. This leads to the unacceptably long time it takes the EU to negotiate a free trade deal; and could explain why, whilst Iceland has a trade deal with China – the EU does not. Once again, this is not what Brexiteers voted for.
Additionally, remaining inside the single market would mean a continuation of the common agricultural and fisheries policy. The consequence of this would be the retention of quotas for British fishermen in their own waters.
Given the flotilla of fishing boats up the Thames, the overwhelming support for leave in historic fishing areas such as Grimsby (and much of the North West), parts of Wales as well as Cornwall; this would be a gross betrayal of many of the most passionate and longest standing Eurosceptics.
Finally, remaining in the single market means Britain must agree to implement the common harmonised rules of the market.
These rules originate from the EU law, and would thus mean the British government would still be unable to make their own laws where business and trade standards are concerned. This is not the return of sovereignty that leave voters were promised.
Now, although the official Vote Leave campaign were a cross party campaign and not a government (thus unable to make promises and guarantees), they had a vision and their followers signed up to this vision. You would be lying to yourself to suggest otherwise. This vision included an Australian style points system, Britain making her own trade deals, and a return of our parliamentary sovereignty and fishing rights.
Whether leave voters were attracted by one or all of these aspirations, the result is the same; they voted for Britain to leave the European single market and that is what must now be delivered. Anything less is a total abdication of responsibility by our elected representatives and leaves the question of further withdrawal ever more prominent an issue.
Photo Credit: Steve Putner