We knew what we were voting for in June 2016 – the Remain campaign made it clear

We knew what we were voting for in June 2016 – the Remain campaign made it clear

What kind of Brexit did people vote for? Almost the entire political debate on Britain’s exit from the EU now revolves around claim and counter-claim about what the majority putting their cross in that “Leave” box really meant. After the EU’s recent response in Salzburg to the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan, it’s the wrangle at the heart of Brexit that’s set to intensify in a big way in the coming days and weeks.

Polls have attempted to drill deeper into the public mindset on that subversive day in 2016, but their small samples and mixed results render them paltry evidence relative to millions of referendum votes.

Much focus is placed inevitably on what the Leave campaign told voters, towards illuminating the Brexit that people backed. But, crucially, the Remain campaign’s case was also heard – arguably more so, given the Government’s own £9 million campaign fund and pamphlet sent to every house.

The ‘Stronger In’ camp’s claims deserve equal scrutiny and numerous extracts from their leaflets and website show that Remain campaigners made it abundantly clear to voters that backing Leave meant leaving the Single Market, including potential trade barriers, paying tariffs and even reverting to WTO rules.

Three separate times the Government’s short pamphlet stated clearly on the Single Market that voting Leave meant “less access”, “losing full access” and “uncertainty and risk”. Affirming this case, the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign’s widely distributed ‘Europe and You’ tabloid leaflet told voters “at risk” was the UK being “free to trade with all EU countries with no barriers”.

As early as February 2016, the executive director of Stronger In, Will Straw, proclaimed in an article headlined “Brexit campaigners have conceded UK outside the EU wouldn’t have access to the Single Market” that “we must be absolutely clear about what this means: Britain would not be part of the Single Market”.

Other leading Remain backers reinforced the point. A high-profile campaign press statement fear-mongered about what would occur “if we move to the World Trade Organisation trading rules” and quoted former chancellor Alistair Darling stating that “those wanting to leave the EU want to pull Britain out of the Single Market, which would mean introducing tariffs and barriers to our trade”.

Even then then Prime Minister David Cameron was crystal clear, telling BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that “What the British public will be voting for is to leave the EU and leave the Single Market”, which can have left very few in doubt about the Government’s intentions, were Leave to win.

Many more times throughout the referendum, the Remain campaign drove home to voters their views on being outside the Single Market and access risks, including a ‘Get the Facts’ page that highlighted “British firms would have to pay tariffs to trade”.

Revealing how frequently this case was made, a Google search of mentions of particular words on the official Stronger In website, covering all the campaign’s briefings and press releases published online, shows the term “Single Market” was covered almost as many times as their key campaign themes of “jobs” and “prices”. More specifically, the word “tariffs” had nearly as many mentions as Stronger In’s chief rival Vote Leave.

That a majority voted Leave anyway, in the face of this fearsome onslaught, makes it plainly perverse for Stronger In’s official successors, Open Britain and its People’s Vote campaign, to now turn around and claim that no-one voted with quitting the Single Market in mind. They simply can’t now say with any credibility that people weren’t told, as their leaked campaign plans reveal is the message they intend to trumpet this autumn.

So as Theresa May faces a Chequers crunch, caught between EU intransigence and opinion in Parliament, the Prime Minister should have renewed confidence to reject unacceptable EU demands as well as, if necessary, to abandon ideas of a common rule book and continued harmonisation with EU rules.

Since it’s clear that 17.4 million voters didn’t fear abandoning Single Market membership, Theresa May shouldn’t either.