If you read much internet discussion on brexit you will either be a staunch brexiter, or you will know that many brexiters should be held in violation of the geneva convention for their torture of logic. Rewriting history has become the norm. It is easy to forget now, but the main arguments for leaving the EU were £350m a week to the NHS and that we’ll continue to experience all benefits of the EU with none of the costs because they need us more than we need them. Now, hardcore leavers are quick to scrub any reference to the “£350m to the NHS” line, and they are eager to explain that we all knew there’d be a period of economic uncertainty and we might end up being worse off but it’s OK because we’ll regain soveregnity and that’s more important than the economy.
The dishonesty is so outright and persistent that it almost constitutes a form of gaslighting.
It’s fine to prioritise other things over the economy as long as you are up front with voters that this is actually what you are doing, but this was certainy not a pervasive view at the time. It’s less fine to pretend the £350m wasn’t a central promise, because it was literally the slogan of the leave campaign.
Polling shows there is no large difference in opinion, even now. It’s roughly 50/50 and if there was another referendum tomorrow it is a coin toss as to which way it would go, and could easily be decided by things like the weather.
Polling also shows that until around the start of 2016, euroscepticism was not regarded as an important issue in the UK. The referendum itself drove people to care about the EU. It’s possible that had remain won, the euroscepticism would have dropped off back to normal levels, but I suspect it wouldn’t, because plenty of previously apathetic people are now vocal remainers.
So had ‘remain’ narrowly won instead we’d be in the brexiters’ position of either having to concede that there was no real mandate for either leaving or staying and that if action is taken it should be a comprimise, or trying to defend pretending that there was a decisive and stable outcome. Brexiters currently argue until they are blue in the face that 50/50 polls show a stable mandate for leaving and that it would be undemocratic to ask the electorate for more clarity on what they think with the benefit of hindsight and further information.
All things considered, I’m much more comfortable knowing that such poor quality thinking is overwhelmingly in the territory of the opposing side.