If leavers can cherry-pick what ‘Leave the EU’ means, so can remainers

Cherrypicking photo by Shutterstock.com/wk1003mike

Photo by Shutterstock.com/wk1003mike

Kate Hoey doesn’t want a hard border with Eire, even though that’s the inevitable consequence of the UK leaving the customs union.

Leave.eu wants British cities to bid for European Capital of Culture, even though they’re not eligible after the UK has left the EU and the EEA/EFTA.

Why are these Brexit hardliners cherry-picking what ‘Leave the EU’ means? Don’t they respect the will of the British people?

They’re the ones who’ve been telling us there’s only one interpretation of ‘Leave the EU,’ that it means leaving it all, lock, stock and barrel — customs union, EEA, EFTA, EMA, Euratom, Erasmus, everything.

Not such ardent leavers after all

But the more the consequences of this all-or-nothing Brexit become clear, the more these arch-leavers protest indignantly against it. When push comes to shove, it turns out they’re not such ardent leavers as they try to make out.

So if they don’t want to undergo all of the consequences of hardcore Brexit, which bits exactly do they want to opt out of? And where do they suggest we draw the line?

Their game has been to define ‘Leave the EU’ in the starkest possible terms, but it turns out that, even in their book, it’s not an either/or. It’s a spectrum of choices.

So instead of acquiescing to an extreme interpretation of Brexit that even the Brexiteers aren’t prepared to accept, let’s choose an outcome that more accurately reflects the actual democratic vote.

Where to draw the line

Britain narrowly voted to leave. That means any departure from the EU must be moderate, not extreme. The only sensible interpretation of the referendum result is one that draws the line just outside the EU, but still within the Customs Union and EEA. And given the narrowness of the vote, the many different interpretations of what it meant — let alone the incompetence with which the current government is approaching the entire process — a new referendum once the terms of exit are known is essential.

Meanwhile, let’s make sure the cherry-picking and revisionism of leading Brexiteers is called out and challenged at every turn. Why are they complaining about the consequences of the result they campaigned for?

If Brexit really does mean crashing out of the EU and all its institutions, then Brexiteers should be celebrating at every exclusion. Complaining or naysaying these so-called setbacks is to reject what they’re telling us is the democratic result of the referendum. It’s time they were held to account for their backsliding.

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