Nobody voted for no deal in the 2016 referendum

“A WTO No Deal Brexit is now the only way to honour the referendum result”, Alasdair Dow of the grassroots cross-party campaign group Get Britain Out wrote on Brexit Central earlier this year.

The consensus among Leave advocates seems to be the same. Theresa May’s negotiated deal with the European Union is a betrayal of the Brexit vote, a second referendum would be a betrayal of the Brexit vote and therefore the only way to honour it is to bring the UK out without a deal which would, regardless of the consequences, deliver on what Brits democratically requested in 2016.

At least, that’s the line Nigel Farage was peddling this week when he claimed that the ‘will of the people’ is for UK to crash out with no deal as his Brexit party soars in polls. But unless I’m mistaken, no deal was not on the ballot paper in that particular referendum, and therefore it is insane to suggest that anybody ever voted for it.

On June 23rd 2016 Britain voted to exit the EU based on the promises set out by the Leave campaign. Those promises didn’t include crashing out of the union without a withdrawal agreement, they didn’t include having no transitional period or immediate imposition of trade barriers. That was never on the cards.

If it was, the outcome would have been very different. According to the latest polling the vast majority of Brits perceive a no deal outcome to be bad for the country – an opinion which tends to grow stronger the younger people become:

And who can blame them? The reality of trading on WTO terms is pretty bleak and will spell economic catastrophe for many areas of the country. By the government’s own assessments the UK economy could be 9 per cent weaker in the long run, businesses in Northern Ireland might go bust and food prices will increase. And the freedoms we would be afforded by being outside of the union would be slow to materialise, if they ever do.

If you need any further evidence, follow the thread below. It serves as a timely reminder that no deal will equal catastrophe for Britain, which is an eventuality that was never presented to voters in 2016.

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