February 2, 2023

Brexit: Have the British people voted to leave the single market?

Most politicians pretend and most journalists let them get away with saying or implying that the British people have voted to leave the single market.

They have not.

They have not been asked.

They have been asked if the United Kingdom should remain, or leave the European Union. 52% voted to leave.

This is why the UK will be leaving the EU.

So, anything beyond leaving the EU is up to discussion, up to politicians, the government and parliament to get to grips with and to come up with what is in the country’s interest. Until now they have been falling short of it, very short.

The fundamental difference between the Remain and Leave vote

There is a fundamental difference between the remain and the leave vote. When voting to remain, staying in the EU implies maintaining everything associated with it. Regardless of whether this is a fervent or a lukewarm vote.

Voting to leave, means to leave the EU. Just that. Not more, not less. Regardless of whether the voter is a fervent or lukewarm Brexiteer. On every other issue, we cannot know what their opinion or preferences are.

48% have voted to remain in the single market.

Of the 52%, we have no idea how many want to stay in or leave the single market. We cannot know.

It would be bold to say that all or most leave voters would also want to leave the single market. The reality is that many have very diverse views on this as on many other matters.

The small majority to leave the EU looks rather like a minority to leave the single market if anything.

It looks like a minority on most issues that need addressing with regards to Brexit. This dilemma cries out, loud and clear, for a consensus and even an overwhelming consensus to take the country forward in something like a constitutional change as Brexit is.

Leaving the EU, staying in the single market?

Leaving the EU does not necessarily also mean leaving the single market. EFTA is a case in point.

The single market, also called the European Economic Area (EEA), is open not only to EU members but also EFTA members.

Beside the single market, there might be many reasons why EFTA membership might be a good thing or not.

There are major benefits:

  • There are very few alternatives to EFTA that can be as relatively easily implemented before the 2019 Brexit deadline. It will avoid a cliff edge for the economy.
  • As EFTA member, the UK has time to negotiate further separation from the EU if desired.
  • As EFTA member, the UK can apply to join the EU if desired.