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The Leave Campaign Won Precisely Because They Had No Plan

27/06/2016 11:13 | Updated 27 June 2016

It is no coincidence that the Leave campaign didn't offer a post-Brexit plan. It became clear in the days following Britain's decision to leave the EU that any plan would have thwarted the Leave camp's victory. The reason is obvious: the expectations of Brexiters are disparate and often contradictory. To make concrete pledges, therefore, would have frustrated potential voters.

Immigration serves as the obvious example of this diversity of expectations. For some who voted Leave, immigration was a minor issue - their problem with the EU was overregulation, lack of accountability, or the democratic deficit. For others, immigration was the defining factor. And the expectation between this latter group was equally diverse. Some expected simple controls - such as the oft-invoked Australian-style system - while others sought radical alternatives - such as the complete halting of immigration or, in rare cases, repatriation.

This diversity of expectation has led to post-Brexit confusion among Leave voters. For example, in order to enter the EU's single market - a necessary point of trade essential for economic growth - Britain will have to accept free movement of labour. Those unconcerned with immigration assumedly hope to enter the single market. For those anxious about immigration, however, accepting free movement is precisely what they voted against.

There exists an inherent contradiction of expectations. And Leavers are bound for disappointment.

This tension has seeped into other areas of the debate. Nigel Farage suggested on This Morning that the Leave camp's proposal to dedicate £350 million a week to the NHS was unrealistic. I am certain, as commentators claimed during the debates, that the idea Britain would save £350 million from EU funding was inaccurate - the rebate, along with other EU funding, contravenes this figure. But some Leavers, and some of my friends, voted Leave solely on this issue - an issue that now appears moot.

Indeed Farage, a proponent of privatised health, never offered such a pledge - at least not consistently. The NHS funding was a Leave campaign promise, not a pledge. There were no concrete pledges from the Leave camp because they possessed no power. They could make broad promises on the assumption that implementation depends on power. And once power looms, they could relinquish responsibility. As Iain Duncan Smith said: 'Our promises were a series of possibilities'. Cameron, of course, couldn't afford such luxury.

This absence of power worked to the Leave camp's advantage prior to the result, but will now haunt them. Leavers harbour expectations and answers are now expected. The answers, as they arrive, are proving unacceptable.

That's why a plan would have been cataclysmic for the Leave campaign. Their only plan was to have no real plan. Sure, some people offered visions of the post-Brexit world - visions I found disconcerting - but the overall message was always broad and equivocal.

The Leave camp relied on slogans - such as 'Let's get our country back' and 'Take Control' - but no pledges. These facile slogans contain little substance and are open to interpretation. The ambiguity led to their victory. The ambiguity is now unacceptable.

The inherent contradictions of the Leave camp cannot be harmonised. There is no way of placating the disparate expectations. There is no middle ground. Any realistic and acceptable compromise relies on concessions from the EU - an institution we just rejected. Leave voters, it seems, felt ignored by the establishment. I fear the new establishment - which will inexorably resemble the old establishment - will ignore the very same people. No one, I'm afraid, will feel satisfied with the post-Brexit consensus.

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