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Vote Leave's Catch 22

13/06/2016 13:03 | Updated 13 June 2016

It's June 24 and Britain wakes up to the tightest of victories for the Remain campaign. David Cameron, visibly relieved, meets the press outside Number 10 to explain that he'll make good on his promises about Britain's relationship with the EU.

The finger pointing begins in the Leave camp, where optimism had been growing in light of narrowing polls during the final few weeks. Some of the more courageous campaigners complain that the lack of a coherent post-Brexit vision proved to be their undoing.

Those same campaigners might ask why a unifying strategy simply couldn't be found. The Government's hard hitting narrative, that the exit door would be a giant leap into the unknown, was more compelling for a public that didn't want to risk instability.

With this scenario a very real possibility, why haven't the Brexiteers committed on this important issue?

Over the course of the campaign some of the big heavyweights have tried to highlight their favoured option, whether that's the Swiss, Norwegian or Canadian model. There's also a pretty lengthy essay on the topic on Vote Leave's website. But neither presents a single unified vision that the public can buy into.

From a communications perspective, it's easy to see why the Eurosceptics are reluctant to set out a singular alternative to the status quo. Brexiteers are an eclectic bunch drawn from across the political spectrum, they are by no means natural bedfellows.

The danger is that their loose alliance would become dangerously fragmented if the official campaign nailed its colours to one particular mast. What's more, valuable resources would have been wasted on internal disputes. Better to direct efforts towards winning on the day - the rest can come later.

But that poses a serious issue for the Brexiteers.

The problem is that even if they're successful on 23 June, there's a reasonable chance their lack of direction could lead to an outcome just as hard to stomach. A 'lose-lose' dilemma brought about by a lack of unified vision and messaging.

The Brexiteer's lack of agreement will make it a whole lot easier for the Government to negotiate a Leave settlement on its own terms, without reference to its opponents. Senior civil servants and ministers may simply shrug their shoulders and get on with the job of finding a solution they find palatable.

The Government is likely to be helped along by Parliament, which is also overwhelmingly in favour for Remain. Last week The Guardian claimed that there would be considerable appetite at Westminster to reach a settlement that stops short of a full exit. With a plethora of issues to resolve in the aftermath of a Leave vote, the argument is that pro-European concessions could easily be made.

A vote to leave the European Union is hugely ambiguous, there's simply no rule book saying what that actually means in practice. Not having a vision for the future could create a Catch 22 for Vote Leave: speak up now and risk fragmenting the movement, stay quiet and let the Government dictate the terms of EU exit.

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