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GAWAIN TOWLER: Unpublished Eve-of-Brexit Poll Shows the British People Knew What They Were Voting For

A man takes a copy of the London Evening Standard with the front page reporting the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the vote to leave the EU in a referendum, showing a pictured of Cameron holding hands with his wife Samantha as they come out from 10 …
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One of the ways in which those who would overturn the result of the European Referendum is to claim that the question, the simple Leave/Remain question, did not have within it the detail to mean anything substantive.

They use this argument to claim that the result did not suggest leaving the Single Market, from leaving the concept of Free Movement, from removing ourselves from the auspices of the European Courts.

A poll has come to light that was commissioned in the weeks before the referendum which shines a spotlight on what people thought they were voting for, and what they were hoping to get from Brexit. As the Prime Minister summons her ragged team together at Chequers on Friday, like Henry V before Agincourt, she will need some stirring words to rally her troops.

It is, after all, the very future of the country for which she is fighting, and though she had no wish to even have this fight, it falls to her to lead it and to make our future independence something that we, our children, and onwards something to cherish, enjoy, and delight in.

The polling, conducted by BMG research, was completed on the 16th June 2016 on behalf of a campaign group affiliated to Vote Leave. In the excitement and chaos of those last few days it was never published, but the snapshot it provides of how people were thinking and what they were expecting from the Referendum is very very clear. Mrs May should look at these figures and she should take them onboard.

The survey asked some basic questions on attitudes and expectations. Some were standard: do people think that the EU is a grave train? Sixty-six percent thought it was, 9 percent thought not so. Were people fed up with the EU bossing the UK around? Sixty percent agreed and 19 percent did not, including 55 percent of Lib Dem voters and 62 percent of SNP supporters.

More interesting was the response to the questions as to whether people trusted the UK Government to work for the interests of UK citizens, rather than the EU to do so.

Overall 50 percent of people did so, against 22 percent who thought that the EU would be more responsive both to individual and national interests. The splits were comprehensive on gender, age groups, regional, and political affiliation groups, all agreed.

The results stretch from the 18-24-year-olds where 37 percent backed the UK with trust in the EU rising to 29 percent, whereas the over 65-year-olds believed in the UK government over the EU by 62 percent to 14 percent. Lib Dem voters backed this proposal 55 percent to 23 percent.

Even more telling was the home nation splits, with English voters coming down on the side of the UK government by 50 percent against 20 percent, Scotland 45 percent to 26 percent, Wales 43 percent against 30 percent, and Northern Ireland a whopping 70 percent over 14 percent. This is despite what happened only a week later where with both Scotland and Northern Ireland voting against Brexit, they still believe that the UK is a better defender of their rights than Brussels.

This should surely gird the PM’s loins when she approaches her negotiations, both internally and with our friends on the continent. The simple fact is that the country is behind her and believes that Westminster is a better guarantor of our liberties, freedoms, and interests than the European Union, and it expects — indeed demands — the government to deliver upon them.

When it came to the key political, rather than constitutional, issues facing a post-Brexit Britain the poll was equally clear.

It asked that if Brexit allowed people to employ based on the approach of Gordon Brown — that of British jobs for British workers, an approach famously derided by David Cameron as impossible due to our membership of the European Union — would they be more likely to support Brexit? The answers were conclusive.

Ignoring those who had already decided which way to vote at that point, the statistics are crystal clear: 20 percent were more likely to vote Leave, with only 5 percent causing them to consider voting to Remain.

The splits for social class, location, age, and gender are as conclusive, the closest being amongst 18-24-year-olds where 19 percent would swing towards Leave against 13 percent swinging towards Remain. For Lib Dems, the view was a swing to Leave of 26 percent against 4 percent swinging towards Remain. In the Remain voting Scotland and Northern Ireland, it was 17 percent and 30 percent respectively, against 5 percent and 8 percent.

A hugely popular policy position — and one that speaks directly to the arguments over free movement of people and people’s personal experience of the jobs market.

More specifically on the immigration argument, the question was asked: The prospect of three million immigrants (taking Treasury figures for 2020) moving to the UK makes you more or less likely to vote in favour of Brexit?

Again, dismissing those who had made up their minds either way, the swing voters’ views were utterly apparent.

Overall, 31 percent would move towards Leave with only 3 percent minded to swing towards Remain.  These figures are pretty stable against all the various splits with even Green supporters swinging towards Leave against Remain by 28 percent to 2 percent.

There is no support in the UK for rubbing out any red lines on migration and allowing continued free movement after the end of Article 50. Mrs May would do well to remember that.

Confidence in the UK’s ability to strike trade deals and to continue to trade with the world including the EU post-Brexit was also key high. 70 percent agreed with the proposition that “The UK has been a trading nation for centuries [and] we will not stop trading with the EU if we vote leave on the 23rd June”. Only 9 percent thought otherwise.

So as they settle into their meeting without sleeping bags at Chequers, as they arrive knowing they are not to leave before settling their positions, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister should take heart and take note of the views of the people of the UK just before the referendum vote.

She has squandered some of this goodwill in the intervening period, that is certainly the case. But it is clear that we have confidence in these countries of ours, we believe in our future. It’s just about time she did and demanded the same of her team.

So let her call them to order and to arms, and like Henry V on St Crispin’s Eve state clearly to her cabinet:

“He which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart.”

Gawain Towler was the long-suffering head of press to the UK Independence Party until 2018. He now runs the public relations consultancy CWC Strategy. 

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