Sunday Telegraph: Remoaners’ excuses are not on the money

Ever since the June 2016 referendum, we’ve been endlessly told Leave voters were thick, racist, too old or all three. Yet still, opinion polls have shown a firm and growing Brexit majority.

So now, Remain campaigners have come up with a new excuse. The leave vote apparently had nothing to do with the overbearing EU, the reams of unnecessary regulation and antidemocratic diktats. Our choice was entirely unrelated to concerns the incoherent single currency could implode or the urge to re-empower our democratically elected legislators, taking back control of our laws, borders and money.

No. The reason Britain voted Brexit – we’ve heard endlessly over the last week – is that poor-minded simpletons were manipulated by propaganda spread via social media, funded by illegal overspending.

These new accusations come when the pivotal EU withdrawal Bill is at a crucial stage in the House of Lords – but that’s a complete coincidence. The Government, despite Brussels’ best efforts, has lately had some good news on our Article 50 negotiations, with agreement on citizens’ rights and clear signs bilateral free trade deals with non-EU nations are coming into view. But, again, this emphasis on “voting irregularities” rather than recent progress is pure chance.

The referendum was swung in Leave’s favour by out-of-control social media – despite those nasty older voters, who apparently swung it, being the least likely to even be on social media. And the Leave side was so much better funded than Remain – even though the Electoral Commission’s own figures show Remain spent £19.1m while Leave spent £13.4m.

Within those totals, by the way, Remain channelled £1.1m – legally – to “satellite” campaigning organisations such as Best For Our Future and The In Crowd. The Leave side also financed such a campaign group – again, within the rules, the funding cleared at the time – to the tune of £670,000.

So Remain pumped significantly more money than Leave into “shadowy” (yet legal) campaign groups. And Remain officially spent over 40pc more than Leave overall.

That’s before, prior to the referendum, David Cameron‘s government financing a leaflet: “Why the government believes that voting to remain in the EU is the best decision for the UK.” This presented a very one-sided and, in some places, wilfully misleading case for Remain.

With deeply cynical timing, this skewed leaflet was sent to all 27million UK households just days before the government’s pre-referendum “purdah” period began. As such, the £9m cost of producing, mailing and digitally promoting a wholly pro-Remain mailshot was met from general taxation, not counting as part of the specific and equal state funding earmarked for both sides.

So Leave was not only heavily outspent during the campaign itself, but had a £9m disadvantage. And still the UK voted for Brexit. Seeing as some still insist on questioning the fairness of the referendum campaign, however divisive such questioning may be, let us remember that the entire machinery of government backed and promoted Remain. Let us remember those Treasury dodgy dossiers, predicting “an immediate and profound economic shock” and “800,000 job losses” straight after any Brexit vote – a conclusion, since entirely disproved, the then chancellor repeatedly presented as “fact”.

Let us remember how Downing Street and the Foreign Office urged the then US president to warn, equally erroneously, that when it comes to future commercial agreements with our biggest single country trading partner, Brexit would put Britain “at the back of the queue”.

Let us remember that the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades’ Union Congress and all those other self-serving acronyms wedded to the status quo were against Brexit – their every utterance reported across our airwaves as hard-hitting, pathbreaking news. Let us recall, a year before we leave the EU, that despite all these official warnings, 17.4million voters backed Brexit. They know what they voted for and their individual votes are every bit as important as those who backed Remain. In an inevitably fraught but ultimately fair contest, with Parliament having voted overwhelmingly to give the decision to the British people, the UK voted to leave. This outcome, to my mind, speaks volumes about this country’s ongoing capacity for independent, critical thinking.

Despite all that, our Brexit negotiations are now subject to full-scale wrecking tactics from within the UK – and there is no doubt more to come. The domestic campaign to reverse Brexit is in full swing, as political and corporate interests determined to upend the 2016 referendum try to engineer the reversal of the biggest expression of democracy in British history. Of course, Facebook and the other internet giants are out of control, the way they pimp data, drilling into hundreds of millions of virtual address books before selling tightly targeted adverts. Some of us have been publicly arguing for much tighter regulation in this area for some time.

But to single out Leave campaigners as uniquely bad so as to discredit a referendum result – when they were using the same methods as the Remain campaign, as Obama’s campaign, as numerous UK commercial entities – is to promote a sickening and dangerous falsehood. The Remoaner rump at the heart of our establishment needs to grow up and accept the result. Our democracy is far more important than what they think they know – about the international trading system, about this nation’s future economic path and about the true views and preferences of the British public.

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