Why we can’t trust politicians on Brexit

Our politicians have made it clear that whatever the result of the EU referendum, out doesn't actually mean out, says Merryn Somerset Webb.


Voting for Brexit doesn't necessarily mean that's what you'll get

I wrote here a few weeks ago that a vote for Brexit was highly unlikely to lead to an actual Brexit in the sense of a full separation from Europe. Expect instead, I said, a full on renegotiation with the EU, or, failing that, a full on fudge.

Turn to the front page of today's Times and you will see that our great leaders aren't even waiting for the referendum to pass before making it clear that whatever the result, out doesn't actually mean out.

Only 200 MPs support the Brexit campaign (publicly) and "senior Tories", says the paper, are planning to "fight a rearguard action to stop Britain leaving the single market even after a Brexit vote." That would mean the UK having to stick to most EU regulations and to the principle of free movement within the EU despite voting not to have to.

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It isn't just the Tories breaking cover on this one, either. Labour MP Stephen Kinnock (whoclearly has a long-standing family interest in Europe) is also talking of the possibility of a Parliamentary vote to limit Brexit if Vote Leave wins. We might vote to leave the EU, he says, but if that means the "devastation" of the exporting sector* it won't give MPs a mandate to actually leave the EU.

So forcing the electorate to stay in the single market even if they vote to leave is, he told the BBC, "not fantasy" but a "huge probability". How about that?

Our MPs agreed to give us a referendum but it seems a good many of them don't think they need be bound by the result. And they wonder why we don't trust them.

*Subscribers please look to the editor's letter in this week's magazine, in which I will explain why Brexit will not "devastate" our exports.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.