Well-known Twitter political analyst, Steve Analyst, has fact-checked a BBC montage that claimed that Brexiters and Government knew ‘exactly’ what Brexit meant. But did they really? Disinformation or incompetence?

Here is David Davis explaining part of the rationale of leaving the Single Market. It’s because “It was plain”, and “that means that”.

“The position of the Government is very plain. We view leaving the European Union as leaving the single market and customs union.

“We say that for a variety of reasons, one of which is that was what the British people were told in the referendum, by both sides of the argument.

“There are many areas of the referendum debates where there are disputes about facts and Lord knows what else but on this is was plain.

“Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne, Mr Johnson and Mr Gove all said on the Marr program within weeks of each other, it means that.”

[In Part 1 of MontageGate, we’re going to take that on face value.]

David Davis answering questions from the Lords EU Select Committee, May 2013. / Parliament TV

George Osborne doesn’t say we’ll leave the Single Market in his Marr interview, so we can assume that David Davis was referring to this montage that BBC Politics Live “put together”.

There are more than a few problems with it.

Montage of Conservative politicians and what they said about leaving the Single Market. / BBC Daily Politics

The first problem is that “almost certainly” isn’t “should” or “would”.

What Andrea Leadsom says is not consistent with what other people on the Leave side said in those clips, but what she says later in the interview is consistent with what Michael Gove had previously said.

Vote Leave

Michael Gove: ‘The Facts of Life Say Leave’, 19 April 2016. / Facebook - Vote Leave

Not just Michael Gove but Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, George Osborne and the Prime Minister all said the decision on our future trade relationship would be made after the vote. With George Osborne making it clear it wasn’t a unilateral decision.

The cuts that did not make it to BBC Daily Politics / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

The paper David Cameron refers to not only documents the models the UK will consider but states that the government will do everything it could to secure a positive outcome and seek the best possible access to the Single Market.

Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union, March 2016. / Gov.uk
Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union, March 2016. / Gov.uk

And it was in that context that the Prime Minister was asked how he would interpret the result after the vote and he did say a Canadian deal. This, however, was not inconsistent with a future government interpreting it differently, as the Prime Minister declared after the result.

David Cameron 12 June 2016 and 27 June 2016 / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Neither was it inconsistent with a Prime Minister who reserved the right to change his mind before the referendum began. With it not being a unilateral decision, he could have asked for a Canadian deal and ended up with a Customs Union.

Prime Minister's speech on Europe, 10 November 2015 / Gov.uk

The montage clip has been cut to look like David Cameron contradicted everything he and the government said before, during, and after the referendum, but the editor has omitted the next sentence, “We then…”

The Prime Minister was talking sequentially. This is process, not outcome.

David Cameron uncut / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Anyone who has studied David Cameron’s campaign in detail not only knows this process, but they also know that Britain deciding to leave the European Union and the Single Market does not preclude the Norwegian option, it precedes it.

David Cameron campaigning during the 2016 EU Referendum / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Here is David Cameron saying Britain could choose to leave the European Union and the Single Market and have a status like Norway that has ‘access’ to the Single Market.

David Cameron, 26 May 2016 / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Once we know that the expression that David Cameron used is not inconsistent with the Norwegian option, then everything he said before, during, and after the campaign is consistent.

The Cameron clip, like the Leadsom clip, is out of context.

David Cameron campaigning during the 2016 EU Referendum / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

It is actually a good job he didn’t rule the EEA out. Referendums are on specific outcomes and that statement was made after the vote had begun. It would have amounted to 2 referendums with 1 vote. The result would be unsafe and in those circumstances it should be declared void.

David Cameron campaigning during the 2016 EU Referendum / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Talking about ruling things out, Michael Gove ruled out staying out of the Single Market at his major speech. Or at least, that is what Laura Kuenssberg concluded after she specifically asked him.

Now it is true that he did say it to Andrew Marr, but in the context of the wider campaign, the Prime Minister responded the next day by underlining the fact that Vote Leave’s position didn’t amount to a consensus and was therefore not definitive.

Michael Gove vs David Cameron, 2016 EU Referendum / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

This was almost certainly cynical, but it wasn’t not true. The Vote Leave application for designation acknowledges there are different opinions and that they must be represented if there was going to be a leave outcome.

Vote Leave application for designation. / Electoral Commission

There wasn’t even a definitive position in Vote Leave. It’s difficult to argue people thought Michael’s views were authoritative when people in Vote Leave didn’t even agree and articulated those views publicly.

But mainly Vote Leave weren’t a government and it weren’t presenting a prospectus. Here in this official campaign broadcast, just 11 days after the Michael Gove interview, Lord Owen explains “We don’t know what is going to be the response of the European Single Market, the EEA…”

2016 EU Referendum campaign. / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

The Remain campaign, the Leave campaign, the BBC, and the government all said that the leave campaign didn’t have authority, and that is the correct context to put the Boris Johnson clip. It was conjecture because it could only be conjecture.

Newsnight + Andrew Marr Show, 2016 EU Referendum campaign. / Steve Analyst (@EmporersNewC)

Although, after Boris was disparaging about the Single Market, but struggled to actually say we would be out of it in his previous Andrew Marr appearance, it was at least good to finally get some clarity on what Boris Johnson thought.

Boris Johnson, 2016 EU Referendum campaign, 6 March 2016. / BBC Andrew Marr Show

Clarity that evidently didn’t last the week. It turns out Boris Johnson is not the epitome of honesty, clarity, and sincerity that the BBC believe he is. The montage not only disregards the context of Vote Leave’s remit but also disregards the context that it is Boris Johnson.

Nicola Sturgeon, 2016 EU Referendum campaign, 9 June 2016. / BBC

But Boris also said we could strike a great free trade agreement like Wolfgang Schäuble (German Finance Minister) had just said, and the only agreement Wolfgang had just spoken about the UK striking was one that gave it: Membership of the Single Market.

That is cool, because so did George Osborne.

Boris Johnson, Wolfgang Schäuble and George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign. / BBC Andrew Marr Show

George Osborne’s argument was (for almost the entire campaign) that Wolfgang Schäuble had said we would have to sign up to Freedom of Movement to get the access our businesses need. It’s not hard to pick it out...

George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign. / BBC - Parliament TV

George is so consistent that when he co-writes a letter to the Telegraph with David Cameron you can practically pick out David’s argument that Vote Leave want to leave the Single Market, and George’s argument that we could negotiate our way back into it.

David Cameron and George Osborne: Brexit would put our economy in serious danger. / The Telegraph

Even the hatchet piece from the Daily Mail manages to pick the quote from the Andrew Neil interview that most accurately represents how George was campaigning. Having said that, George isn’t 100% on this. He is inconsistent.

Daily Mail

Having looked at his whole campaign the “Reality” might actually come from a belief that Vote Leave will get their way. He does say as much to Ulster Radio days before the interview, but that doesn’t mean membership of the Single Market is off the table.

"Farmers will be ‘particularly hard hit’ by Brexit – George Osborne". / The Irish Times

After the interview shown in the montage clip we find George distributing an official campaign document specifying the EEA as a possible outcome of a vote to leave and using the term “mid-range” which is only the mid-range if Single Market membership is on the table.

George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign - 15 June 2016. / The Guardian

And instead of mentioning that David Cameron has decided on a Canadian deal, George declines to mention it in his Sun and Today interviews, and instead we find him talking to Peston on Sunday about the ‘Central figure’. A figure which, again, is dependent on Single Market membership.

George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign - 15 & 19 June 2016. / BBC Radio 4 Today - Peston on TV - Parliament TV

In the last week of the campaign we find George Osborne making a distinction between leaving the EU and leaving the Single Market before doing an interview where he, again, suggests the UK will sign up to Freedom of Movement and do that Swiss or Norwegian deal.

George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign - 20 June 2016. / SurreyLive

A few days later the “great big question” in British Politics is what is happening with the Single Market. Here we also learn that when George Osborne talked about signing up to Freedom of movement to protect our businesses, he meant membership of the Single Market...

George Osborne, 2016 EU Referendum campaign - 28 June 2016. / BBC News

Some days George Osborne said we would be out of the Single Market, more often than not he implied we would be in, but there is nothing he says or does in the campaign to suggest that any option is off the table.

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif of BBC Daily Politics.)