‘Get Ready for Brexit’: government launches information blitz

Public advertising campaign said to be country’s biggest ever urges Britons to visit website

The billboards have been unveiled, the branded mugs have been ordered and the adverts will soon start following you around the internet after the government launched what it claimed to be the largest ever public information campaign in an effort to prepare the British public for leaving the EU.

The Get Ready for Brexit campaign went live on Sunday, stating that the UK would be leaving the EU on 31 October and urging the public to visit a new website to check what they needed to do to prepare for a no-deal exit.

The slogan appeared for the first time on a giant advertising screen next to a John Lewis store at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, looming over visitors.

Downing Street has previously briefed that the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign will cost up to £100m, although doubts have been raised over whether the government will realistically be able to spend that much on a campaign lasting just two months. One leading advertising industry source pointed out that this figure was substantially higher than the amount spent on traditional advertising in the UK by major consumer brands such as Amazon, Tesco and Asda in the whole of 2018.

This suggests that either the government is overstating the amount it intends to spend in an attempt to draw extra attention or that Downing Street really is launching an advertising campaign that will be unequalled in its ubiquity.

Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said: “Ensuring an orderly Brexit is not only a matter of national importance, but a shared responsibility” as he launched the adverts by referring to government polling that showed only 50% of the population thought it was likely the UK would leave the EU on 31 October.

The same research found that 42% of small- to medium-sized businesses were still unsure of how they could prepare for Brexit and just a third of the British public have looked for information on what they will need to do, suggesting large-scale ignorance of what Brexit will involve with less than two months to go until the expected departure date.

The Get Ready campaign, which shares its name with a song by the Temptations and an album by New Order, is likely to incorporate television, radio, newspaper and online adverts. Roadshows are expected to take place across the country, and online video tutorials are promised.

According to the Times, a substantial order has been placed for branded mugs and T-shirts and there were claims that the government briefly considered reusing the Vote Leave slogan “take back control” on the official campaign.

Theresa May’s administration spent relatively small amounts, measured in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, on publicly funded advertising campaigns supporting her abandoned withdrawal agreement in the run-up to the original Brexit deadline in March.

Pro-Europe campaign groups have suggested the Get Ready campaign might not conform with government communications guidelines that ban adverts which could be construed as party political.

Best for Britain’s chairman, Lord Malloch-Brown, claimed the campaign could be seen as using public money to support a potential Conservative general election campaign. He said it was factually inaccurate to claim the UK was ready for a no-deal departure from the EU.

“The argument that the government is ready for Brexit may be one of the defining issues for a general election campaign,” said the pro-EU campaigner in his letter to cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill. “If the government’s campaign starts before 31 October, then government advertising that makes this claim will effectively be supporting the governing party’s re-election campaign.”

However, pro-Brexit campaigners have already drawn comparison with the millions spent on leaflets delivered to every house in the UK during the 2016 EU referendum by David Cameron’s government in support of the remain campaign.

This is not the first public information campaign called Get Ready for Brexit. Dutch port operators launched a website with the same name in January, suggesting foreign countries may have been doing their best to educate businesses on the risks of a disorderly Brexit for longer than the UK government.


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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