Vote Leave’s Stupidity Echoes On, Threatening To Undermine Brexit

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The flimsy, amateurish lies told by Vote Leave are coming back to bite, and threaten to undermine and unnecessarily complicate Brexit

Two weeks after the astonishing vote for Brexit in the EU referendum, and the sheer amateur stupidity of the official Vote Leave campaign is still causing problems, exactly as this blog and others predicted that it would.

The Guardian reports:

In a separate development, Anthony Eskander, a criminal barrister at Church Court Chambers in London, has posted an opinion arguing that politicians supporting the Vote Leave campaign might have opened themselves up to legal action for alleged misrepresentations over claims that quitting the EU would allow an extra £350m to be spent on the NHS.

It claims politicians might have committed offences of misconduct in public office by promoting the £350m claim. The figure has been called “potentially misleading” by the independent UK Statistics Authority, for failing to take into account the UK’s rebate from the EU. Vote Leave denied during the referendum campaign that it was misleading the public.

We’ve heard this charge that politicians’ claims should be vetted by some kind of Ministry of Truth levelled by lots of people, including an audience member on last night’s Question Time. But this is the first time I have seen it translated into legalese, and even if nothing comes of it (as is likely) it further chips away at the legitimacy of the Brexit vote, further dividing the country and encouraging pro-EU supporters to dig in and calcify their positions rather than accepting the country’s verdict and coming together to make the best of Brexit.

Now, of course if they were not hung up on the false £350 million claim they would have found something else to moan about. Many prominent Remainers (and those in the general public) have shown themselves to be exceedingly sore losers in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, seizing on the slightest fault, misstep or constitutional ambiguity to claim that democracy should be suspended and the result of the referendum overturned.

But still, there was no need for the supposed grown-ups in charge of Vote Leave to make it quite so easy for them. There was no need to persist in publicly airing a patently false and comprehensively debunked (by activists on both sides including thinking Brexiteers, incidentally) claim about how much money the UK stood to save from leaving the EU.

The true figure – closer to £160 million once the UK rebate and EU disbursements back to Britain are taken into account – is still a lot of money, and would have looked just as effective plastered on the side of a bus. But no, the Boris/Gove/Cummings triumvirate decreed that £350 was the magic number, and far too many prominent Brexiteers squandered their credibility by repeating it in some form or another over the course of the campaign.

It is now becoming crystal clear that rather than accepting the result of the EU referendum, many disappointed Remainers are determined to wage a guerilla campaign of attrition against Brexit, a last-ditch rearguard effort to prevent the UK from leaving the European Union. They will use the claims of prominent Brexiteers against them (while sweeping their own dubious claims and falsehoods under the carpet, naturally), explore legal loopholes, use delaying tactics and throw every procedural obstacle they can find across our path out of the EU.

None of this is remotely surprising. All of it could have been predicted – and was predicted by this blog. But still the shining ones at Vote Leave persisted with their strategy, handing the pro-EU crowd more ammunition with every new over-hyped soundbite.

That’s why it is good that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now no longer in the running for the Conservative Party leadership, however dubious the choice before us now is. Remainers (and their celebrity chums) talk about the unravelling of Johnson, Gove and Farage as being akin to the captain abandoning ship after steering his vessel onto the rocks. But the Brexit vote was achieved in spite, not because of, the campaigning of Vote Leave. The fact that some of their leading lights have now been snuffed out is cause for satisfaction, not concern, because it increases the chances of a mature adult taking the reins and negotiating Brexit like a grown-up.

I don’t want somebody who stubbornly persisted in broadcasting a patently, risibly false claim – like a petulant child caught in an obvious lie – to represent Britain in the coming difficult secession negotiations with the EU. I don’t want anybody leading this country whose antics during the referendum and in its immediate aftermath make Brexit any more complicated than it needs to be.

And regrettably, that rules out many of the people most closely connected with the official Leave campaign.

 

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