UK government’s £100m Brexit campaign may not work, says NAO

The public information blitz was described by PM Boris Johnson as the largest single advertising campaign since WWII

The UK Government’s £100m ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign has been the subject of controversy since its launch in September and now the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that it may not be effective.

The public information blitz, described by prime minister Boris Johnson as the largest single advertising campaign since the Second World War, has been urging individuals and businesses to get ready for the UK’s exit from the EU for weeks.

However, in a report published last week which explored how prepared the country is for Brexit, the NAO determined that the push could ultimately fall flat amid growing uncertainty of a political timeline.

"On 1 September 2019, the government launched a major communications campaign to help individuals and businesses prepare for EU exit, including newspaper and television adverts, improved guidance, and direct engagement with industry,” said the assessment.

"However, at this late stage and with ongoing uncertainty about the prospect of no deal on 31 October, this may have limited impact."

The drive, created by Engine Group, sets out what the nation needs to do ahead of Brexit with or without a deal in place and states 31 October as the official deadline.

Johnson’s withdrawal agreement in principle with the EU still hangs in the balance after MPs rejected his plan to fast-track a bill to get it through Parliament. Johnson accused MPs of having "willed the end but not the means", adding that it was now the EU's decision whether to grant an extension beyond 31 October – which he requested in writing last week.

In the NAO report, the cross-government Border Delivery Group rated the a key priority of having a "comprehensive programme of trader communications" as red. This means that successful delivery appears to be “unachievable” with “major issues” that are unlikely to be managed or resolved.

Elsewhere, the government’s ability to provide business advice and support wasn’t rated much higher, warranting an amber-red risk rating which places successful delivery “in doubt with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas”.

The Drum has reached out to the Cabinet Office and Engine Group for further comment.

In September, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received dozens of complaints about the campaign – including one from The Independent Group for Change MP Chris Leslie – with people accusing the Johnson of misleading the public on the UK’s EU exit date.

The watchdog declined to investigate the issue, however, saying it didn’t see grounds to take further action given that the government had declared October 31 as the default withdrawal day.

Enders has previously warned that the UK ad market will be plunged into a recession in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Last week, the IPA’s quarterly Bellwether report detailed how marketing budgets were tightening due to economic and political uncertainty in the country.

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