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Four Brexit fibs: Lies, damn lies, and the EU referendum campaign

Vote Leave's referendum bus. Ian Duncan Smith says he did not repeat the £350 million for the NHS claim.
Vote Leave's referendum bus. Ian Duncan Smith says he did not repeat the £350 million for the NHS claim.

The EU referendum campaign produced plenty of promises from both sides, many of which quickly fell by the wayside.

So what is looking decidedly dodgy in the harsh light of day? The Courier guides you through the most shattered of pledges:

1: An extra £350 million a week to spend on the NHS across the UK

The slogan “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week” was painted on the Leave campaign’s poster but Ian Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, has rolled back from the claim. “I never said that during the course of the election,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme. It was an “extrapolation” he said, adding: “That’s not a promise broken. The lion’s share of that money, the government is now able to spend.” Enough to make you sick?

2: Tough immigration controls

Ukip leader Nigel Farage and his 'breaking point' poster.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage and his ‘breaking point’ poster.

It was front and centre of the Leave campaign, with posters warning of increased numbers of people arriving from Turkey if it ever actually joins the EU and of course that Nigel Farage effort. Indeed Boris Johnson said the population would grow to 80 million if we remained in the EU. Now he is insisting that was not the reason people voted for Brexit and is advocating the free movement of Brits within Europe. Meanwhile, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that EU immigration would continue if the UK wanted to retain its place in the single market. He said: “Frankly, if people think…there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed.”

3: Immediate post-referendum negotiations

Both sides have been caught fibbing here. David Cameron said he would start the clock on a two-year countdown to Brexit by immediately invoking Article 50, the legal mechanism by which the UK would quit the EU, if there was a leave vote. He reneged on that as he quit, saying any decision on timing would be for his successor when they take over in October. On the other side, Chris Grayling, the senior Tory Brexiteer MP, said before the plebiscite: “A vote to Leave on June 23 is a vote for action, and the Government will need to respond quickly.” Now Matthew Elliot, CEO of Vote Leave, has told CNBC there needs to be a “pause” on negotiations to allow people to “go on holiday”. Presumably to take advantage of easy trips to Europe while they still can.

4: Emergency budget

Chancellor George Osborne holds a press conference at The Treasury, London, where he moved to try to calm market turmoil triggered by the pro-Brexit vote.
Chancellor George Osborne holds a press conference at The Treasury, London, where he moved to try to calm market turmoil triggered by the pro-Brexit vote.

It was the high/low point of Remain’s “project fear”. After building up a series of devastating warnings about what would happen to the economy in the event of a Leave vote, Chancellor George Osborne teamed up with his predecessor, Labour Lord Alistair Darling, and said he would have to call an emergency budget to unleash austerity on a scale previously unimaginable. He has now said that won’t take place and said the UK economy is “equipped for whatever happens,” while the pound plummets, the markets panic and companies look to move mass employment out of the the country. He did add: “I don’t resile from any of the concerns I expressed during the campaign,” at least.

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