Brexit leaders walking back some of biggest promises

By Max Bearak analysis

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. Photo / Bloomberg
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. Photo / Bloomberg

In the days after Britain's momentous decision to withdraw from the European Union, there has been much talk of voter's remorse.

Some who voted in favour of a British exit have said they merely wanted to lodge a protest vote and hadn't expected the Leave camp to actually win. Others said they had no idea that the implications of such a vote would be so dire.

But one of the biggest reasons for regret may end up being that promises made to Leave voters by leading Brexit proponents are being walked back by those very leaders.

On talk shows over the weekend, three of them in particular were confronted by flabbergasted hosts over their playing down of integral elements of the Brexit campaign.

Nigel Farage was perhaps the loudest voice calling for Britain's exit from the European Union, though he wasn't officially part of the Leave campaign.

As leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), he represented the isolationist, anti-immigration core of the Brexit movement.

Speaking to the host of ITV's "Good Morning Britain," Farage called one of the Leave campaign's biggest promises a "mistake," though he distanced himself from the decision to make the promise in the first place.

Host: "The £350 million a week that we send to the EU, which we will no longer send to the EU, can you guarantee that's going to go to the NHS [National Health Service]?"

Farage: "No, I can't, and I would never have made that claim. It is one of the mistakes that, I think, the Leave campaign made."

Host: "Hold on a moment. That was one of your adverts."

They then sparred over whether it was the Leave campaign's advertisement or Farage's in particular, before moving on. The advertisement was the campaign's, not Farage's.

Host: "That's why many people voted."

Farage: "They made a mistake doing that."

Host: "You're saying after 17 million people have voted for Leave, based - I don't know how many people voted on the basis of that advert, but that was a huge part of the propaganda - you're now saying that's a mistake?"

On "The Andrew Marr Show," another leading Leave campaigner, Iain Duncan Smith, said that the £350-million figure was "an extrapolation" and that the campaign had never said that all of that money would go to the NHS, just a good portion of it. Many were quick to point out that the Leave campaign had a bus emblazoned with the monetary figure and at least strongly implied that the money would be reallocated to the NHS.

The Brexit vote was as much a referendum on Britain's immigration policies as anything else, so the promises made around that issue carried outsize weight. Immigration flows to Britain have been increasing, and levels of resentment are high among certain segments of the British public.

There is no plan. The Leave campaign don't have a post-Brexit plan
Tory MP to Sky News

That explains the exasperation of a BBC Radio 5 host who was talking to Leave campaigner Nigel Evans.

Host: "Was it not inferred that if you vote Leave, immigration would go down?"

Evans: "Well, we said we would control it, and that is the most important point."

Host: "Control it by bringing it down, Nigel?"

Evans: "No, but there are two differences here, and this is where there is some misunderstanding."

Evans goes on to offer some background on how the Leave campaign's immigration promises were made, but the host cuts him off.

Host: "Straight question, straight answer, Nigel. Will immigration fall significantly when the UK leaves the EU?"

Suffice it to say that Evans does not have a straight answer.

Meanwhile on Sky News, Political Editor Faisal Islam recounted being told by a Tory MP, who backed Leave, that it's not for the Leave campaign to come up with a Brexit plan - it's for the Government.

"I said to him 'so where's the plan, can we see the Brexit plan, now?'

"[The MP replied] 'There is no plan. The Leave campaign don't have a post-Brexit plan.' And he was pointing over there to where the Vote Leave HQ was. And then he pointed over there and he said 'No 10 [Downing St] should have had a plan'."

Islam added: "The person with the most thought through plan as evidenced by the last 48 hours, is astonishingly, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland."

- additional reporting Herald Online

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 25 Sep 2016 22:52:14 Processing Time: 568ms