3 Lessons from the Brexit Campaign (Ländercheck, Folge 2)

3 Lessons from the Brexit Campaign (Ländercheck, Folge 2)
#157 4/08/2016 Geschätzte Lesezeit: 5 Minuten.

The debate around the UK’s position vis-à-vis the European Union has been a fight of gut instincts versus rational arguments. While the failure to make a passionate case for “Europe” has been a serious mistake of the Remain camp, the Leave campaign’s deliberate rejection of facts speaks for a troubling new development in public communications. What other lessons can be learnt from the Brexiters?

I may not be able to vote in the UK's EU referendum but I have been involved with the Remain campaign over the past few weeks making the case for Britain to stay with her European partners. Distributing leaflets, sitting on panels, and talking to people at rallys I have witnessed the mood in the country becoming increasingly acrimonious. Uncharacteristically, people have been very much ready to share their opinions on this major political issue.

In my view, three key lessons are to be learned from the strength of the Leave campaign which fights for the UK’s exit from the European Union. Even the two obvious ones were neglected by the Remain camp; the third one is depressing to anyone who thinks arguments have a role to play in politics.

What the Leave campaign is frighteningly good at

First, start early. While the UK – like many other countries but unlike Germany and the U.S. – has strict rules with regard to the time frame of the actual campaigns, there is nothing to stop any interested party from presenting their position at any point in time. In other words: don’t wait for the campaign to kick off before you start campaigning! The Leave side (which I like to call the Retreat camp) is building on decades of anti-EU (and anti-EC and even anti-EEC) sentiment, and these sentiments have been honed by organisations almost entirely dedicated to this cause, notably UKIP, a one-issue right-wing party that has gained 12,4 per cent of the popular in the last general elections.

On the opposite side, virtually no British politician – with the exception of course of Paddy Ashdown and his fellow liberals – has made a passionate case for the UK’s place in Europe since the victory in the last referendum in 1975. It is hardly an overstatement to say that vast parts of the British public are genuinely shocked to learn that the reason why the EU is powerful is because national governments, including elected UK governments, have agreed to it. For decades, EU institutions have been styled as power-grabbing, neo-colonialist monsters eating away at the UK’s sovereignty and budget. It has been impossible for anyone in the Remain camp to draw attention to simple truths deviating from this narrative during the referendum campaign. It was just too late. Facts came as a surprise and seemed so completely counter-intuitive that they have contributed little to the effectiveness of the Remain camp’s communications.

Just one message

Second, find the one number or one simple statement that encapsulates your message. The Leave camp has done so by claiming that “We transfer 350 million Pounds to Brussels each week” and that this is an outrage. The number is entirely fictitious – it is a simple lie; but it has become the single most important message in the campaign, and its appeal is undiminished by its falseness.

The Remain camp does of course have a slogan: “Britain is stronger, safer and better off in Europe than we would be on our own.” The three adjectives are harder to remember though, and they have not become the rallying cry that “all that money” has become.

Mehr Wissen?

Mit Research von NIMIRUM können auch Sie individuelle Insights und Handlungsempfehlungen für Ihre Projekte nutzen.
Ihre Fragen. Unsere Antworten.

Truth-free politics taking over?

Third, the Leave campaign stands for the emerging trend of “truth-free politics.” Sir Keir Starmer, shadow immigration secretary, has coined this phrase that captures also what Donald Trump as well as many politicians – and ordinary citizens – especially on the radical right of the political spectrum across Europe (and quite possibly elsewhere) are engaging in: making claims that are simply factually wrong without being caught out or held accountable. Boris Johnson’s charisma and Donald Trump’s energy somehow prevent them and their core supporters from being susceptible to information about the world we – and they! – actually live in.

Worse still, knowledge and expertise now seem to be frowned upon explicitly and dismissed with a sleight of hand.

This has little to do with political “communication” as we know it: there is no exchange of information and no fight for the better argument. What we get instead is mobilisation in its brutest, most physical form, and the solidification of a communion of people whose engagement with the world resembles that of a cult more closely than that of a political interest group.

Says Charlotte Holzum, a partner at Navos, the Public Dialogue Consultants: “You can certainly build bridges by engaging in dialogue; but the only way to make people actually accept at least parts of your position is to make concessions.” A referendum is black and white. It is a time of burning bridges (or closing tunnels?). The need for bridges -- both between the two camps and between the UK and the rest of Europe -- will be even greater in its aftermath.

While my first two points have been the backbone of popular politics as well as corporate communications for a long time and for good reason, the third trend is new, and I would be concerned if it took hold.

Christophe Fricker, Managing Partner, NIMIRUM

is based at our Bristol office and has active with the Remain campaign. "You have to go and talk to people and reach out to them if you want to have any influence on the debate. Don't just hide in a particular part of an increasingly fractured political landscape. Being out on the street is the best way to reach a diverse audience!" A personal statement on the issue of Britain's EU membership is available here.

Wir empfehlen Ihnen folgende Zitierweise:
Fricker, Christophe: „3 Lessons from the Brexit Campaign (Ländercheck, Folge 2)”, unter: (abgerufen am 8/07/2020).

Ein Thema, mit dem Sie beruflich zu tun haben?

Anja Mutschler

Anja Mutschler


Dann helfen wir Ihnen, auf dem Laufenden zu bleiben. Nimirum bespielt fundiert eine Bandbreite an Themen, die für Menschen und Märkte derzeit interessant sind. Abonnieren Sie unseren Infoletter, der Ihnen regelmäßig alle Insights zusammenfasst. Oder buchen Sie eine Research von Nimirum, die Ihnen komplett und maßgeschneidert dieses Thema aufbereitet. Schauen Sie hier, was wir im Angebot haben oder kontaktieren Sie Anja Mutschler direkt als Ihre Ansprechpartnerin für Research-Projekte.

Kontakt mit Anja Mutschler

Dieser Artikel ist ihnen etwas wert:

Diesen Artikel bewerten:

Weitere verwandte Artikel lesen

Yes, you can! Intrapreneur in der digitalen Finanzbranche werden #200 – 18/08/2017

Die digitale Transformation stellt Gewissheiten, Gewohnheiten und Routinen in Frage, die bisher häufig das Selbstverständnis und Geschäftsmodell einer Branche ausmachten – und sie beginnt mit einer radikalen Änderung des strategischen Denkens und Handelns. NIMIRUM-Experte Florian Semle erklärt, wie der Gründergeist auch in alten Strukturen geweckt werden kann.

Uruguayan Beef: Amazing Asado’s Acclaim #199 – 18/08/2017

Data suggests Uruguay has the highest average meat consumption per capita in the world. But why does meat, especially beef, play such an important role in the self proclaimed „smallest country in South America“? Our country expert Margarita Ceretta Arocena explains the culinary and cultural importance of the Uruguayan „asado“.

President Trumps Research #174 – 15/12/2016

Die Wahl von Trump zum US-Präsidenten stellt die Welt von Research und Wissen vor zwei wichtige Herausforderungen: 1. Warum hat fast keine Prognose diesen Sieg vorhergesagt und was sagt das über quantitative Vorhersagen generell aus? 2. Wie geht es weiter in einer Welt, in der nun nach dem Brexit zum zweiten Mal eine wichtige Abstimmung zugunsten postfaktischer Politik entschieden wurde?

Kein Traum: Behörden online, Schulen flexibel, Frauen Huckepack -- in Finnland (Ländercheck, Folge 9) #165 – 9/11/2016

Gummistiefelweitwurf -- allein das Wort ist ein Knüller. Aber Traditionen und Trends in Finnland sind auch sonst spannend. Abseits von Sauna und Seen gibt es offline und online viel zu tun. Ein Markt am Rande Europas auf dem Weg in die Zukunft.

Our Brexit Opportunity (Country Analysis, #3) #164 – 29/07/2016

Can Brexit be a moment of opportunity? Voters may have been misled, and their motivations are hard to assess. But the vote for Brexit is the result of at least one desire that entrepreneurs can work with. Nimirum Managing Partner Dr Christophe Fricker explains.

Trends auf dem Fleischmarkt in Polen (Ländercheck, Folge 7) #162 – 10/11/2016

Fußball und die Grillsaison lassen den Bedarf an Schweinefleisch in die Höhe schnellen. Wie in Deutschland steigen deshalb in Polen die Preise für Schweinefleisch – aber sonst unterscheiden sich die Entwicklungen auf dem Markt für Fleischprodukte. Was sagt uns das über polnische Verbraucher?

“The United Kingdom has never been more disunited”: How different are Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland now? #160 – 16/01/2017

Scottish and English socities seem to be drifting apart – and Northern Ireland is different again. A closer look at values and attitudes reveals deep rifts. Businesses as well as politicians are wondering: Having distanced themselves from Europe, will Brits also give up on the notion of a United Kingdom?

7 Fakten über den Innovationsmarkt Rumänien (Ländercheck, Folge 5) #159 – 10/11/2016

Die Stimmung in Europa ist düster, da sind positive Überraschungen aus Rumänien willkommen. 7 überraschende Fakten zeigen: Deutschland ist schon jetzt der wichtigste Handelspartner des Landes zwischen Karpaten und Schwarzem Meer – doch es gibt noch jede Menge Luft nach oben für gemeinsames Wachstum. Wir zeigen die Gründe dafür.

"Wie geht es Ihrer Frau?" - Wie man in Indien Geschäfte macht (Ländercheck, Folge 4) #158 – 5/09/2016

Zugegeben, Missverständnisse in Projektteams sind nicht per se interkulturell. Der BER in Schönefeld ist ein schönes Beispiel. Nicht selten scheitern internationale Teams aber an kulturellen Missverständnissen. Unsere Indien-Expertin Minal Sauerhammer gibt im NIMIRUM-Ländercheck, Folge 4, wichtige Tipps für alle Deutschen, die mit Indern im Team zusammen arbeiten.

Frankreich, Europameister der Demonstrationen und Streiks (Ländercheck, Folge 3) #156 – 23/08/2016

Die Fußball-Europameisterschaft ist in vollem Gange und Frankreich beherrscht als Austragungsland die Schlagzeilen. Bilder von nächtlichen Kundgebungen, teilweise gewalttätigen Demonstrationen, Streiks an Bahnhöfen und Flughäfen sowie Straßenblockaden gehen durch die Medien. Herrscht in Frankreich Chaos?