Simplistic Brexit Leave Campaign Makes Strong Case for Victory

The Leave campaign ahead of the Brexit referendum focused on one simplistic, but effective, argument about the need to close national borders, which played on the fears of globalization-fatigued and insecure people, and gave the Outers every chance of a victory in Thursday’s vote. Read Michael Burrell’s opinion piece, published by Sputnik News ahead of the EU referendum last week.

LONDON (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko — British nationals are voting in a referendum to determine whether or not the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. Polling stations across the United Kingdom are open from 7:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. local time.

Strong sides of Leave campaign

The Leave camp has managed to exploit people’s irritation with the affects of globalization and insecurities. By conflating the issues of immigration, refugees and the EU principle of freedom of movement, they have teed up a victory, lobbyist and public affairs consultant Michael Burrell, Strategic Counsel at Eurasia Advisory, strategic communications and public affairs firm, and former vice chairman at Edelman, told Sputnik.

“I fear that Leave will win. The Leave campaign has been very effective because they have focused relentlessly on only one issue — immigration. People vote in referendums often for emotional reasons and express their feelings. And in this referendum, people will show that they are very unhappy and they don’t like globalization. A lot of them do not like immigration and feel insecure,” he stressed.

Brexit campaigners have used the migration issue as one of the main arguments to persuade people to vote for leaving the European bloc.

“They deliberately mixed up immigration, refugees and freedom of movement. It was in their interest [to do so].”

In mid-March, Brussels and Ankara agreed on a deal, under which Turkey pledged to take back all undocumented migrants who arrive in the European Union through its territory in exchange for Syrian refugees accommodated in Turkey, on a one-for-one basis. In return, the 28-nation bloc pledged to accelerate the Turkish EU accession bid and introduce a visa-free regime between Turkey and the bloc. The Leave campaign seized on the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union to highlight London’s perceived lack of control over immigration policy.

One of the effective lies has been that Turkey is about to join the EU. As if it will happen tomorrow, and Turks are already rushing to the UK borders,” Burrell said.

Remainers’ mistakes

Those in favour of remaining in the bloc have focused their campaign on the potential economic situation in a post-Brexit scenario and have failed to address people’s concerns about migration.”The mistake of the Remain campaign was that they thought they could win on the basis of economic arguments and ‘Project Fear.’ They thought frightening people enough would be enough to win. They thought they would win easily, and they badly underestimated the importance of the immigration issue, and how insecure it makes people feel,” Barrell said.

Ahead of the referendum, UK Chancellor George Osborne said that Brexit would result in cuts in public spending and increases in taxes to make up for a “black hole” of 30 billion pounds ($43 billion).

Cameron should have also said: as soon as the referendum is finished and we vote to remain, I will go to Brussels and will place this on the table again, saying we need to find the way to deal with our concerns. He should have made a much bigger deal of re-negotiating with Brussels,” the lobbyist stressed.

In February, Prime Minister David Cameron and the leaders of the 27 other EU member states agreed to grant the United Kingdom a special status within the bloc, but failed to agree on a number of issues.

Old people to vote out, young to vote in

The younger generation is more pro-remain than their older compatriots but less motivated to get out and vote, which also plays into the hands of the Leave side, various experts and polls suggested ahead of the vote.”I think that Leave people are more strongly motivated. I suspect that there is a silent majority in this country for remain. But most of the Leave people are very emotional about it, they will vote. Many of older people are for leaving. They will vote. Remain supporters are younger people, young people don’t vote. The only hope for Remain is that younger people will vote, and people in cities will vote,” Burrell said.


English people outside London will be the main out-voters in the referendum, which is a major part of the population, Burrell said.

London will be overwhelmingly for remain. Scotland will vote to remain strongly. Northern Ireland will vote strongly to remain. Wales is quiet split. So, people who will vote to leave are the English outside London, and there are lots of them. It’s all about English nationalism.”

According to Burrell, English nationalism helped the Conservative Party to win general election in May but this time around they failed to harness this sentiment to rally support behind their position.

The final results of referendum are expected to be released at around 7 a.m. local time.

Lora Shopova