Why capturing imagination is more powerful than reason!

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Our imagination can be extremely vivid and is a powerful force in determining our behaviour. History shows that people are often not rational in the choices they make. Imagination is a more important driver of decision making.

For example, the Leave campaign in the EU referendum used the slogan “Let’s take back control” to convince people to vote for Brexit. This slogan was suggesting that by leaving the EU the UK would again become a sovereign state. The UK would be able to set its own: laws, rules and standard for products and services, be able to negotiate its own trade deals and also control its borders.


As anyone who knows about international trade and sovereignty, this was miss-leading, if not a lie.

The only trading-blocks big enough to set regulations and rules are China, the USA and the EU. As the Article 50 bill pointed out the UK parliament had always been sovereign for the whole of the time it had been part of the EU. Only 17% of laws and regulations are set by the EU. The vast majority of these were supported by the UK government. The UK also already had the power to send EU nationals home after three months if they could not support themselves financially. But successive governments chose not to implement such laws.

Although “Let’s take back control” may not have been true. It caught the imagination of voters and that’s more persuasive than a rational argument about economics.

The Target Audience Wanted to Believe the Message

As many people outside of London and the South East felt left behind by globalisation and the prosperity of the wealthier regions they desperately wanted to believe in something.

The problem with a lot of marketing is that it is often based upon reason rather than imagination. A bit like the Remain campaign which only focused on economic arguments and tried to bully people into supporting the status quo.

Similarly, many marketers think customers like choices and they constantly develop new features to allow them to tailor the product to their individual needs. They are always looking at what the competition is doing and spend time discussing how well the latest campaign aligns with the brand values. This is because these issues make sense to rational, marketing people.

Unfortunately people are not rational when it comes to most decisions. The majority of our daily decisions are made by our fast, automatic brain, System 1, with little, if any, conscious thought. People don’t want infinite choice and they rarely change default settings. People create clusters to make their choices easier and then brand preference may make a difference.

A Rational Approach Ignores the Reality that People Want Something to Believe in

Steve Jobs was a brilliant marketer. He knew how to capture people’s imagination. When he got the idea for the iPod he didn’t say he would launch an MP3 player. No, he said he would put 1,000 songs in your pocket.

Capturing the customer’s imagination is much more effective than any new feature will ever be.

65 Reasons Why MPs Should Stop Brexit

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Below is 65 reasons why MPs should stop Brexit. The impact of Brexit indicates that it will will harm the UK economically. The impact of new trade deals with other countries will be marginal. In addition, Brexit is likely to reduce the UK’s influence in Europe and the world as a whole. We are forced to rapidly negotiate trade deals with countries outside the EU. Leaving the EU will make the UK a mere follower. It will be obliged to follow the rules and regulations of the EU, USA and China.

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1. Johnson misled the Queen and illegally suspended parliament.

In September 2019, the Supreme Court, unanimously found that de Pfeffel Johnson acted illegally by suspending parliament. He may have even lied to the Queen. The decision was solely concerned with the lawfulness of Johnson’s decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament. The court found that Johnson did not prorogue parliament to prepare for a Queen’s speech. Instead he did it specifically to stop parliament from doing its job of scrutinising government policy and holding it to account.

2. No-deal would be “high-jacking the referendum result” . 

During the referendum no-deal was dismissed as ‘Project Fear’ or the worst possible outcome. Indeed, official Vote Leave literature claimed that no legal process would begin to leave the EU until a new deal had been negotiated. People were clearly led to believe that a good deal with the EU would be achieved. PM de Pfeffle Johnson now claims the UK should leave the EU without a deal to prevent any further delay.

Vote Leave promise on a deal

Source: Official Vote Leave Campaign

The ex-chancellor Philip Hammond has argued that a no-deal Brexit would be a betrayal of the referendum result. In a speech at the annual dinner of the CBI he criticised proponents of a no-deal Brexit as “high-jacking the referendum result”. Putting their personal interests ahead of the national interest.

“Let me remind them: the 2016 leave campaign was clear that we would leave with a deal. So to advocate for no deal is to hijack the result of the referendum and, in doing so, knowingly to inflict damage on our economy and our living standards. – Philip Hammond, 21st May 2019.

3. Nigel Farage failed to declare £450,000 received from Arron Banks. 

Arron Banks has said that he funded Nigel Farage to the tune of £450,000 after the EU referendum. Farage failed to declare this money to the European Parliament register of interests. As an MEP Nigel Farage should have declared such gifts to prevent them from keeping conflicts of interest a secret.

Nigel Farage could be fined up to €10,000 if he breaks EU rules and could be suspended from parliament for up to 30 days.

4. Brexit Party funding could allow foreign interference in British democracy. 

The Brexit Party allows donations of less than £500 to be made via a PayPal account. Richard Tice, the Brexit Party’s chair and co-founder, acknowledged that he did not know if the PayPal account allowed the party to receive small donations in foreign currencies. Other parties collect personal information from donors. The Brexit Party is open to abuse by foreign donors who wish to influence UK elections.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked the Electoral Commission to open an investigation as he said;

“Now Mr Farage heads a new Brexit Party, which is making questionable claims about the true source of its funding. The Electoral Commission has warned of the dangers of multiple, small, anonymous donations being a cover for dirty money.”

5. Theresa May’s deal was defeated in Parliament by 230 votes.

On 15th January 2019, the government’s Brexit withdrawal deal was voted down by Parliament in the meaningful vote by 202 to 432 votes. This was the largest ever defeat of a government in the House of Commons. In normal times this would be the immediate resignation of the Prime Minster.

6. Theresa May knew Vote Leave broke the law before triggering Article 50.

Prime Minister Theresa May knew that Vote Leave had probably broken electoral law when she triggered Article 50 according to her legal council in the High Court on 7th December 2018. This was confirmed when the government tried to prevent the public and Parliament knowing that Article 50 could be revoked without the approval of other EU members.

This demonstrates how little respect Theresa May has for electoral law. She is more interested in dealing with internal Conservative Party divisions than looking after the best interests of the country. Any statesman would put their country first rather than covering up for their own party who cheated to win a referendum.

7. Putting a border in the Irish Sea: 

  • No one mentioned a “backstop” during the referendum campaign or putting a border in the Irish Sea. However, to remove the ‘backstop’ from the Withdrawal Agreement and to avoid hard border on the Island of Ireland, the UK and the EU have agreed to have customs checks between the UK and Northern Ireland.
  • This essentially means that there will be a border in the Irish Sea. This means companies wishing to export goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the will have to complete a customs declaration.

8. Delaying the meaningful vote just ran the clock down by a month:

The historic ‘meaningful vote’ was originally due to take place on 11th December 2018. This was delayed by over a month because May expected she would lose the vote by a large margin. Theresa May promised she would return to Parliament with a deal after further negotiations with the EU. In reality the EU was only willing to give a written reassurance that the backstop was intended as a short-term measure.

As nothing about the deal changed, Theresa May still lost the vote when it returned to Parliament. This was deeply irresponsible. It achieved nothing apart from using up another month before the UK leaves the EU.

9. Over 100 Tory MPs voted against the implementation of the Welsh assembly referendum result.

In a speech in Stoke on the day before the meaningful vote Theresa May planned to say that “When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly. That result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.”

However, she was accused of hypocrisy because in 1999 May was among 144 Tory MPs who voted for an amendment to the Government of Wales Bill. Which would have blocked the implementation of the 1997 Welsh referendum. The 2005 Conservative manifesto also proposed holding a second Welsh referendum with the option to abolish the Welsh Assembly.

May, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith et al also voted against the Bill to set up the Scottish Parliament after a 74% vote. This completely undermines May’s claim that Parliament is obliged to implement the 2016 advisory referendum result. MPs have always respected other referendum results in the UK.

10. Less than 40% of the electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU. 

  • 52% of people who voted chose to leave the EU, but given a turnout of 72%. This means that only 37% of the total electorate actually voted in favour of leaving. This figure would be even lower if you allow for the fact that adults aged between 16 and 17 were not allowed to vote. Around a million ex-pats living in another member state for more than 15 years were also excluded from the vote. In addition EU citizens who mainly work and pay more than their fair share of taxes were also not given the opportunity to vote.
  • Only 26% of the UK population voted to leave the EU. To call this the “will of the people” is a complete fallacy. It is a dangerous use of a referendum result. Margaret Thatcher called referendum “a device of dictators and demagogues”. In 1859 the philosopher and civil servant John Stewart Mill argued that following the “will of the people” could be an “abuse power”. Stop Brexit as referendum are not appropriate for making such complex decisions.

Quote from John Stewart Mill about danger of following the will of the people

11. EU officials lost confidence in UK’s ability to negotiate:

EU officials privately considered some aspects of Theresa May’s negotiating approach to Brexit as “insane” and “pathetic” a BBC documentary has shown. The programme shows that EU officials have lost confidence in the UK’s ability to negotiate as they need someone “stable, available and reliable” to hold discussions with.

Mr Verhofstadt’s chief of staff Guillamume McLaughlin was shocked when he was told a Brexit deal was called off because Mrs May could not get the agreement of the DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Officials also agreed that the then Brexit secretary David Davis did not “really give a f**k” about the Irish border. Even though it has probably been the biggest barrier to getting May’s deal agreed by parliament.

12. Theresa May attempted to ignore Parliamentary sovereignty.

  • A British PM cannot trigger a General Election without the approval of 66% of all MPs. Why does Theresa May think she had the right to use a small majority in a referendum to force the UK to leave the EU? May tried to argue that she alone could trigger Article 50 despite the Conservative Government in 2010. Confirming that referendum cannot be binding due to the sovereignty of parliament.
  • What May attempted to do was unconstitutional and would have reduced the power of Parliament. Fortunately the Supreme Court confirmed the power of Parliament and May had to put a Brexit bill through Parliament. MP’s should be given the opportunity to stop Brexit if it’s not delivering the benefits it was sold on.
  • May has also refused to allow parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final Brexit deal by arguing that her hands must not be tied by parliament.

13. The Government was found in contempt of Parliament:

  • Despite Brexit supposedly being about returning sovereignty to Parliament, Theresa May has done almost everything to avoid Parliament being allowed to demonstrate its sovereignty with regards to Brexit. On 4th December 2018 the government was found to be in contempt of Parliament by MP’s after ministers refused to publish the full legal advice. It had received from the Attorney General on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

14. The UK will become a rule taker rather than a rule maker: 

During the transition period the UK will have to continue to follow existing and new EU rules and regulations but it will no longer have any influence over such regulations. The UK will lose its EU commissioner, its MEPs and it’s seat at the table of EU members which currently allows it to initiate and shape EU legislation. This will reduce the sovereignty of Parliament rather than allow the UK to “take back control” as promised by Leave campaigners.

15. The Leave campaign deliberately overspent: 

Leave EU failed to report “at least” £77,380 it spent on the EU referendum and was fined £70,000 for breaches of election law by the Electoral Commission. It also referred Leave EU chief executive Liz Bilney to the police as a result of its investigation into what it called “serious offences”.

16. The individual Leave campaigns illegally coordinated their campaigns:

In evidence to the Electoral Commission, Mark Gettleson, a communications consultant, said that two of Theresa May’s political advisers were among the senior directors at Vote Leave who helped with the activities of the youth group, BeLeave. BeLeave was a separate organisation and yet Vote Leave donated £625,000 to BeLeave. The money was then spent on digital advertising in the last critical few days of the campaign.

Donations are only legal if campaigns are run separate. Gettleson has given the Electoral Commission emails to and from Parkinson and Watson. That indicates they helped create BeLeave’s campaign materials. The emails also indicate that BeLeave was directed by Vote Leave. BeLeave have previously claimed it was a separate independent organisation.

Gettleson’s evidence disputes this and claims BeLeave had no dedicated staff. In his statement he claimed Darren Grimes, who headed BeLeave, worked as a part-time volunteer under the supervision of Vote Leave staff.

“I was providing support with the overarching message of BeLeave and website creation. Darren was working within Vote Leave and continually asking me, Stephen, Cleo and the Vote Leave design team for support and assistance.” – Mark Gettleson

17. The Leave campaign used stolen personal data to win the referendum:

Investigations by journalists and parliamentary committees suggest that Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ (AIQ) may have misused personal data as part of their work for Vote Leave and other leave campaigns. According to a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA), Brittany Kaiser, misuse of data was “rife” among the businesses and campaigns of Leave EU chairman and ex-UKIP donor Arron Banks. Mr Banks asked CA for a joint strategy for Leave EU, UKIP and Eldon Insurance.

Image of quote on Brexit referendum by Christopher Wylie

Ex-CA employee Christopher Whylie told MEPs that members of the Leave campaign are working within Theresa May’s office. They wanted to “stall any public inquiry until they have secured Brexit”.

“I don’t believe Brexit would have happened were it not for the data targeting technology and network of actors set up by Cambridge Analytica. “I don’t believe the Brexit result was won fairly or legitimately.” – Chrisopher Whylie

18. Russia attempted to influence the referendum result: 

  • There is increasing evidence that Russia tried to influence the referendum campaign. Analysis by digital experts 89up.org estimated that Russian funded social media outlets. Twitter bots generated over 130 million impressions with a value of around £4.1m.
  • Emails seen by the Observer indicate that from November 2015. The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, invited Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore to a number of events and meetings before the European referendum. The communications suggest that Banks and Wigmore were offered investments in lucrative gold mines for delivering Brexit. The documents indicate:
  • Multiple meetings of the leaders of Leave EU and Russian officials, from November 2015 to 2017. Two meetings took place in the week of the launch of the Leave EU campaign.
  • The Russian ambassador introduced Banks to a Russian businessman who offered Banks the opportunity to buy into Russian goldmines.
  • A visit to Moscow in February 2016 to meet businessmen and financiers behind a gold project, including a Russian bank.
  • Extensive communications with Russian contacts before the US election when Banks, and his associates supported Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Image of Donald Trump with members of Leave.EU

Investigations by journalists also show deep relationships between Trump’s backers (e.g. Robert Mercer), his campaign team and Cambridge Analytica/AIQ. In addition many people with financial or political connections to Russia were heavily involved with the Brexit campaign. This suggests Russia helped to finance the Brexit campaign and tried to persuade voters to vote Leave by distributing anti-EU stories and social media posts.

19. The referendum was not binding and so is not a mandate to proceed with Brexit:

  • The Government had the opportunity to make the referendum binding by requiring a super majority. 2:1 in favour and a 70% turnout, but instead asked Parliament for an advisory referendum. The Government rejected more than one attempt to introduce clauses that would have made the result binding.
  • An advisory referendum is supposed to be just that because it would be reckless to base a major constitutional change on a simple slim majority without Parliament first debating it and voting on such a change. MP’s should be able to stop Brexit if they feel Brexit is not in the best interests of the country.

Image of the EU Referendum Bill 2015-16

20. MP’s first duty is to do what is best for the country. 

  • Winston Churchill famously said the first duty of a MP is to do what he thinks is best for the country and secondly to represent his constituents. Theresa May appears to be ignoring this principle for internal party political reasons.

Image of what Winston Churchill said about the role of a MP

  • Before the referendum 74% of the UK’s 650 MPs were in favour of remaining in the European Union. MP’s should stand up for their principles and do what is best for the UK. Rather than protect their party or job.
  • Even Theresa May made the statement below about supporting the Remain campaign on the Andrew Marr show. Why is May now following a slim majority of people who voted to leave on the basis of many untruths and ignoring her own opinion that the UK would be better to remain in the EU?

Theresa May explaining why UK should remain in the EU on Andrew Marr show. Stop Brexit.

21. The Leave Campaign had no plan or costings for leaving the EU.

  • If someone proposes a major constitutional change the least you would expect is a carefully thought out implementation plan. Including estimates of the costs and benefits of the change. Any proposal with so little effort put into the planning and implementation stage of the process deserves no respect. It should not be taken forward until a credible plan is presented and put to Parliament. Parliament should stop Brexit because there is no credible plan to leave the EU and deliver the benefits that were presented to voters during the referendum.

22. David Davis misled parliament over the sectoral reports the Brexit department has conducted:

In June of 2017 David Davis told parliament: “We’ve already got 50, nearly 60 sector analyses already done,”. Suggesting that impact assessments had been completed into up to 58 sectors of the UK economy. In October 2017 he told parliament that impact assessment had been conducted in “excruciating” detail.

However, in early December 2017 David Davis told the Brexit committee that analysis of how leaving the EU could impact sectors do not exist at all. He claimed their “usefulness” for individual sectors was “near zero.”

39 Sectors

The Department for Exiting the EU then provided the Brexit committee with summaries of 39 sectors that will be impacted by Brexit. These reports have now been published by the Brexit committee but do not assess how Brexit may impact the key sectors of the UK economy. All the reports provide a summary of each sector and how it currently interacts with the EU. This contradicts what David Davis had previously told parliament and suggests he has misled parliament.

Labour MP Pat McFadden said: “The knots the Government has tied itself in over publication of these reports says more about the state of politics and the Government’s paranoid state of mind than it does about Brexit.

“There is little or nothing in them that couldn’t be learned from the annual reports of different trade bodies. Yet we were asked to believe that revealing how many cars were made in Britain every year was an act of national treachery.”

A comparison of the report with information on Wikipedia suggests some of the information was simply copy and pasted.

Example of how Brexit sectoral analysis is a copy and paste from Wikipedia

In January 2018 secret Brexit impact assessments were leaked to Buzzfeed. These showed all scenarios evaluated are expected to adversely affect the UK economy. This again calls into question whether David Davis has mislead parliament about what analysis has been undertaken to assess the impact of Brexit.

23. People can change their minds.

  • It is almost 3 years since the referendum. Yet there is still no clear plan on how the UK can smoothly leave the EU and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Recent polls suggest that 56% of people would now vote to remain in the EU and only 44% would vote to leave the EU.
  • Opinion polls are showing that an increasing proportion of people think the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU. 73% of voters think Brexit negotiations are going more badly than expected.
Table of poll showing if public think Brexit negotiations are going as well as you thought

Source: YouGov

  • Another YouGov survey found that 54% of Leave voters are not prepared for their family finances to be affected by Theresa May prioritising immigration over the economy. Only 11% of people who supported Brexit said they would be prepared to be more than £100 a month worse off to get greater control over immigration.
  • Given the predicted impact of Brexit on the economy and people’s lives it is only reasonable to give the electorate an opportunity to vote on the full details of the plan when it has been finalised.

24. The electorate were lied to about many of the potential benefits of leaving the EU.

  • Although misinformation was a characteristic of both sides of the argument, the Leave campaign made a number of claims (e.g. Boris Johnson Brexit bus that £350m a week could go to the NHS instead of the EU and Turkey was about to join the EU) that have proved to be totally inaccurate and untrue.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that the UK will only save £250m a week by leaving the EU. Most of the cost savings will be wiped out for a number of years due to the high cost of leaving the EU. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has calculated that each household in the UK is already £900 worse off because of the vote.
  • The UK has agreed to pay around £39bn to leave the EU to cover existing commitments. This does not even cover the cost of getting access to the single market. People cannot be expected to have an informed opinion on leaving the EU when much of the information about leaving the EU was false or unknown.

Leave campaign claim that Turkey was about to join the EU

25. The government has no mandate for leaving the single market or customs union. 

  • The referendum did not specify that the UK would leave either the Single Market or the Customs Union. The ballot paper simply asked if voters wanted to remain or leave the European Union. There was no indication about the nature of any withdrawal from the EU. This was further confirmed when May lost her overall majority after she called a snap election for June, 2017.
  • Lord Adonis summed up Theresa May’s lack of a mandate for her form of Brexit in his resignation letter as Chair of UK infrastructure commission. He points out that:

“Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump. After the narrow referendum vote, a form of associate membership of the EU might have been attempted without rupturing Britain’s key trading and political alliances. Instead, by allying with Ukip and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe. You are pursuing a course fraught with danger.

Even within Ireland, there are set to be barriers between people and trade. If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.” Andrew Adonis, 29th December 2017

26. Brexit could result in the break-up of the UK.

  • Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and has land border with another EU country. To avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland the UK government has committed to back stop proposal of full alignment with EU rules on cross-border provisions if no trade deal is agreed with the EU. This agreement could make the unification of Ireland more likely as people in Northern Ireland are increasingly in favour of staying in the EU.
  • In a recent survey of people in Northern Ireland 69% said they would be in favour of Remain if there was another referendum compared to 56% in the 2016 referendum. Catholics are more likely to support a united Ireland if there is a ‘hard exit’ in which the UK leaves the customs union and single market.

Stop Brexit to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland

  • Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of SNP, has also indicated that the SNP plan to call for a second Scottish independence referendum once we know what the relationship with the EU will look like after Brexit. Scotland voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU (62% to 38%). So the Scottish Government want to remain in the single market. Unless we stop Brexit the current structure of the UK is clearly under threat.

27. The UK lacks the capacity of EU ports:

  • If the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be able to rely on the capacity and infrastructure of EU ports to handle and process goods destined for the UK from outside the EU. Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest as much as half of the Netherland’s annual €40bn goods exports to the UK originate from third countries. If the UK leaves the EU these goods will need to go directly to the UK, or go through two separate borders. Initially the EU and then the UK border.
  • The UK lacks a facility similar to Rotterdam because most trade between the UK and Rotterdam is via ferry rather than large cargo ships. This means that ferry ports such as Harwich lack border inspection posts and don’t have physical space for much expansion. They certainly can’t handle large container ships.
The UK lacks the capacity of the larger EU ports

Source: FT.com

28. The Leave campaign was financed by wealthy individuals who wish to benefit from Brexit financially:

  • It is no coincidence that many of the financial backers of Brexit appear in the leaked Paradise Papers. Brexit supporters like Arron Banks, Lord Magan and the Barclay brothers have off-shore interests to help them minimise or avoid tax. These same people also support the idea of a hard Brexit which would allow the UK rip up its current economics model and become a tax haven.
  • In addition a hard Brexit would also allow the UK to avoid implementing the EU Anti Tax Avoidance Directive which is due to come into force from 1st January 2019. This will force EU countries to share details of all cross border off-shore tax schemes every three months. They will be recorded in a central directory of avoidance schemes. This will affect UK based intermediaries that participate in off-shoring and tax avoidance. The UK is a global leader together with Hong Kong and the US.
  • David Cameron personally intervened in 2013 to request that off-shore trusts be excluded from the EU directive. He did not want trusts to be subject to the same transparency rules as companies. In 2016 David Cameron admitted that he had benefited from his father’s off-shore trust.

29. Brexit is damaging the UK’s ability to attract highly skilled workers from abroad:

30. Brexit is such a huge undertaking the Government lacks the bandwidth to anything else.

  • When Alan Milburn and the entire team running the Social Mobility Commission quit in December 2017. He accused the Government of lacking the “bandwidth” to make progress on social care. One of the reasons he gave for the mass resignation was the Government’s obsession with Brexit. This is not surprising as Brexit is taking up so much of the Government’s time and energy. Of the 27 bills in the 2017 Queen’s speech, eight related to Brexit and it’s impact on immigration and trade.
  • What this means is that there is little time or money left for dealing with other important issues such as the NHS, social care or improving the UK’s poor productivity performance. Brexit is a process, not an event. PWC estimate that it will take between 2 to 10 years to complete. Given the complexity of the process and that trade deals with the EU normally take around seven years to complete it is more likely to be closer to ten years than two years to complete Brexit.

31. Getting a trade deal before we leave the EU is not credible or logistically possible:

  • May’s original plan was to leave the single market and the customs union and negotiate a new “frictionless” trade agreement through “associate membership” of the customs union before the Brexit transition period ends on 31st December 2020. This appears increasingly unlikely given that the UK has still not found an alternative solution to the Northern Ireland back stop problem.
  • For free trade to happen counties must collaborate to ensure compatibility between national legal systems, standardising their rules and regulations to bring down trade barriers. The UK doesn’t want to abide by the rules of the customs union. The EU has indicated the UK can’t expect to receive the benefits of EU membership when it leaves.
  • It took the EU seven years to agree a trade agreement with Canada. Indeed, Michael Fuchs, a senior adviser to Germany’s Angela Merkel has told reporters that May’s Brexit plan is impossible as she does not appear to want to give up anything to achieve her aims.
  • Lord Adonis, the Chair of the UK infrastructure commission also pointed out the lack of a credible plan in his resignation letter on 29th December 2017.
Andrew Adonis, 17th December 2017

“The government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European cooperation. All the while ignoring – beyond soundbites and inadequate programmes. The crises of housing, education, the NHS and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.”

32. Taking the UK out of the single market will seriously damage the economy.

  • The UK government’s own Brexit impact assessment shows that every scenario facing the UK for leaving the EU is predicted to have an adverse impact on the economy. The assessment shows the following falls in overall GDP over 15 years:
  • UK remains in the single market via the European Economic Area (EEA) GDP fall of 1.5%.
  • UK agrees a free trade deal GDP will fall by 5%
  • UK leaves EU without a deal and reverts to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms GDP decline of 8%.
  • May wants to take the UK out of a market over 500 million people with no guarantee that we can obtain “frictionless” access to the single market after we leave the EU. The EU has already indicated this will mean the City of London lose its European passport. Allowing free trade in financial services throughout the single market.
  • Representatives of top EU companies told Teresa May on 30th May 2018 that they will not invest in the UK while the there is uncertainty over the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. They indicated that anything less than the frictionless trade the UK currently benefits from being in the customs union will harm investment.

“The uninterrupted flow of goods is essential to both the EU and UK economies,” the lobby group said in a statement after the meeting. “This must be frictionless as with a customs union. We need clarity and certainty, because time is running out. Uncertainty causes less investment.” – Source FT.com

33. It is a myth that ‘No deal is better than a bad deal” with EU.

  • The government’s own Brexit assessment estimates that a “hard Brexit” would cost the UK economy around £80 billion over 15 years. The government would also need to borrow an extra £150bn over the next 15 years. The North East (-16%) and West Midlands (-13%) would be most badly effected economically by a hard Brexit. It would also mean an overall 21% rise in retail prices, with food and drink prices increasing by 17%.
  • The EU cannot legally be seen to offer the UK more favourable terms than it has given other countries it has signed trade agreements with. Giving the UK more favourable terms would put the EU at risk of legal action from the likes of Canada and Japan.

34. The EU already has many trade agreements with other nations which the UK would exclude itself from if it leaves the EU.

  • The EU has recently completed a free trade agreement with Canada and Japan. It has many multilateral and bilateral trade deals that the UK currently benefits from. These normally take many years to complete. As 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU why would we want to risk jeopardising this trade? Stop Brexit before we have to renegotiate at least 759 treaties with 168 countries.

35. We risk losing sovereignty of Gibraltar and 30,000 loyal subjects.

  • As all 27 EU states have to agree to any new trade agreement with the EU it is highly likely that Spain will use this as an opportunity to push for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar. Spain only opened its border with Gibraltar because it wanted to join the EU. The UK government was able to ensure membership of the EU was subject to an open border. We have now put that power in Spain’s hands and Spain has the right to veto any trade agreement that it does not like with regard to Gibraltar. This could make life even more difficult for the people of Gibraltar if the UK leaves the EU.

Image of Gibraltar

36. London risks losing its status as Europe’s leading financial hub and a centre of creativity in the arts and sciences.

  • Many multinational banks have already announced they are planning on moving thousands of jobs from London to other European financial centres. Losing the European financial passport will be a major blow to London’s status as a financial hub.
  • London has successfully attracted many talented people from the rest of Europe and other countries due to its ethnic and cultural diversity. This has helped establish London as a centre of creative and high-tech science. Given the perception of Brexit from outside the UK and proposed new immigration controls. This status is in serious risk of being undermined. Unless we stop Brexit the City of London risks losing its dominance in financial services in Europe.

37. Leaving the EU is likely to undermine the UK’s world-leading position in science and innovation.

  • The UK was the largest receiver of funding from the EU Research and Innovation programme.
  • The EU as greatly assisted UK science and innovation as freedom of movement of expertise. EU science funding has supported important complex international research and development programmes. This has been beneficial for education, training, innovation and the economy overall. Leaving the EU will prevent collaboration, remove funding opportunities and hinder attracting talent from other EU countries.

38. Many UK industries are reliant on EU regulatory bodies to trade in both the UK and EU.

  • The UK does not have the resources or money to create numerous regulators to replace existing EU regulatory bodies within two years. EU pharmaceutical companies for instance have to submit results to the European Medical Agency (EMA), which is currently based in London. Otherwise companies cannot proceed with testing and production. The EMA is now moving to the Netherlands which will result in over 900 job losses and the loss of 30,000 hotel room bookings a year. However, the UK is already pushing to remain under EU regulation for medicines after Brexit despite the EU saying that the UK can’t cherry pick which sectors remain in the single market.
  • If the EU does not allow this we are left with having to replicate EU regulatory agencies which will add significantly to the cost of Brexit. Unless we stop Brexit we will have to pay more for regulating different sectors of the economy and have no influence over changes to regulations if we still want to trade with the EU.

39. UK citizens will lose the automatic right to work and live in other EU countries.

  • 1.2 million British born people currently live in another EU country and an estimated 800,000 are workers and their dependants. Currently people in the UK can work and live in any other EU country without having to apply for approval from the other member state.
  • This is likely to end if we leave the single market and customs union as the UK Government wants to prevent EU nationals coming to the UK without first being granted permission. Apart from the loss of a right that many of us have benefited from over the years this will increase red-tape and make it more difficult to recruit skilled staff from other EU countries. Why would such staff come to the UK when they can go to an EU member state without any need to complete paperwork?

40. Article 50 is reversible on a unilateral basis.

  • The government insisted that the Brexit process could not be stopped as Article 50 is not reversible. However, on 10th December 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can cancel Brexit without seeking the permission of other EU member countries.
  • The government spent hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to stop the legal process involved because it did not want UK citizens or MPs to know that Parliament could simply instruct the government to stop the Brexit process. This is another example of how the government has tried to mislead people about Brexit.

41. UK citizens may lose the right to free medical care when travelling in the EU. 

  • Currently UK citizens have access to free or subsidised medical care when travelling in the EU via the EHIC card. However, this will now be part of the Brexit negotiations. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, admitted during evidence to a Commons committee he could give no guarantees that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will survive withdrawal from the EU. Removing access to the EHIC card would have serious financial implications for UK citizens travelling in the EU. Especially if they don’t have travel insurance.

42. UK universities may lose tens of millions of pounds in fees from EU students deciding to study elsewhere. 

  • EU applications for UK universities have declined by 7% according to figures provided to a select committee of MPs. It is the first drop in applications from EU students to study in the UK for almost a decade and is likely to have been influenced by the Brexit decision. EU students have been an important source of growth for UK universities because the number of 18-year-olds in the UK are declining. Applications from EU students rose by 5.9% between 2015 and 2016 and 7.4% the year before.

43. Producing a White Paper after a bill has been passed is contrary to our normal constitutional process. 

  • A White Paper normally proceeds a bill to allow MPs to properly debate the full details of any proposals to be enshrined in law. Producing a White Paper after the Article 50 Bill was voted through Parliament prevented MPs from shaping the Article 50 legislation and diminishes the power of Parliament. Stop Brexit to protect our democracy.
  • As A.C. Grayling points out on Twitter:

“Producing a White Paper AFTER legislation: sheer trickery: MPs should absolutely not stand for it. Redouble MP lobbying efforts accordingly.” – A C Grayling

44. Allowing just 5 days for MPs to debate the Bill for triggering Article 50 shows “contempt” for Parliament. 

  • The Government’s Bill to trigger Article 50 was only 8 lines long, composed of 137 words. MPs were given just five days to debate it. This angered many Labour MPs in particular as they believe it showed a “contempt” for Parliament. This appears to contradict the leave campaign’s promise to bring back parliamentary sovereignty.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats called the Bill an “affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy”.

“Take back control was a mantra of the leave campaign. This government’s extreme reluctance to involve parliament in this process has instead been an affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy.” Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader.

  • In the explanatory notes it indicates that the Bill is not expected to have any financial implications. This is completely untrue as the Government themselves have estimated that the cost to the UK once we leave the EU will be around £120bn. Stop Brexit to protect democracy and our right to travel and work in 27 EU countries.

45. The NHS is heavily reliant on staff coming from other EU countries.

Statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there has been a 89% fall in the number of nurses and midwives coming to the UK from the EU since the Brexit referendum. There has also been a sharp fall in the number of qualified EU medics leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register. This rose from 2,435 in 2005-16 to 4,067 in 2017 – a rise of 67%.

The data also showed a 11% rise in the number of UK-trained nurses and midwives leaving the register. In 2015-16 the number who left was 26,653 compared to 29,019 last year. Stop Brexit to protect the NHS.

46. Jeremy Corbyn is ignoring what his own party members want:

  • A survey of over of 4,000 people by the Mile End Institute published on 4th January 2018 shows that more than three quarters of Labour members want a second referendum. Nine out of ten Labour members also backed continued membership of the single market. Corbyn has repeatedly said that he wants more power for members and supporters so that Labour has policies that have support throughout the whole party. Well, he is not doing this with Brexit as although he has now agreed to put any deal to the people in a referendum. He intends to keep Labour neutral until after he has won a general election.
Survey on Brexit by Mile End Institute

Source: FT.com

  • Corbyn has repeatedly said the UK cannot remain in the single market after Brexit. This is incorrect as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein are all in the single market but not in the EU. This demonstrates how Corbyn is not putting jobs first. Leaving the single market will badly damage our competitiveness as Ford have warned with regard to their Bridgend factory. Stop Brexit to protect jobs.
  • In his 32 year career as an MP Jeremy Corbyn defied the party whip over 500 times. Even David Cameron never managed to vote against the Labour as many times as Corbyn has. Labour MPs should therefore not feel obliged to support their leader and should vote for what is best for the country.
  • On the day after the referendum Corbyn demanded that Article 50 be triggered immediately. This demonstrates that Corbyn was not in favour of remaining in the EU even though he claimed to be during the referendum campaign. Stop Brexit as most Labour supporters want a second referendum.

47. As part of Brexit the UK is to leave Euratom which is likely to delay the building of new nuclear power stations and reduce the competitiveness of the UK in this sector. 

  • The explanatory notes for the Brexit Bill revealed that the UK will also leave Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
  • Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects, Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London said:

“The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increase nuclear costs and will mean further delays.


48. Brexit MPs don’t understand how the EU works or the complexity of leaving the EU.

  • A former Tory Treasury minister, Lord O’Neill of Gatley, who left the Government in September 2016, has referred to members of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating team as “ludicrous” and “clueless” about the economy. He said it was “mad” for ministers to put so much effort into talking to New Zealand rather than China about trade deals.
  • After the referendum Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, said that the UK would negotiate many new trade deals for when we leave the EU. However, EU regulations prohibit member countries from negotiating trade deals with other countries while the nation is still a member.
  • Theresa May also thinks that the UK can negotiate a free trade agreement with the the EU without having to comply with their regulations. Michael Fuchs, an adviser to Angela Merkel has said this is not possible as “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”.
  • On the 27th January 2017, Mr Iain Duncan Smith issued a statement criticising the Supreme Court’s judgement on Brexit. A leading barrister analysed the statement and concluded it was inaccurate and inappropriate given the British constitution. This raises the question of how valid other statements Iain Duncan Smith has made during and since the Brexit campaign. To conduct their jobs competently MPs should have a good working knowledge on such matters. Stop Brexit because MP’s don’t understand the complexity of leaving the EU.

49. “The election of Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster.”

  • Donald Trump is a destabilising influence on the world economic and political landscape. In an article for the Financial Times Gideon Rachman argues that Trump is a disaster for Brexit. The UK can no longer rely on the US for support because Trump’s vision and policies are at odds with Theresa May’s strategy and values.
  • Donald Trump is the most protectionist US president since the 1930s. Any trade deal would probably require major concessions on the NHS and agriculture. This is the opposite of May’s vision of . “global Britain” being a champion of free trade. May is also a firm supporter of NATO and the UN whilst Trump as twice referred to NATO as obsolete and wants to drastically cut funding for the UN. Trump would also like to see the break-up of the EU. Whilst May wants to see the EU prosper as it is our biggest trading partner.
  • Given our very different values and outlook on the world this is not the time to break free from the EU. We should be seeking stability within the EU rather than risking an uncertain future with a closer relationship with the US. Stop Brexit so that the UK doesn’t need to rely on the US for a trade deal when Trump has also agreed he wants to negotiate a trade deal with EU.

50. Hate crime has soared since the Brexit vote.

51. The UK does not have the expertise or capability to handle WTO trade disputes: 

  • The trade dispute between the US and Canadian aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Bombardier demonstrates the difficulties the UK will face when it no longer has the EU to handle such disputes to support UK industry.
  • To respond to trade disputes relating to WTO guidelines the UK plans to establish an impartial, proportional, efficient and transparent trade remedy regime. To achieve this the UK will need to recruit and train subject matter experts to monitor goods and services for each UK industry it intends to support. They need to anticipate impending cases or changes to the competitive environment that relate to UK industry. In addition we will need economists who are able to calculate and model subsidy and dumping margins that correspond to WTO standards which need to be retained.
  • This will also require lawyers who understand how to play offense and defense for an industry in bilateral and multilateral trade remedy negotiations. Civil servants will need to organise these efforts across government departments. We will need to establish a customs administration to police trade remedies at the border. All this will need to be in place on the day we leave the EU. This will cost a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. We are also unlikely to have such a system and the expertise needed in place on day one of Brexit. Stop Brexit to protect the UK’s trade with countries outside of the EU.

52. The EU is probably more democratic than the UK:

  • Many Brexit supporters, including Nigel Farage, refer to the EU as being undemocratic. They claim the EU is full of unelected bureaucrats. This is often a reference to the European commission which is made up of 27 commissioners – one for each country. The commission drafts, enforces and monitors EU laws. However, it cannot pass laws.
  • EU laws are set by two institutions, the council of ministers, which comprises ministers from 27 EU governments and the European parliament. One of the complaints of Brexit supporters has been the extension of qualified-majority voting and the UK could be outvoted. However, analysis by the London School of Economics discovered that the UK was on the winning side 87% of the time between 2009 to 2015.
  • Further, as the Brexit process itself is demonstrating member states and elected MEPs have the final say on EU policy and laws. Indeed, some would argue that the UK is less democratic than the EU as the UK has an unelected head of state and a second chamber (The House of Lords) which is also unelected.
  • UK governments also use the whip system to ensure their own MPs support and push through legislation without amendments. This limits ability of parliament to change legislation. In the EU parliament laws are rarely allowed to proceed without being amended because MEPs are more likely to vote according to national interest than along party lines. Also if one third of national parliaments oppose a draft law, the commission must review it. The EU parliament also has the ability to dismiss the commission and approves the politicians who lead it. Stop Brexit as the EU is probably more democratic than the UK parliament.

53. UK manufactured vehicles won’t qualify for free trade deals after Brexit:

  • For UK manufactured vehicles to qualify for a free trade deal the “rules of origin” regulations typically require around 55%-60% to be “local content”. The UK government has claimed this is currently around 45%, but the UK car industry has told the government this is vastly overstated because it includes foreign parts purchased by UK suppliers.
  • This means that unless the UK obtains a special content deal, the majority of UK assembled cars would not qualify for tariff-free trade under most free trade deals. This would make the UK a less competitive place to manufacture motor vehicles and could lead to companies like Nissan and Toyota relocating their manufacturing to other EU countries.
Brexit threat to UK car firms if UK leaves single market and customs union

Source: Daily Mail May 27 2018

54. The EU has banned companies bringing in temporary staff to undercut the wages of UK workers. 

During the referendum the Leave campaign argued that temporary EU migrant workers were being used to undercut the wages of UK workers. In May 2018 the EU Parliament passed a new law to prevent this happening. All EU workers posted temporarily to another EU member state will have to get equal pay for the same work in the same place. EU countries have been given two years to implement the new regulations and so the UK is likely to have to legislate for this even if it still leaves the EU in December 2020.

55. UK companies may be excluded from bidding for work for EU flagship projects:

UK companies are to be excluded for bidding for work on the EU’s €10bn Galileo satellite navigation system and the government will also be prevented from accessing secure aspects of the project. In 2011 the UK agreed to rules blocking non-EU countries from accessing secure parts of the project.

UK companies may also be excluded from participating in the new EU €500m defence fund after Brexit according to the Telegraph. UK companies are likely to miss out on participating in EU flagship projects if the UK leaves the EU.

56. EU businesses avoid UK components to prevent falling below local content rules. 

European governments are advising businesses to avoid sourcing components from British firms for products they export because they could lose free trade access because of ‘rules of origin’ and ‘local content’ regulations. To qualify for EU free trade deals around 55% of a product’s parts need to be sourced from the EU.

The Dutch government says UK parts “no longer count towards EU origin” in its official “Brexit impact scan” advice to Dutch businesses. This advice could be a “catastrophe” for the British car parts industry.

57. Potential brain drain among young people due to Brexit.

Brexit risks causing a brain drain among young people in the UK. A survey conducted by Opinium of more than 2,000 people found that 25 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds are considering moving abroad because they believe there are more career opportunities abroad.

58. The EU is not a protectionist racket: 

Leave supporters regularly claim that the EU is highly protectionist and especially relating to African countries. A comparison of EU tariffs by the BBC suggests that “EU tariffs are relatively low“.

In respect to Africa, most African countries benefit from an EU arrangement known as Everything but Arms. This provides for almost completely tariff and quota free access for their goods to the EU single market. This applies to all nations that are classified as least developed. The EU has been unable to progress with a free trade deal with India mainly because of the UK’s unwillingness to agree to a more liberal visa policy sought by the Indian government.

59. Brexit could put the public at risk if security cooperation with the EU is weakened.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick has warned about the potential security risks of Brexit. The UK would need to replace instruments we currently have and in the case of a no-deal Brexit that would be very difficult to do in the short-term and it would be more costly and slower than what we have at present.

The current plan to leave the EU would weaken UK participation in the European Arrest Warrant, making it more difficult to deal with cross-border crime and offers no long-term guarantees for continued access to important security databases.

60. Brexit will add an extra £113.50 to the cost of winter holidays.

New research indicates that the cost of winter holidays after Brexit will rise by an average of £113.50. Brexit will make going on holiday to the EU more expensive and more bureaucratic. The increase in the cost of holidays is due to the loss of single market membership, a decline in the value of the pound, loss of free health cover across the EU and the cost of roaming charges for mobile phone use in the EU as these will be reimposed as the UK leaves the EU.

61. The EU is not the cause of inequality in the UK. 

Research shows that six of out of the world’s ten most equal societies are in the EU and two of the remaining four are in the Single Market (EFTA). The EU is not creating inequality but rather it is the policies of the UK government that have failed to address wealth inequality in the UK.

62. EU citizens have to register to live in their homes.

The Home Office has confirmed that EU citizens must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to remain in the UK after 31 December 2020. This contradicts what was promised during the referendum when Vote Leave promised “no change in EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK”.

Vote Leave promise of no change in EU the status of EU citizens

Why should EU citizens who came to the UK legally under freedom of movement and have made their home here, often married UK citizens and brought children up in the UK, now be expected to apply to live in their own homes?

As one partner of a EU citizen pointed out in the Independent:

“It’s an insult to her and the millions of other EU nationals who have contributed to the UK economy.” – Johnny Taylor

63. Fake footage of migrants crossing channel to stoke up anti-migrant feelings.

During the 2016 referendum campaign Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU paid for fake footage of migrants entering the UK by crossing the Channel. The video went viral, helping to raise concerns about immigration during the referendum campaign. Channel 4 only uncovered this deception in 2019.

64. Suspending parliament dragged the Queen into politics. 

During the referendum campaign much was made by Brexiteers of ‘taking back control’ and returning sovereignty to Parliament. However, during the Tory Party leadership campaign of June 2019 at least three contenders (Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom) suggested they would consider proroguing Parliament to allow a no-deal Brexit to prevent the UK not leaving the EU on 31st October 2019.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, suggested that suspending Parliament to allow a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would not be illegal. When Johnson did try to suspend parliament he had to ask the Queen to approve the decision. Then had to apologise to the Queen when it was deemed to be illegal by the Supreme Court.

65. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised in the 2019 EU elections. 

The 2019 EU elections were an important test for the popularity of Brexit. However, during the run up to the election thousands of EU and UK nationals claimed they were unable to vote due to administrative problems. Indeed, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper discovered three local councils admitted they ran out of time to print and send postal ballots to some overseas voters.

Local councils complained that voting arrangements were adversely affected by an extremely compressed schedule. In addition, many EU nationals were unable to vote on 23rd May. Their names were crossed off the register due to clerical errors by local councils. Voters felt they were “silenced” because it was the only national election they had a right to take part in. Anneli Howard, a specialist EU lawyer, said the government was at risk of being sued.

“If EU citizens are filling out additional forms that UK nationals are not, that’s discrimination,”. – Anneli Howard, Barrister on EU law.


Brexit is making the UK poorer, smaller, more inward looking, is reducing diversity, less tolerant and will create unnecessary barriers to both trade and travel. It is also making our Government more selfish, our opposition irrelevant and lowering our status in the world.

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Related posts:

Brexit myths – Myths about leaving the EU.

Referendum – Are referendum a device of dictators and demagogues? 

Brexit – The psychology of Brexit – why emotions won over logic?

Marketing – 7 marketing lessons from the Brexit campaigns.

What Was The Top Blog Post of 2016

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Top Blog Posts – What Happened in 2016?

Below are some of the top blog posts in 2016. This has been a great year for Conversion-Uplift as I now offer conversion rate consultancy services to a range of organisations. I also migrated from Tumblr to a WordPress and published a Glossary of Conversion Marketing. This has over 250 pages of definitions and examples from the commercial world.

But what caught your imagination most in 2016?

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2016:

1. How to use card sorting – Card sorting tools to improve website navigation. This blog post made it to the first page of Google and attracts a lots of visitors to the site.

2. Customer ratings – 6 top E-commerce rating and review platforms to build trust and credibility. This blog post also got to the first page of Google and is currently the most popular article on the site.

3. Optimisation solutions – Digital marketing toolbox – with over 300 solutions. A regular favourite blog post for anyone wanting to optimise their site or app.

4. Competitor analysis – 10 website audience comparison tools for competitor benchmarking. A popular blog post since it was published in August.

5. Testing solutions – Which A/B & MVT testing solution should you choose? Now includes AI solution from Sentient Ascend.

6. The EU referendum result – They psychology of Brexit – Why emotions won over logic? A topical subject and a psychological perspective of why the UK voted to leave the EU.

7. Cultural dimensions of optimisation – Cross-cultural website optimization. Cultural differences in visitor preferences can seriously upset the standard template approach to website design.

8. Address look-up solutions – 11 free and paid for address look-up solutions. A must blog post to read for any sign-up form or check-out process.

9. Referendum & democracy – Referendum a device for demagogues and dictators? Another Brexit post, this time about using referendum to make such important decisions.

10. Psychology of incentives – The psychology of reward and how to motivate your customers. What psychology tells us about creating automatic responses for marketing purposes. 

Marketing Lessons From The Brexit Campaigns

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In this post I will give you 7 marketing lessons from the Brexit campaigns.

The UK’s EU referendum result surprised many people outside the UK. But a review of the strategies used by the campaigns gives some clear reasons for the outcome. It provides some important lessons for marketers. The Remain campaign was expected to win partly because of the uncertainty that leaving the UK would create. The fact that they lost suggests that something major must have gone wrong with their campaign planning and implementation.

In another post I outlined some of the main psychological reasons for Brexit. Here I outline specific lessons for marketing.

1. Start by listening to people.

Listen to people

Source: Freeimages.com

When a new brand begins to eat into an existing brand’s customer base this should be a wake-up call for the marketing team. To survive in the long term all brands needs to be constantly listening to their customers to ensure they remain relevant and in touch with their target audience.

Marketers should explore what customers find appealing about the new brand and what is turning them off the leading brand. By listening to and observing customers we can pick up clues to why they are disillusioned with the established brand. By exploring what attracted existing customers to your brand you can identify what is most appealing about your value proposition. This can help you position your brand in the most effective way.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign failed to understand that many people felt they had not benefited from globalisation. For this reason only saw the downside of the free movement of people within the EU. The Remain campaign’s tone towards controlling immigration was also cosmopolitan and elitist. This alienated voters worried about free movement of people within the EU as it appeared to dismiss their views as irrelevant. The Remain campaign also failed to offer hope that by staying within the EU the UK was more likely to be able change the principle of free movement of labour.

Strategy Lesson:

Engage in regular research and collaboration initiatives with customers and prospects to understand how they perceive the brand and your competitors. Brands have to evolve as customer behaviour and values change so as to remain relevant and responsive to customer needs. If your strategy is not engaging customers it may be time to change your approach based upon evidence from customer research and feedback.

2. A clear and strong value proposition:

Image of Widerfunnel.com lift model

Source: Widerfunnel.com

A clear and compelling proposition is important for any brand. From day one the Leave message focused on “Take back control” which appeals to our desire for autonomy. According to the psychologist Daniel Pink autonomy is one of our three most important motivations in life. The others being mastery and purpose. Autonomy is something we naturally seek. It improves our lives because we feel happier when we are in control of our destiny.

Products are purchased for explicit goals, but brands need to appeal towards our implicit (psychological) goals to engage people at an emotional level. This is especially important where brands have very similar product features as it is the main way that they can differentiate themselves from each other. Understanding which of these core psychological goals motivates your customers is essential for effective brand positioning and campaign implementation.

Psychological Goals of Brands

6 main implicit psychologial goals

Source: Decode Marketing

What went wrong?

The “Britain stronger in Europe” message had potential to engage voters. There was a lack of consistency of how it was explained and much of the time it was communicated in a negative and bullying fashion (e.g. if you vote leave economic growth will be lower). It was far too reliant on the rational economic argument and the psychological goals of security and discipline. Insufficient effort was made to communicate the many successes of the EU (around autonomy), or the positive benefits of security and discipline.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure your proposition incorporates a number of relevant psychological goals to widen the appeal of your brand position. Avoid over reliance on the security of the status quo as people want to feel that they are making a positive choice and not being pressurised to avoid change. Purely negative campaigns can make people uncomfortable and motivate people to change for the sake of it.

3. Relevance of message:

Image of City of London view

Source: Freeimages.com

The Leave campaign’s “Taking back control” message was also a more inclusive message. It appealed to a wider demographic audience. Everyone could relate to wanting some autonomy in our relationships with other countries. In practical terms this may be somewhat of an illusion, but it captured the imagination of voters as it triggered a deep psychological desire for more control in our lives.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign focused mainly on warnings about economic and political consequences of Brexit. For example the Treasury said that house prices might fall and mortgage rates would rise. But this had no relevance to people on the minimum wage with no chance of ever affording a house. People often don’t appreciate the links between macro-economic factors and their day-to-day existence. So these messages didn’t resonate with voters.

The Brexit message also appealed to the desire to destabilise the status quo. This movement has resulted in the emergence of radical politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders in the US, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and Marine Le Pen in France.

Strategy Lesson:

Analyse the behaviour and needs of customers by relevant demographic and behavioural metrics to identify important customer segments. Create user personas to visualise and consider how relevant and motivating your messages are to different customer segments. Such analysis can help improve the targeting and relevance of your messages. Also talk to people about things they can directly relate to and avoid language that is not in every day use.

4. Tell a story:

Brexit told many stories (though many were probably half-truths), but these encouraged people to talk to each other about the EU referendum debate. Stories are powerful tools of persuasion as psychologists have found that when people listen to a narrative tale their brain is stimulated as if they are experiencing the same emotions as communicated in the story. Our social nature encourages us to pass on these narratives through word of mouth or online via social media.

What went wrong?

The Remain story was too rational, with too much emphasis on negative consequences of Brexit and few stories to inspire. This meant the status quo was not presented as a positive choice.

Strategy Lesson:

Encourage consumers to interact with each other my telling an interesting and emotionally engaging story.

5. Copy, Copy, Copy:

When we find ourselves in a situation of uncertainty, such as having to make a decision about something we little knowledge about, people naturally copy other people in the vicinity. Behaviour is often more powerful than word of mouth because it is more visible and people will copy the actions of people they respect or want to be associated with to reduce conflict and help establish stronger bonds in their social networks. Both campaigns tried to capitalise on this by getting the backing of celebrities and well known politicians.

Brexit undoubtedly benefited from strong leadership (i.e.Boris Johnson) and a consistent message delivered by almost everyone involved in the campaign.

What went wrong?

Remain suffered from being less cohesive as although it was backed by both of the main party leaders they held very different beliefs and values. For instance Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with David Cameron and his support appeared half-hearted. David Cameron was also strongly associated with austerity which had significantly reduced funding in deprived areas since 2010.

Strategy Lesson:

Lead by example. If for instance your brand is positioned to be environmentally friendly make sure your internal policies and behaviour is consistent with this stance. If using celebrity endorsements ensure the person has wide appeal across your target audience.

6. Confirmation bias:

Image of mri-head scan

Source: Freeimages.com

People have a tendency to search and consume new information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and ideas about a subject. We often filter out or dismiss information that contradicts existing opinions. Many people had negative opinions about the EU due to years of critical articles in the British media and so it was difficult for the Remain campaign to counter this perception.

One way that brands can counter confirmation bias is to communicate that you agree with one aspect of what your audience believes, but then introduce information that conflicts with this information. This creates cognitive dissonance which is where people feel uncomfortable about holding opinions that contradict each other. If you can then introduce an answer or solution to remove the cognitive dissonance people are more likely to agree with your suggestion than if you tried to raise it without going through this process.

For example the Leave campaign claimed that the UK could negotiate access to the EU single market and get agreement to control immigration. The Remain campaign could have agreed access to the single market would be achievable from outside the EU. However, they should have pointed out that to date the EU has not allowed any country access to the single market without also agreeing to free movement of EU nationals. Further, such a deal would not be sustainable for the EU as it would encourage other countries to leave the EU.

However, the Remain campaign could have offered a solution that by retaining membership of the EU the UK would aim to reform the EU from within. If David Cameron had listened to disenfranchised voters he might have put more effort into negotiating a review of freedom of movement within the EU on the basis of economic sustainability and security concerns.

What went wrong?

David Cameron’s re-negotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU failed to deliver any restrictions on free movement of people within the EU. Rather than reject what was on the table and revert to plan B (i.e. campaign to leave the EU) which would have put the EU under pressure to compromise he accepted their offer. This may have been a fatal error as it reduced trust in Cameron to be able to negotiate with the EU and gave no room for the Remain campaign to argue that they could influence immigration better from within the EU.

Further, journalist and author Tim Hartford argues that confirmation bias was so strong among the Remain team and its supporters that they ignored obvious warnings (e.g, opinion polls) that the Leave campaign were moving into a winning position. This was compounded by betting markets that also favoured a Remain win. However, betting markets are driven by the amount of money wagered on a particular outcome which normally benefits from the wisdom of crowds. But as most of the establishment and the City were in favour of remaining in the EU did their financial clout overly influence the betting markets? This might explain why the betting markets got the result so wrong.

Strategy Lesson:

When people have an existing belief about your brand that is preventing you from persuading them to buy tell them something they already agree with. Then use cognitive dissonance to make them feel uncomfortable. Once you have established a feeling of cognitive dissonance introduce a solution or answer to their problem which eliminates the discomfort.

Be careful not to compromise too easily on issues that your customers perceive as important (e.g. reliability or quality) as this can destroy trust in your ability to deliver on your promises.

We are all prone to confirmation bias and so it is important to be open-minded about data that contradicts our own views about a brand or market. Ensure where possible decisions are based upon reliable data and not just your own gut instincts. Challenge data for potential bias or misinterpretation. This is especially important where different data sources produce conflicting results. Voice of Customer surveys for instance suffer from numerous flaws that can make them highly misleading if the data is taken at face value.

7. Post Brexit Regret:

Image of man with hands over face

Source: FreeImages.com

A survey of voters after the Brexit result found that up to 7% now regretted voting to leave the EU and would vote Remain if they were given another opportunity. Customer can feel regret when they don’t think they have made the best decision. In the case of Brexit some voters believe they were lied to because the Leave campaign reneged on a number of the promises they had made during the campaign.

What went wrong:

Both sides confused voters with misleading claims, and counter-claims. This may have reduced trust in politicians and could have put-off some undecided voters from going to the polling stations. If people find advice complex or difficult to understand this can often lead to procrastination or they will head for a competitor brand. The Leave campaign in particular made a number of very high profile promises that turned out to be inaccurate and undeliverable.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure you are confident that you can deliver on any promises you make during a marketing campaign. Post-purchase dissatisfaction due to broken promises is likely to result in cancellations or returns and will destroy customer confidence and trust in your brand. As Dave Trott points out:

“The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.”

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three

Thank you for reading my post. I believe there are some important, but simple lessons to learn from the Brexit referendum result. The main lesson is to main sure you have a clear and compelling value proposition and that you understand the different needs of individual customer segments.

For more of our blogs visit conversion-uplift.co.uk/post/.

Referendum a “Device of Dictators and Demagogues”?

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Is the EU referendum the will of the people?

The EU referendum result has huge implications for the UK and yet referendum have a very chequered history as a democratic device. Despite a slim majority (52%) being in favour of leaving the EU most politicians claim it was a “clear result” and frequently state that it was the “will of the people” to trigger Article 50 and exit the EU.

This appears inconsistent with the Government’s own position stated in 2010 that referendum “cannot be legally binding” due to the sovereignty of Parliament. The Government had the opportunity to make the EU referendum binding by requiring a super majority (2:1 in favour and a 70% turnout). But instead asked Parliament for an advisory referendum.

The Government also rejected more than one attempt to introduce clauses that would have made the EU referendum result binding. An advisory referendum is designed not to be binding. This begs the question of whether it is appropriate to base a major constitutional change on a simple majority. As the turnout of the referendum was 70%. This means the UK is making a decision based upon only 37% of the total electorate being in favour of leaving the EU.

But are referendum “a device of dictators and demagogues” and inappropriate for making such an important decision that will have long-lasting consequences for the UK’s economy and our dealings with Europe and the rest of the world? According to a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research the Brexit deal agreed with the EU will make the UK £100bn worse off a year compared to if we had remained in the EU. The analysis estimates the UK’s GDP will be 3.9% lower by 2030 because of Brexit.

The history of referendum!

In March 1975 Margaret Thatcher described referendum as “a device of dictators and demagogues”. Thatcher was quoting Clement Attlee who noticed that Hitler, Mussolini and Napoleon III used referendum to legitimise decisions they had made. If we just look at referendum before World War II we can see how Mussolini and Hitler used them to their advantage.

  • March 1929 – Italy approves single-party list for Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in referendum.
  • July 1933 – Hitler grants himself the power to hold referendums.
  • November 1933 – Germans vote to leave the League of Nations in referendum.
  • March 1934 – Italians confirm approval of single-party list for Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in referendum.
  • August 1934 – Germans approve combining posts of Chancellor & President in referendum.
  • March 1936 – Germany approve single-party rule & occupation of Rhineland in referendum.
  • April 1938 – Germans approve single list of Nazi candidates for Reichstag & Anschluss with Austria in referendum.

More recently

In 2014 Russia used a referendum to legitimise the annexation of Crimea. The question the referendum asked the people of Crimea was if they wanted to join Russia as a federal subject. Or to restore the 1992 Crimean constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine. As the 1992 constitution provided for increased control to the Crimean parliament, including full sovereign powers to agree relations with other states. Both choices available in the referendum would probably have resulted in separation from Ukraine. The status quo was not an option on the ballot paper.

Image of Vladimir Putin

Referendum, plebiscites or polls are positioned as allowing the people to directly express their democratic will on a specific issue. Are they not a sign of a weak leader or for the elite to legitimise a policy they support? In the case of David Cameron there was no need to have the EU referendum, he only decided to hold one to resolve an internal party dispute. It wasn’t for the national interest. It’s quite remarkable that Cameron wasn’t taken to task over this blunder in the House of Commons. This might partly be due to the implosion of the Labour opposition.

So why are referendum flawed?

Single question!

The most obvious one is that they require a complex, and emotionally charged issue, to be reduced to a yes/no question. When considering a relationship the UK has been in for over 40 years a simple yes/no or “remain/leave” question raises many complex and inter-connected questions that even professional politicians could not fully answer during or after the campaign. The EU referendum required a largely uninformed electorate to make a choice between the status quo and an extremely unpredictable outcome.

Statistics and damn lies!

There is a danger that the electorate can be mislaid by untruths and promises that are not deliverable. Certainly many newspaper stories have been written criticising the EU over the years. Boris Johnson confessed to a fellow journalist that when he was the EU correspondent at The Telegraph he made up many of his articles. Probably the most well known myth Boris Johnson created was that the EU tried to ban straight and bendy bananas. These fictional stories had an explosive affect on the Tory party, but also on the type of stories other newspapers wanted to publish about the EU.

The leave campaign leaders quickly distanced themselves from the main promises they made during the lead up to the vote because they were either inaccurate or down right lies. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Boris Johnson decided not to stand for election as party leader or that the Leave campaign didn’t have a plan for how the UK would leave the EU.

Knowledge of issues!

Ignoring the half-truths circulated about the EU the choice for the electorate in the EU referendum was still daunting. The complexity of the decision meant that most people were ill-equipped to understand the issues or the potential implications of the choice they had to make. Jason Brennan, an expert and author of the ethics of voting at Georgetown University pointed out:

“To have even a rudimentary sense of the pros and cons of Brexit, one would need to know about the economics and sociology of trade and immigration, the politics of centralized regulation, and the history of nationalist movements. But there is no reason to think even a tenth of the UK’s population has even a basic grasp of the social science needed to evaluate Brexit.”

Source: The American founding fathers had it right:

Instead most people probably used their gut instinct and responded to more emotional and social motivations than rational deliberation. People are also heavily influenced by how they think other people in their social network will vote.

Referenda are also a concern because:

  • They allow our elected representatives to avoid any responsibility for the consequences of a decision. Just look at how quickly David Cameron resigned and left politics.
  • The wording of the referendum ballot paper can potentially influence how people vote. In this instance “Leave” was naturally associated with change and risk taking. Prospect theory tells us that when people are faced only with options that result in a loss (e.g. loss of sovereignty/control or loss of EU membership) they have a tendency to choose the risky option (i.e. Leave). “Leave” also communicated action, whilst “Remain” suggests inaction.
  • They can undermine the constitutional protection of minorities. In the case of the UK people in Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted in favour of remaining in the EU. As a result the Scots now have good cause to feel they are being forced to leave the EU due to an undemocratic process. Not surprisingly the SNP initially pushed for a second independence referendum. However, more worryingly the Republic of Ireland has forced the UK government to agree that any final deal with the EU must avoid any hard border with Northern Ireland. This could undermine support for the UK union because many remain supporters in Northern Ireland may think that the Republic is more likely to support their interests and views toward the EU.

More Reasons Why:

  • People may use the referendum as a protest vote against the policies of the party in power. Voters also mix up domestic politics with those of the EU. There is certainly anecdotal evidence to suggest that some people did use the EU referendum as a protest vote against the elite. They feel they have not benefited from globalisation or don’t feel they are listened to by politicians. Indeed, since 2010 the Government has systematically reduced funding for deprived areas of the UK. The very same areas that were most likely to have voted Leave.
  • Due to the very nature of referendum, such as how the question is framed. The complexity of the decision and the coverage of the issue in the mass media, the result of referendum is very difficult to predict. This means that David Cameron essentially played Russian roulette with the electorate which by any standing was a massive blunder. It is widely accepted that Cameron did not expect to lose the EU referendum and neither did the Leave campaign expect to win.


As the late ex-MP Tam Dalyell said on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, if the majority of MPs want to remain in the EU they should have “the balls to say Parliament is sovereign” and to overrule the referendum result. If they don’t it is no more than “cowardice” and using the referendum to “save politicians backsides”. Isn’t it time for politicians to stand up for what they believe in and not let a flawed form of democracy determine our destiny?

Unfortunately the political elite appear intent on following each other out of the EU like lemmings over a cliff. What we need now is politicians to do what is best for the country. Follow their principles rather than their desire for power.

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Related to this post is:

Myths about the leaving the EU – 10 myths about leaving the EU

Reasons to stop Brexit – Over 30 reasons why MPs should stop Brexit

Why people voted for Brexit – The psychology of Brexit – why emotions won over logic!

How appropriate are opinion polls before elections – Do opinion polls influence voters?

What marketing can learn from Brexit – 7 Marketing lessons from the Brexit campaigns.

How do people make most decisions – Why do people prefer to follow gut instinct to research?

The Psychology of Brexit – Why Emotions Won!

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Brexit – WTF happened?

The Brexit UK European Referendum captured world-wide attention and generated intense and passionate debate in the UK. Despite the economic arguments being clearly in favour of Remain, as no one could accurately predict the impact of Brexit, the UK is now heading out of the EU.

The Remain camp and their “Project fear” strategy completely failed to win the hearts and minds of older voters in particular. The fatal error the remain camp fell into was to rely almost solely on rational considerations. Emotions, social influence and mental short-cuts are often more powerful drivers of behaviour than logical analysis of a problem.

But why was the Leave campaign more successful at engaging people at an emotional level? The Leave strategy focused on messages about Brexit that triggered strong emotional responses (e.g. autonomy – getting back control) and encouraged voters to discuss issues that they were concerned about (e.g. immigration).

Herd Mentality:

As social creatures our herd instinct is a strong motivator

We are super social creatures who seek out and interact with other people as part of natural bonding processes. As a result our herd instinct means that our opinions and behaviour is more heavily influenced by our social networks and what we think other people are doing than we are aware of. For this reason controversial statements that spark a conversation between people are more persuasive than simply communicating a rational argument to inform voters. The Leave campaign extensively used emotive promises and a narrative about the EU to encourage word of mouth conversations that spread across social networks.

Image of YouGov poll showing EU referendum intentions by age

Source: YouGov

Our herd mentality appears to have helped the Brexit campaign gain momentum as they were initially well behind in the opinion polls. David Cameron hugely underestimated the depth of feeling in the provinces about factors such as immigration and economic inequality, and a general disillusionment with the EU among older voters.

People copy opinions and behaviour if they want to fit in with their social networks. The Leave campaign galvanised support using strong psychological narrative (e.g. taking back control) to grab attention and generate discussion. This was helped by a very negative, almost bullying strategy by the Remain campaign which may have alienated many undecided voters who then supported Brexit .

Emotions Override Rational Thinking:

Emotions are one of the most powerful influences in our decision making tool kit. Many of our judgements and behaviour are directly influenced by feelings of liking or disliking rather than rational consideration. And yet Remain constantly focused on rational arguments and the negative consequences of leaving the EU. Perhaps as a consequence of this leavers appeared more motivated than remain supporters because those parts of the country that voted remain had the lowest turn out.

Leavers cared more

People also have a tendency to like (or dislike) everything related to a person and so having a popular politician spearheading (i.e. Boris Johnson) Brexit may have been sufficient for some people to align themselves with the leave campaign. In this sense the Remain campaign may have lost support from Labour voters because David Cameron was of course the leader of the Conservative Party. Continued austerity and a Government focused on London and the South East may have further alienated many voters from supporting a campaign strongly associated with the leader of the Conservative Government. This was probably further compounded by the low key profile of Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign as he did not appear totally committed to the cause and some people accused him of supporting Brexit.

Loss Aversion:

People are more concerned about losses than gains.

The Brexit campaign were especially good at using basic psychological triggers to cut through the noise. They consistently used loss aversion, our tendency to be more concerned about potential losses rather than gains, to grab attention. Leave played on gut feelings around jobs being taken due to immigration, the subsequent drain on the NHS, and wage stagnation. An emotion often linked to loss aversion is regret which people try to avoid at all cost. The Brexit campaign used this to their advantage by emphasising that the referendum would be a once in a life time opportunity to break away from Europe.


People are also strongly motivated by the desire to be in charge of their own destiny. Leave tapped into the issue of a lack of power and control by talking about the EU being un-democratic, and limiting our ability to set laws and manage immigration. Immigration is again a deeply emotional subject for many people and although the Leave campaign may have been regularly criticised for focusing on this issue it undoubtedly resonated with older voters. But most importantly all these issues supporting Brexit were framed around “taking back control” even though they could not offer any guarantees that immigration for instance would actually fall.

What You See Is All There Is:

People are heavily influenced by what information they can easily access about a topic. Few people have the time or inclination to seek out alternative sources of information to validate stories they read in the media. Indeed, Boris Johnson confessed to a fellow journalist to making up stories about the EU when he was the EU correspondent for The Telegraph newspaper.

Given the amount of misinformation about the EU circulated over the years it was always going to be difficult for the EU to get a fair hearing. There were at least ten myths about leaving the EU that Brexit supporters used to persuade people to vote for Leave.

Project Fear:

As humans we hate uncertainty and suppress ambiguity because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Project fear certainly communicated uncertainty about an exit from the EU. This is one reason why status quo bias often leads us to avoid change because outcomes are more predictable if we stick with existing option.

However, project fear was a tactical mistake because it was almost entirely a negative message and it mainly related to macro-economic matters. This was too rational a strategy as such issues often appear remote from daily life and less relevant ordinary people. Further, project fear was reinforced by various threats from both the Remain camp (e.g. emergency budget & more austerity cuts), and external parties (e.g. Obama & OECD). This may have came across as bullying rather than a considered argument and probably resulted in anger which would have alienated voters from the Remain point of view.

Telling a positive story:

People are naturally much more motivated when they have a clear purpose in life and can see how their actions relate to personally meaningful goals. The EU was originally set up with the intention of bring once warring countries together in a peaceful and collaborative community.

And yet the Remain campaign failed to tell a positive story about the overall goals and achievements of the EU. For instance the EU has been successful at encouraging the advance of democracy and western economic thinking in Eastern Europe, improving workers rights and protecting press freedom. Very little attention was paid to this aspect of the debate and yet having a purpose is one of our strongest psychological motivations.

Some of the most passionate speakers for Remain (e.g. Shelia Hancock) focused on these higher goals, but the official campaign completely ignored these more emotionally engaging and meaningful messages. The Remain campaign failed because those in charge did not understand basic human psychology and motivations.

Related to this post is:

10 myths about leaving the EU

Are referendum a device of dictators and demagogues?

Do opinion polls influence voters?

Why do people prefer to follow gut instinct to research?