The biggest mistakes made by the Government before the Brexit vote

Andy Wells

MPs have produced a scathing report which has attacked the Government over mistakes it made in the run up to last year’s EU referendum vote.

Several issues were highlighted by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) report, which also highlighted a possible foreign hack of the Brexit vote registration website.

Here are the biggest errors that David Cameron’s Government made in the run up to the crucial vote…

David Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote (Rex)

No ‘Leave’ plan

The report criticised the Government for failing to prepare for a Leave vote. With the polls suggesting a tight win for the Remain side, the shock loss seemingly left the Government unprepared for what would happen next. The report stated: “There was no proper planning for a Leave vote so the EU referendum opened up much new controversy and left the Prime Minister’s credibility destroyed.” It added: “In 1975, Whitehall undertook contingency planning for a possible vote in favour of withdrawal from the European Communities and there was no adequate reason for a refusal to prepare for either eventuality in 2016.”

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It was a ‘bluff call’

The committee was highly critical of Mr Cameron for choosing to hold the referendum in an attempt to “call the bluff” of critics who accused him of not wanting a debate on the UK’s membership of the European Union – especially from the increasingly-popular Ukip. They said: “A referendum is less satisfactory in the case of what might be called a ‘bluff call’ referendum in order to close down unwelcome debate, like the referendum on EU membership.” They added that the then PM held the vote “with the aim of using a negative result to shut down the debate about the question at issue”.

David Cameron was not willing to stay on in the event of losing

Mr Cameron shocked the nation by resigning on the same morning that the Brexit results were announced. The committee said because of the lack of planning for a Leave vote, the Prime Minister’s credibility was “destroyed”. It recommended that any future PM should stay on – no matter the result. The report concluded: “It should be reasonable to presume that the sitting Prime Minister and his/her administration will continue in office and take responsibility for the referendum result in either eventuality.”

The £9.3m leaflet

There was much controversy from the Leave side when the Government spent over £9m on leaflets sent out to households across the country that set out arguments for remaining in the EU. The committee agreed, saying: “The decision to spend £9.3million on sending a leaflet, advocating a Remain vote, to all UK households, was inappropriate and counterproductive.”

The Government was criticised for spending £9.3m on a pro-EU leaflet (Rex)

The reputation of Civil Servants was damaged

The committee said there had been times in the run-up to the vote when it appeared officials were being drawn into “referendum controversy”, damaging the Civil Services’s reputation. They said: “There were many occasions when it appeared to many that civil servants were being drawn into referendum controversy. This damaged the reputations of the civil and diplomatic services for impartiality.”

Top pic: Rex

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