9 June 2020
The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has expressed concerns that the Cabinet Office will not have the capability to successfully deliver campaign messages on preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period at the same time as delivering the major public health campaign on Covid-19, concluding that the campaign will crowd out messages on what needs to be done.
In EU Exit: Get ready for Brexit campaign, available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpubacc/131/131.pdf, the Committee warns that businesses will not have the capacity to act on both sets of crucial messages.
Chair Meg Hillier said: “The Government is taking the UK through not one but two incredible, unprecedented political and economic upheavals simultaneously, but it is business, the public and the public purse that will suffer if it gets it wrong.”
She pointed out that the Government has faced criticism from the public and media for the lack of clarity in its attempts to communicate the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, including the intended return of some groups of pupils to school this week.
The original “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign was launched on 1 September 2019 with a budget of £100 million and the aim to ensure that everyone was prepared for a potential “no-deal” outcome.
Despite spending £46 million of taxpayers’ money before aborting the campaign on 28 October, when an extension to the UK’s membership of the EU to 31 January 2020 was agreed, the Cabinet Office was, the PAC claims, unable to demonstrate that the campaign led to people being better prepared for the UK leaving the EU.
The Committee calls on Government to set out, within the month and in response to this report, a clear, cost-justified plan for an effective and timely communication campaign for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December this year, including the lessons it has learned from the failures of last year’s campaign.