Brexit mobile charges show it's not just Matt Hancock who pays for roaming

Former London mayor and Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson uses a mobile phone as he walks through buil

Boris Johnson on a mobile phone, June 2016 - Credit: Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Brexiteers promised mobile phone roaming charges would not return if we left the EU. It was just another lie

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, where mobile phone users are discovering what Matt Hancock has already learned: Roaming can be costly.

If UK tourists are ever allowed into mainland Europe without the quarantine demanded by Angela Merkel, they may be as reluctant as the former health secretary to ring home. That’s because mobile phone roaming charges are being reintroduced on the EE network, while rivals are lowering the amount of data that Brits can use abroad without paying extra.

It’s a story that is causing even redder faces than normal in Brexiteer circles, such was their confidence that Britain would be able to retain a benefit of EU membership first introduced in December 2016 despite, erm, having voted to give up the many benefits of EU membership six months earlier.

And why would they have reason to doubt it, given what leading Leavers had said? In April 2016, Vote Leave’s chairman Matthew Elliott claimed even suggesting that roaming charges might come back post-Brexit was “doing down consumer rights to try and win the referendum… there is no evidence to suggest that they will go up if we vote Leave.” Boris Johnson assured doubters that even if we struck out on our own, “There are plenty of other parts of the world where the free market and competition has been driving down the cost of mobile roaming charges without the need for a vast supranational bureaucracy.”

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Suitably emboldened, the Brexit cheerleaders went to work. “Mobile phone charges won’t go up after Brexit,” the Daily Telegraph assured its readers in February 2017, while in September 2018 the caps lock-crazy Daily Express was ranting: “Brexit lies EXPOSED: Mobile roaming charges WON’T come back for Brits travelling to the EU”. Even this January, the Sun declared “Mobile phone operators will not bring back roaming charges for Brits travelling in Europe”. Brexiteer MPs like Owen Paterson (“another scare story”) and Julian Knight (“another Remoaner myth!”) joined in the scoffing.

This week, with Paterson and Knight oddly silent, those brass-necked papers have been eager to condemn the networks rather than the real culprit. “O2 brings back ‘ridiculous’ roaming charges and customers are fuming,” said the Express. “Don't blame Brexit – BT's opportunism has brought back EU roaming charges,” wrote the famously anti-capitalist Telegraph.

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But Brexit is entirely (for Express readers, that’s ENTIRELY) to blame. Roaming charges aren’t allowed in the EU under its ‘Roam like you’re home’ policy. Here, they’re on the way back.

Another bad call from the Brexiteers.

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