MP threatens to report 'Get Ready for Brexit' campaign to advertising watchdog

PUBLISHED: 11:35 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:35 26 September 2019

An electronic display showing a 'Get ready for Brexit' government advert in London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA.

An electronic display showing a 'Get ready for Brexit' government advert in London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The government's £140million "Get Ready for Brexit" campaign is to be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), MPs heard.

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Independent Group for Change MP Chris Leslie branded the campaign, including billboards nationwide, is "inaccurate" and "misleading" as it does not acknowledge the legal reality that the UK may not leave on October 31. Critics have labelled the messaging propaganda though it is ostensibly a public information campaign.

He told the House of Commons: "Nowhere, not even in the small print, does it mention that the law of the land may prevent a no-deal Brexit.

"Shouldn't the government be honest with businesses and consumers?

"And isn't it time - as I certainly will be writing to the Advertising Standards Authority - that the government should be honest in its advertising and not mislead the public in that way?"

The European Union (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act, which passed before parliament was unlawfully prorogued, prevents the government forcing through a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

If Boris Johnson cannot secure a deal that parliament approves by October 19, the act requires him to request an extension of Article 50.

But the government's information campaign makes no mention of this.

MORE: Are the Government's Brexit ads a psychology trick on all of Britain?

MORE: People are making their own versions of the government's 'Get Ready' campaign posters

The ASA is likely to consider a complaint as within its remit. Although the ombudsman currently does not cover party political campaigning - such as ads during elections - it has previously covered governmental public information campaigns.

In August the ASA found that the Home Office had misled the public in radio adverts which exaggerated the simplicity of the process of applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

READ: Home Office advert banned for 'misleading' applicants to EU Settlement Scheme

The 'Get Ready for Brexit' campaign has been widespread, even appearing in schools and on the automatically loaded adverts on The New European podcast.

Responding to Lesie, Brexit minister James Duddridge said: "Let's be honest, no deal is a very real possibility even if this house extends - whether that's through this (act) or some other mechanism - it still might be in the same position at the end and a deal might not be done, and we'd be in a no-deal position.

"It's right that every responsible business prepares for no-deal despite the fact we want a deal."

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