PR and the EU Referendum

, , Leave a comment

Both the Remain and Vote Leave campaigns in the EU referendum have made use of PR companies in order to get their message across to millions of potential voters. Sometimes it can be beneficial to see exactly how your opponents are being successful in doing this. To take one example, the Remain camp could possibly learn something from the techniques used in the crowdfunded Brexit: the movie directed by Martin Durkin.


In this film, the director is trying to appeal to the floating voter, the politically unsophisticated person not well-versed in the EU debates to date. Several interviewees, supposed to be like them, are baffled by humourously put questions about the incomprehensible structure of the European Union and by pictures of some of the people who run it. Later, a streak of anti-intellectualism is expressed against those who are into ‘the arts’ for whom the EU is supposedly made. The film is therefore for ‘normal’ people who are said to suffer from being ruled by the richer and more educated favoured by the EU. As Nicholas Dunn-McAfee says, the film is designed so that snippets can be posted on social media disseminating the core message to many more people with limited time or political interest.

Humour, particularly sarcasm, is much used in the film. It is particularly effective when long lists of regulations affecting our everyday lives are rapidly recited and reinforced by accompanying graphics. There are, for example, apparently over 12,000 regulations covering milk. A similar technique is used to describe the luxurious lifestyle of the nameless bureaucrats, citing their breath-taking salaries and allowances. All this makes people laugh. Because the audience has done no research they have to take the word of the presenter and talking heads including famous figures such as Nigel Farage, Liam Fox, Nigel Lawson, Lord Howard and Kate Hoey. Another technique is to get several talking heads to repeat a point, for example, that the EU is unaccountable and undemocratic.

Nostalgia is used in the film’s overview of the history of state regulation. We start in the Victorian period when there were no regulations to stop entrepreneurs being inventive and they were apparently freer to be more competitive than now. There are no awkward facts to show any downside of the period such as the terrible working conditions for many Victorian workers. The message is wholly positive as it is when Switzerland, not in the EU, is discussed. It is entirely wonderful.

The “invisible barbed wire” of the EU is a metaphor used to explain the hindering of trade from outside the EU by tariffs and our entrapment in a poor future. This phrase, unfortunately, has the overtones of the first world war. The film oddly does not mention immigration which is the most contentious issue for the Vote Leave campaign and concentrates on economic matters and the EU’s worst excesses. The uncomplicated message is that if you leave the EU you will regain sovereignty and control of your life.


Article contributed by Perl Watson for Four Broadgate.


Leave a Reply

You must be login to post a comment. Log in now