Friday 23 August 2019

Boris to run biggest ad campaign since World War II to prepare for 'no deal'

British prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
British prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Christopher Hope

Boris Johnson is to launch the biggest advertising campaign since World War II to get Britain ready for a no-deal Brexit, with an unprecedented marketing blitz on billboards, radio and television.

The prime minister yesterday ordered his ministers to go into overdrive to prepare for a no-deal exit, with daily briefings on progress in the Cabinet Office's Cobra briefing room - a place normally reserved for co-ordinating responses to national emergencies.

Part of the preparations will see up to £100m (€111m) spent on advertising alone in the next three months, government sources said.

It came as it emerged that Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, will this week start preliminary work on negotiating a trade deal with the US before the UK leaves the European Union on Thursday, October 31.

Ms Truss is due to meet Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, this week before flying to Washington for talks with Wilbur Ross and Robert Lighthizer, her American counterparts, about the deal later next month.

In an article for today's 'Daily Telegraph', Ms Truss made clear that privatising parts of the NHS was a "red line" for the UK government in any trade talks.

She said that the health service "will not be put up for sale".

Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer, will set out plans this week for an extra £1bn of spending on preparations for a no-deal exit.

Part of this will see funds splashed on the new public information campaign, dwarfing the lacklustre radio and internet campaign that was run by the government before the March 29 Brexit deadline this year.

The new campaign, which could include a no-deal preparation leaflet delivered to every home in the country, will be much bigger than the "Tell Sid" bid to encourage the public to buy shares at the privatisation of British Gas and "Aids - Don't Die of Ignorance" TV, radio and newspaper awareness campaigns of the Eighties.

"I can't imagine there has been a bigger 'comms' campaign than this since the war. It is a pretty huge thing for a 'comms' campaign," one Treasury source said.

Ministers said the extra spending was part of a "real step up in activity" on no-deal planning.

Rishi Sunak, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "We are turbocharging preparations for no deal and that is now the government's number one priority."

The objective, he said, was to force the Brussels negotiators to remove the Northern Irish backstop from the EU Withdrawal Agreement to allow the UK to leave with a deal by October 31. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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