Brexit: What they said then and what's happening now

The Brexit campaign triggered a national debate like nothing ever before seen in modern Britain. Every single detail, from the effect on the NHS down to the impact on bakers was covered in extensive detail. In a bid to please (or scare) all, many things were said.

Yet, now, with the Brexit and Remain armadas on the Thames already becoming a distant memory, we take a look at some of the predictions made on both sides…

First, the victors

If you want a full breakdown of what this camp claimed whilst marching towards an unlikely victory, Chuka Umunna and his ‘grassroots’ Vote Leave Watch team have been doing a good job of logging exactly what the current Brexiteers in Government promised during the campaign. Chief amongst these is the ‘£350 million’ plastered on the side of that big red bus.  That promise which was ditched quicker than you can say N-H-S. Cabinet Member Chris Grayling first reduced the figure to "£100 million" and then softened the claim to a mere "aspiration".  

But it wasn’t just the NHS that was to benefit. Junior doctors and primary school places were also up for grabs, however it’s been pretty quiet on this front too. The new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, appears to be willing to reset fiscal policy in his Autumn Statement  and get spending but the focus is on infrastructure and roads, not schools and the NHS.

David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, also made some optimistic assumptions which will potentially create headaches for him given it is now his job to realise them. His promise that Britain will get a “full scale free trade agreement” with the EU jumped the gun somewhat. Whilst a free trade agreement would be in the EU's interest too, the issue is timing since there is no guarantee on reaching an agreement ahead of the UK's exit. A Brexit exit scenario without a free trade agreement in place would result in reverting to WTO rules which are much less favourable for British exports. 

And the losers?

David Cameron may have left Parliament but his ominous claim that Brexit would mean “put[ting] a bomb under our economy” which we’d have “lit the fuse ourselves” sent a worrying chill through the Treasury and Bank of England as they nervously awaited the post-Brexit economic data. But undoubtedly, the immediate economic impact has been more of a party popper than a bang. The pound took an immediate hit and remains low but the rest of the economy has held strong.

Consumer spending is strong and unemployment remains low. The housing market has also remained stable despite claims that prices would decline. Multinationals have also not queued up at Dover to take up the Parisian mayor’s offer to relocate following his Brexit-day memo. Economists warn of worrying underlying trends, such as those PMI data showing a decline in orders, but it remains too soon to see the consequences of this. That the Chancellor also ruled out a post-Brexit emergency budget is also an encouraging sign of how the ship has remained stable.

The aftermath

The referendum debate did not present either side in the best light. The gloves were off and grand claims were made by both sides even on matters of war and peace. The Vote Leave side is undoubtedly smug that Remain's claims of economic catastrophe did not materialise. That above all is perhaps the greatest claim of the campaign that has been debunked. However, Vote Leave's promise of a prosperous Britain cannot fully be assessed until we are truly out of the EU, and that ultimately depends on the agreements the UK reaches with the EU and states around the world. The long-term legacy of Brexit has not even begun.


Metin Parlak

Michael Stott

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search