The Lord Rose of Monewden, chairman of the official Remain campaign during the EU referendum, has admitted that “Project Fear” was exaggerated and voters did not buy into it.
Speaking almost five years after the 2016 vote to Leave the European Union, Stuart Rose, who headed the official Britain Stronger In Europe (BSE) campaign in 2016, told ITV News that he had strong personal misgivings about the decision to “really… hit people on the financials” and exaggerate the immediate economic impact of a vote to Leave the EU — a strategy which became known as ‘Project Fear’.
The former Marks & Spencer CEO complained that he was pressured into his role as figurehead leader of the pro-EU campaign — “It was sort of slightly ‘listen, Stuart. You really ought to do this because it’s your duty’” — and argued that its poor messaging was not his fault as he was too weak to really influence it.
“Almost from day one, I had absolutely no impact or no say about how things were handled. I mean, effectively, you know, it was ‘here’s your speech, this is what you’ve got to say’. I should have been stronger,” he lamented, saying that then-Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne — who earned a reputation as Project Fear’s ‘Scaremonger-General’ — had little contact with him.
“It was a bit cack-handed,” he said of the economic threats. “I said to those people I was having regular contact with that the economic gloom may happen but it wasn’t going to happen immediately. It wasn’t going to be Armageddon the day we came out. Everyone wasn’t going to suddenly be out of work,” he told ITV.
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) March 2, 2016
“I was out of my depth completely. I mean, everything was going on around me and it was like being in a tumble-dryer,” admitted Rose, who has been an unelected lawmaker officially aligned with the Tory party in the House of Lords since 2014.
The life peer revealed that, as Brexit campaigners suspected at the time, he was “withdrawn from the front line” in the finals months of the referendum for being “slightly off message once or twice”.
Specifically, Rose was binned for admitting to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that if Britain left the EU and its Free Movement migration regime and began restricting bosses’ access to cheap foreign labour, wages would go up — but that this could be a negative rather than a positive, somehow.
“If Free Movement were to end following Brexit, is it not reasonable to suppose that we could see increases in wages for low-skilled workers in the UK?” a pro-EU Labour Member of Parliament had asked him.
“Yes,” Rose conceded — but added that that was “not necessarily a good thing.”
The statement was seen by many working-class voters as proof that Remain campaigners, who were often at pains to stress the financial hardships which would supposedly fall on them outside the EU, were chiefly concerned with continuing to feather their own nests in a system which had served them well, and that their economic warnings could not be trusted.
“I remember saying that if you take out immigration that wages might go up. Well, it clearly wasn’t the message that I was supposed to be giving but economically it’s a fact,” the millionaire retailer recalled candidly.
Brexit: Supermarket Boss Admits EU Migration Used to Keep Wages Down https://t.co/O2d93WEptx
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 11, 2019