The former head of the leading Remain campaign in the EU referendum has admitted that the warnings of economic doom pushed by the campaign were “Project Fear” and they “didn’t work”.
In an interview with ITV’s Tonight programme, Stuart Rose, the former CEO of Marks and Spencer who was asked to run the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign in October 2015 revealed that he only took the job because nobody else wanted it.
“I should have said no,” Rose told the broadcaster. “Instinctively, I didn’t think it was for me. I felt strongly about remaining in Europe but I didn’t think I was the sort of person who should lead that campaign. But sadly, nobody else would volunteer and I was lent on and persuaded and I weakened and I took it.”
Rose revealed that whilst he was the frontman for the group, he had next to no say in strategy or messaging.
“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’,” he told ITV as he admitted the constant negative economic warnings were a “big mistake”.
The dire economic forecasts were mainly due to the heavy involvement of government officials in the campaign, namely David Cameron and George Osborne. On the topic of the infamous Treasury forecasts which told Brits they’d be worse off by £4300 a year per household after Brexit, Rose said he “didn’t feel very comfortable” with the figures or the presentation.
“I wouldn’t have done it that way but I had absolutely no control or input about what was being said. It was a bit cack-handed”.
He also spoke about how he was pulled from the airwaves around three months prior to referendum day after he admitted during a Treasury select committee hearing that a post-Brexit cut to immigration would see a rise in wages for low-skilled workers.
“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.”
As Britain approaches five years since the day of the Brexit referendum, Rose still remains somewhat pessimistic towards independence.
“Life has just become a little more bureaucratic and complicated,” Rose claimed. “It’s not the end of the world, nobody’s going to die, it’s just not as much fun and it’s not as easy. And what have we got for it? Sovereignty. WelI, I’m not quite sure yet what sovereignty means.”