Boris Johnson’s aborted ad campaign urging people and businesses to prepare for Brexit did not have a “significant” impact, according to the public spending watchdog.
The government originally pledged £100m for its ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign, promising an advertising blitz across billboards, TV and radio ahead of the 31 October deadline.
But the campaign was pulled after the Brexit deadline was extended to 31 January, and the government ultimately forked out £46m.
Despite the expense, the National Audit Office (NAO) today said the Cabinet Office “could not demonstrate that the air campaign resulted in significantly better preparedness”.
The government has estimated that the campaign reached 99.8 per cent of the UK population, with each member of the public having the opportunity to see the ads 55 times.
But the proportion of citizens who reported that they had looked or started to look for information about Brexit “did not notable change”, the NAO said.
The findings will raise eyebrows over the Prime Minister’s use of taxpayer funds in the run-up to Brexit. The government also issued £10m in grants to 124 business organisations to help them prepare for a no-deal exit — which never materialised.
“At short notice, the Cabinet Office successfully corralled multiple government departments to work together effectively and launched this complex campaign at great speed,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO. “However, it is not clear that the campaign resulted in the public being significantly better prepared.”
A government spokesperson said the NAO’s findings “showed increased public awareness of the action they needed to take to be ready to leave the EU”.
“Not undertaking the campaign would have risked significant and unnecessary disruption to businesses and to people’s lives.”