In Depth

Behind Britain’s ‘shock and awe’ Brexit campaign

Tourists will be warned of higher costs as businesses told to prepare for more paperwork

Boris Johnson’s government will urge the UK to prepare for the “changes and opportunities” of Brexit in a £93m campaign to draw attention to the consequences of leaving the EU.

Behavioural scientists have been called in to draw up a “shock and awe” programme of messages intended to provoke action from businesses and the broader public.

“The term, more often used to describe a military strategy of overwhelming force and closely associated with the Iraq War, is contained in a document setting out the government’s communications plan,” Politico says.

Although the UK formally left the EU on 31 January, little has changed since. Officials fear this status quo has led to complacency about the expiry of the transition deal on 31 December.

“A lack of readiness among businesses for the end of the Brexit transition period is a major concern for the UK government,” says Bloomberg. “If companies aren’t prepared for new paperwork requirements and red tape, which will apply whether there is a UK-EU trade deal or not, there is a risk of border disruption and goods being held up at ports.”

The advertising campaign will also target Europe-bound tourists.

“Adverts bearing the strapline ‘Check, Change, Go’ will be launched today and texts sent to mobile phones,” says The Times. “Much of the information is aimed at raising awareness of higher costs, with travel insurance premiums expected to rise once eligibility for free healthcare in EU countries ends.”

Holidaymakers will also be warned that their passports will need to be valid for at least six months beyond their trip. And anyone wanting to take a pet to an EU country is advised to start planning four months in advance.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove (pictured above) said yesterday that companies and individuals should be “ready to hit the ground running” when the transition deal ends. “This will bring changes and significant opportunities for which we all need to prepare,” he added.

“The upbeat message about the coming freedom from Brussels features a new ‘Check, Change, Go’ logo to raise awareness of the new border rules,” says the Daily Express

“We like the positivity of the campaign,” the newspaper continues, “and we hope that even die-hard Remainers will swing behind the historic decision taken by the British electorate back in 2016.”

But “‘shock and awe’ is not a phrase of comfort,” says Prospect magazine. Instead, it’s one that reminds us of a campaign “to overwhelm and subdue a military opponent”.

Yet the government’s latest campaign will be waged “not on a foreign belligerent, but on its own people” - and will provide more evidence that “a project designed to enhance prosperity, democracy and national pride [has] destroyed all three”, the magazine concludes.

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