A grassroots campaign group driven by private donations, Stop the Silence, has plastered billboards across the country attacking Theresa May’s proposed “hard” Brexit. The striking adverts depict gagged Remainers, stating the public did not vote for “price hikes, hate crimes, brutal Brexit and dead or no deal.”
The group crowdfunded the initial billboard bombardment, raising £70,000 (US$86,000) and attracting almost 4,000 Facebook followers in a mere week and a half — the group say only three donations exceeded £1,000 (US$1,226), with the rest coming in much smaller denominations.
The billboards grace surfaces across the UK, including major cities such as Bournemouth, Cardiff and London.
“Our campaign got a powerful message out to 10 million people across Britain, our video went viral — 170,000 views in the first three days after launch — and 500,000 have seen our message on Facebook,” the group said in a statement.
Now, inspired by the “amazing” response their funding campaign received, Stop the Silence has opted to reopen it for donations. It intends to spend the extra money on a poster van to tour the streets of Westminster, “so Peers and MPs will see it” in the days leading up to the final parliamentary Brexit vote, social media advertising, the shuttling of supporters around the country to “get the message out” to the public, and adverts in the national press.
It aims for an overall donation sum of £35,000 (US$$42,900), although stresses any overall sum will allow it to boost its existing campaign.
Article 50 legislation, which will trigger the UK’s secession process from the EU, is presently moving through the House of Lords. The Government has already suffered a setback on the guarantee of the rights for EU nationals residing in the UK.
While May wishes for the Lords to approve the bill by March 7, the bill is scheduled to return to House of Commons, meaning it could “ping-pong” between the Houses for some time until accord is achieved, putting the government’s March 31 stated trigger deadline at risk.
There are also indications the Leave.eu group, formally designated as one of the lead Brexit campaigns, could be investigated by the Electoral Commission for not declaring the use of Facebook profiling technology to convince UK voters to back Leave.
Explaining its motivation for the campaign, the group stated it didn’t believe the UK government had any mandate for the Brexit plan outlined in its February white paper.
“We don’t believe the country should be left with ‘deal or no deal.’ This leaves us with no safety-net if the majority of the country doesn’t like the deal negotiated with the EU. We didn’t vote for this because these questions were not on the ballot paper. It’s unacceptable millions of UK and EU citizens face such uncertainty about their futures. No one voted for that. The current culture of intimidation and abuse, online and in the media, goes against this country’s traditions of fair and open debate. We need to stop the silence that surrounds hard Brexit,” the statement said.
While Brexit could be years away, its deleterious impact is already being palpably felt in the UK.
Several major retailers have been hit by the “Brexit effect,” including John Lewis, which has announced it will axe almost 800 jobs in its biggest ever round of redundancies, largely driven by the collapsing value of the pound.
The nuclear energy industry has suggested the UK’s nuclear power stations may be forced to shut down for years after the UK secedes. There are even suggestions Brexit could lead to top footballers being denied access to the UK, robbing football teams of key players and preventing matches being held in the country.