Fact-checking Britain's EU referendum

The information campaigns surrounding Brexit/Bremain are about more than accurate data or an unknowable future.


On 23 June 2016, a referendum will determine if British voters wish to leave or remain in the European Union. This is the UK’s first referendum on Europe since it opted to remain in the European Economic Community in 1975. In that instance, the leftist Labour government was split but carried the day with opposition Conservative support. In 2016, it is the Conservative government’s turn to be riven by internal factionalism. Widely seen as a test of pro-EU Prime Minister David Cameron’s mandate, opportunists from the Conservative Eurosceptic wing are manoeuvring for a possible coup should Cameron be undermined by a public decision to leave. As in 2016, the government needs opposition support, albeit from a Labour party whose resurgent socialist left can barely conceal its contempt for European neoliberalism.

The challenge for both camps is to convince the electorate to care about Europe. The Brexit campaign has consistently held the public relations initiative, finding it easier to mobilise public opinion and media support by focusing on negative shibboleths about immigration and the ‘loss’ of national sovereignty. Rhetorical opposition to this narrative has been weak, struggling to match the appeal of traditional populist politics. At the same time, the quality of public debate has degenerated. In a progressively febrile environment, nuanced analysis and commentary on the benefits and disadvantages of EU membership can be hard to find.

Sovereign Data examines the information campaigns and contributions of important voices in the debate, and explores the tensions that arise between framers, fact-checkers and forecasters.

END OF PREVIEW | To request a full text version, email us at publications@thesigers.com .

Citation: “Fact-checking Britain's EU referendum,” Sovereign Data Vol 2. No. 5 (May2016).