26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: New unit to counter Brexit reports

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The United Kingdom Cabinet Office has confirmed it has ordered the creation of a unit to react quickly to “inaccurate media reporting” on the impact of the country leaving the European Union (Brexit).

The Office said the so-called ‘rapid rebuttal unit’ will be formed as part of the preparations for Brexit on 31 October, with or without an agreement with the EU.

The unit will be run from the Cabinet Office and staffed by Public Servants. It will have the aim of tackling the spread of “scare stories or falsehoods” on the impact of leaving the EU.

According to reports in the Telegraph newspaper, the unit’s response to inaccuracies could include issuing corrections in online tweets or blogs directly reassuring stakeholders.

The newspaper reported that senior Government figures had become frustrated about recent stories on the impact of a no deal — in particular one report that around 45,000 dairy cows would be slaughtered in Northern Ireland after a no deal exit.

The Cabinet Office says the unit is separate from its existing fake news rapid response unit, which was founded to tackle fake news stories in Government.

Examples that the unit has tackled included tackling a story that wrongly claimed the Government had passed a vote claiming animals couldn’t feel pain, which followed an announcement in December 2017 that it would introduce legislation recognising animal sentience.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said all Government Departments were responsible for responding to inaccurate media reporting in their areas.

“A team focusing on reacting quickly to Brexit-related stories is being established as part of preparations to leave the EU on 31 October, so as to reassure the public that the Government will be fully prepared for the UK to leave then, whatever the circumstances,” the spokesperson said.

London, 14 August, 2019

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