European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

newsVote Leave misrepresentations on business support for Brexit

During the EU referendum campaign Vote Leave wrote in their leaflet “Most businesses want us to take back control” that 

"INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS ARE NOT WORRIED ABOUT BRITAIN LEAVING THE EU
According to Vote Leave, "International businesses and investors have made clear that they are not worried about Britain leaving the EU":

In the leaflet they wrote the following quotes:

Tim Tozer, Chairman and Managing Director, Vauxhall Motors: ‘If this country would vote to leave the EU, would that trouble or concern us? There my answer is no because I don’t think that in that event there would not be a trade agreement with what was left of the EU’ (BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, 15 September 2015,

It has since been reported that Vauxhall Motors, Toyota, Airbus and Unilever – all supporters of Britain remaining in the EU – are understood to be annoyed their logos have been used without permission. http://www.briefreport.co.uk/news/vauxhall-toyota-and-unilever-unhappy-with-vote-leave-campaign-4196390.html

Kevin Rose, board member, Bentley: ‘We made our plans, we've announced the investments ... and they were in full knowledge that there was a referendum so we believe in the UK … Regardless [of the outcome], we think that the UK is a good place for investment’ (Reuters, 17 September 2015, link).

Fabrice Bregier, Chief Executive, Airbus: He has said he has ‘no intention’ of pulling manufacturing out of the UK if the country votes to leave the European Union (BBC News, 16 June 2015, link).

Since then, Airbus has threatened legal action over Vote Leaves use of their logos and claims it is “highly misleading to British voters”  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3644637/Stop-using-logos-Brexit-Vote-Leave-campaign-faces-legal-action-angry-firms-including-Airbus-Unilever.html

According to Vote Leave: "Jeff Immelt, Chairman and Chief Executive, GE: ‘It’s important the UK has good relationships around the world, but I don’t really think that its place in the European Union makes that much difference’ (The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2015, link)."

Since becoming aware of Vote Leaves use of their logos, GE has threatened legal action over Vote Leaves use of their logos, and claims it is “highly misleading to British voters”  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3644637/Stop-using-logos-Brexit-Vote-Leave-campaign-faces-legal-action-angry-firms-including-Airbus-Unilever.html

Vote Leave also quoted the following:

Karl-Thomas Neumann, Chief Executive of Opel: 'We have plants in Luton and Ellesmere port. We will not turn our back on England... life would carry on... We would continue to find ways to invest' (Reuters, 17 September 2015, link).

Trevor Mann, Chief Performance Officer, Nissan: 'If there was a future trade agreement between the UK and EU then it wouldn't make a lot of difference' (Financial Times, 11 January 2016, link).

Nissan has since said that it plans to sue the Vote Leave campaign over EU referendum flyer https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/20/nissan-vote-leave-campaign-eu-referendum-flyer

Vote Leave also said that "Takahiro Hachigo, Chief Executive of Honda: 'Honda remains firmly committed to car production in the UK and Europe. Our production activity in the UK plays a key role for our business in terms of providing products to the European market… and beyond' (AutoExpress, 1 October 2015, link).

Since the EU referendum it has been reported that there is as much as a 75 per cent chance that Toyota and Honda will eventually pull out of the UK if the country’s vote to leave the EU leads to a levy on cars made in Britain, analysts warned on Monday. https://next.ft.com/content/1bef35ac-3c44-11e6-8716-a4a71e8140b0

According to Vote Leave, Akio Toyoda, Chief Executive of Toyota said that: 'We want to deepen our roots to deliver ever better cars, so when that capsule is opened after 100 years, all can see we’ve built a truly British company.... I think a strong manufacturing workforce and parts supply chain are characteristic of the UK... I understand it was judging on those factors that we choose to put our first European plant in Britain' (FT, 11 January 2016, link).

Toyota has since said that it is considering legal action against Vote Leave for trademark abuse of its logo
http://www.worldipreview.com/news/eu-referendum-toyota-considering-legal-action-after-trademark-abuse-10271

Vote Leave said that Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said that: 'The effectiveness of my research centre is the quality of the people I have there and the ideas coming out in terms of the innovations that we produce. We don’t make a decision on moving research centres around depending on if you are in the EU or not... I am in every country basically, in any trading zone, in the EU, out of the EU. People need to buy shampoo, people need to eat their Knorr or Cup-a-soup, and they want to buy their Coleman’s and they want to buy their Magnum ice cream. They are not going to say that is function of if I am in the EU or if I am not in the EU' (Guardian, 25 January 2015, link).

Unilever has since threatened legal action over Vote Leaves use of their logos, amid claims it is “highly misleading to British voters”  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3644637/Stop-using-logos-Brexit-Vote-Leave-campaign-faces-legal-action-angry-firms-including-Airbus-Unilever.html

Vote Leave also indiciated that Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault-Nissan said that:  'Whatever is the decision of the UK we will adapt to it. I don’t think there is a reason to worry. We knew for many years that [an exit] was possible. So we’ll deal with it' (Guardian, 21 January 2016, link).

Nissan are allegedly to sue Vote Leave campaign over EU referendum flyer https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/20/nissan-vote-leave-campaign-eu-referendum-flyer

On the 4th September 2016 the Japanese government warned the UK government at the G20 meeting that its country's firms (including potentially Honda, Toyota and Nissan) may have to move their European Head offices out of the UK, if EU law ceases to apply to the UK.

It is very clear that Vote Leave misled the electorate, by providing false endorsements in their campaign literature.  It is worth noting that if this was a commercial situation, and a business had provided false endorsements in their promotional material, this would be a criminal offence and the directors of the company could go to prison for up to two years.