This post has been updated.
In the aftermath of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, many who had voted to "remain" have accused the "leave" campaign of relying on dodgy facts to make false promises to voters.
Early on Monday, many were furious that the "leave" campaign's website — formerly home to many of these promises — appeared to have been wiped free of any information. Where once there were a variety of speeches and interviews, as well as fact sheets about the E.U., there was now a simple note: "Thank You."
On Twitter, there were widespread suggestions that the move was a deliberate ploy to hide previous promises.
— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) June 27, 2016
— Ben Judah (@b_judah) June 27, 2016
— Ramona Gabar (@RamonaGabar) June 27, 2016
Clever of Vote Leave to delete their website. Now no one can embarrass them because there's no such thing as human memory or web archiving.
— Damien Owens (@OwensDamien) June 27, 2016
The "leave" campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A few hours after the controversy was first sparked, a series of links were added to the top of the "thank you" page that linked to pre-campaign facts.
However, even before this update, it was still easy to find the pre-election version of the website, either cached on archives or through inventive online searching. The disputed promises are also widely available on other websites not linked to the campaign.
The controversy does show just how angry many British voters are about the "leave" campaign and its alleged misinformation. One particularly controversial claim can still be seen on archived versions of the campaign website homepage:
The UK's official EU budget is about £350 million a week. That’s about the same as the cost of building a new NHS hospital every week. We get less than half of this money back, and we have no control over how it’s spent — that’s decided by politicians and officials in Brussels, not the people we elect here.
That assertion was widely disputed long before last Thursday's vote. "It is demonstrably untrue," Sky News's Faisal Islam wrote at the start of June. "Or to put it another way, it is a lie." At most it was 276 million pounds ($365 million) a week, Islam argued, and even that came with all sorts of complicated caveats that made the "leave" campaign's argument look very shaky.
Despite this, the "leave" campaign made prominent use of this figure, even putting a slogan on a bus that suggested that 350 million pounds could be kept in the country to use on the health service after Britain left the E.U.
IDS denies he was ever associated with £350 million for NHS. Photo: Rob. Hutton pic.twitter.com/ulmhQmfyXP
— Andrew Richards (@andrewwr235) June 26, 2016
In the aftermath of the vote, a number of prominent pro-Brexit politicians have suggested they always knew that claim was not true. Iain Duncan Smith, the "leave" campaigner and former Conservative cabinet minister seen in front of the bus in the photograph above, said that the figure was always "an extrapolation."
Nigel Farage, who was not part of the official "leave" campaign but as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party was a key anti-E.U. voice in Britain, said in a televised interview Friday that anyone who voted on the strength of the 350-million-pound figure "made a mistake doing that."
However, as some social media users noticed, if the "leave" campaign really was trying to hide promises based on that figure, it was not doing a good job.
Hilarious: while the Vote Leave camp have deactivated their website, they've left the GIANT NHS bus image up. pic.twitter.com/xHeKvFTC2T
— Jo Eden (@ThatJoEden) June 27, 2016
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