As a result, when political focus groups are asked to shout out the first party slogan that comes to mind, people say: “Get Brexit done.”
It has resonated in the way that “Take back control” (thought to have been coined by Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings) did in the 2016 Brexit referendum, or the way that President Trump’s “Make America great again” was embraced by his base.
Johnson’s party is hoping that the catchphrase will encourage voters exhausted with Brexit to tick an X for Conservatives on Thursday. Polls have shown that the public is fed up with hearing about Brexit, day in and day out.
Leaving a polling station in southwest London on a drizzly Thursday morning, Kevin Wilson, 38, a programmer who voted to remain in the European Union, said he cast his ballot for Conservatives in this election in part because “I’m sick of hearing about Brexit.”
“It’s best for Parliament to get stuff done. If it’s a hung Parliament, there will be more years of wasting time,” he said.
The main opposition Labour Party’s position on Brexit is more nuanced, and while it’s easy enough to explain, it’s not a snappy sound bite.
Labour wants to renegotiate a Brexit deal with the European Union, and then put that deal before British voters in a second referendum within six months, with the option of remaining in the E.U. on the ballot. Labour has its own Brexit slogan — “Get Brexit sorted” — but its campaign is more closely associated with “Time for real change” and “For the many, not the few.”
Rob Ford, a politics professor at the University of Manchester, credited the Conservatives with “ruthless message discipline” in this election.
The strategy, Ford said, was to “relentlessly hammer home the same core points, on the assumption — probably accurate — that by the time every journalist in the Westminster village has heard them 1,000 times, that will be the first time that most voters have heard them.”
Simon Usherwood, a politics professor at the University of Surrey, said “Get Brexit done” has been successful because it was “clear, memorable” and “taps into that sense of frustration that others feel that this is dragging on and on.”
Usherwood noted that the phrase is “not inviting people to think about how it is done, or where it might lead, but really just to say: Let’s get this out of the way, and then we can think of all the other things.”
The Conservatives, he said, were trying to “speak to people’s core concern about moving Brexit along, without actually getting too tangled down in all the problems that their position actually involves.”
Indeed, while Conservatives have been fond of saying they will get Brexit done, they have been less keen to explain how exactly they will do that.
Even if Johnson wins a majority, there’s no guarantee that his Brexit deal will get a thumbs up by Parliament. If it does, then Britain simply moves into a transition period and complicated trade negotiations.
Johnson has said he will not extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020, leaving a year for Britain to negotiate a trade deal with the E.U.
“That looks, well, heroic,” Usherwood said. “They say it would be easy because the U.K. and E.U. have the same rules now. But that’s not the problem. The problem is what happens when the U.K. wants to have different rules, which is the whole point of the exercise.”
Michael Heseltine, a former deputy Conservative prime minister, told a rally in central London last week: “‘Get Brexit done’ — this is the greatest delusion of them all; a Tory majority simply opens the door to protracted negotiations.”
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, told the BBC on Wednesday that the phrase was the “biggest con of the election.”
“A more honest rendition would be, ‘Getting Brexit started,’” Tony Travers, a politics expert at the London School of Economics, said in an interview.
“We don’t know that much more about Brexit than we did before” the election, Travers said. He noted that there have been “impossible-to-follow” debates between politicians on whether there will be customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. “If people who are really interested in politics can’t work out the truth, whether papers are needed to move stuff backwards and forwards between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, you can see how remote we are from facts.”
One fact is clear: Whoever wins the election, the Conservatives or Labour, will be tasked with the next phase in Britain’s Brexit journey.
The Conservatives’ slogan is “all talk” said Ellie Medlock, 29, who works in events and on Thursday cast her ballot for the Liberal Democrats. “‘Get Brexit done,’ yeah, you can say it, but no one is going to follow through on that anytime soon. I think I will be well into my 30s before that happens.”