Why a ‘Brexit 50p’ is a PR disaster

Article by:Ilona Hitel


As part of the budget this week, it was announced that the treasury would be releasing a commemorative Brexit 50p coin on 29th March 2019 as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Having been campaigned for by The Sun, it reported the news as a victory for the paper. The coin, which will read, ‘Peace, Prosperity and Friendship with all Nations’ is described as ‘an enduring gesture to mark Brexit as a landmark national moment’.
No-one needs reminding of how the nation was and is split on Brexit, but from public reaction it looks like this coin has united us. That is, everyone’s queuing up to say what a terrible idea it is. Indeed, Remainer or Brexiteer, any comms professionals could have told you that a ‘Brexit 50p’ was, ironically for Philip Hammond, a gamble.

  • An alienated market

We need hardly remind you how the country is split on the topic of Brexit: with a narrow majority of 52% voting to leave the EU, there’s still 48% of the population who are far from agreeing with the decision. So, to commemorate Brexit with something that literally circulates the whole population shows a lack of awareness or sensitivity towards half of the UK government’s ‘market’ – in this case millions of people. That’s not to mention Leave voters who might view the Chancellor’s plan as a distasteful reminder of a divisive moment in the UK’s history.
Many people might (blamelessly) enjoy the Brexit coin – but the signs were all there that the number would be low enough to make a PR stunt of this kind fundamentally shaky.

  • The (lack of) timing

You have to think that Philip Hammond’s PR was off sick the day he coined (sorry) this idea. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it seems obvious that this ‘commemoration’ is undiplomatic and, indeed, could even negatively impact the British Government’s ongoing negotiations with the EU.Unsurprisingly, many took to Twitter to express their opinions on the topic. Charles Tammock MEP, highlighted the lack of foresight in Hammond’s announcement.

As politicians on both sides of the channel are working to negotiate optimal post-Brexit trade deals, insulting the other party mid-way through critical talks isn’t likely to improve outcomes for Britain. If you were hell-bent on a Brexit coin, why not just announce it after the 29th March?

  • The inevitable public ridicule:

Almost more notable than the announcement of the coin itself, is the mocking it has received on social media – many new outlets, such as The Guardian, have covered public outcry as a story in itself.With so many members of the public offering their own designs for how the new 50p should look, it was actually difficult to find the official design amongst the numerous suggestions offered by quick-witted Twitter users. Here are a few of our favourites:Public conversation around currency tends to focus on the lack of diversity and representation on British notes and coins. Instead of diverting resources to tackling this issue and scoring some much-needed PR points, Hammond and co. have scored a PR own goal. Or rather, millions of them.


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