But there are many others who have worked behind the scenes to push the same agenda. Some of them, like Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings, are seasoned political operators. Others, like Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon are from the furthest fringes of the extreme right.
Many of the false arguments used to attack the EU centred on “bureaucracy” and “red tape”. Tory MPs have suggested drawing up a list of regulations they want to scrap, and as Theresa May prepared to trigger Article 50, the right-wing press urged her to “to set the country free from the shackles of Brussels”. Iain Duncan Smith pressed her to “whittle away” EU rules to remove the “burden” on business and Nigel Lawson suggested she “transform the British economy” by cutting “massive” numbers of EU regulations.
Interestingly, however, representatives of industrial sectors themselves – including pharmaceuticals, automotive, and chemicals – have made it clear that they would like to continue within the EU regulatory framework after Brexit, as leaving it would make trade far more complicated and costly for them.
When asked which regulations they would like to see scrapped, people who voted for Brexit often find it impossible to name one. Which is not surprising, as the idea of EU “red tape” is essentially a myth. The reality is that such legislation provides strong environmental protections, the highest food safety standards in the world and often also counteracts the power of global corporations. Many are laws that we can ill afford to lose.
So who has been driving the agenda for a bonfire of regulations? Often, they are free-market ideologues who are not themselves involved in industry. And these co-conspirators have a clearly identifiable home at 55 Tufton Street. This was the original HQ of Vote Leave before it moved to larger premises, and also houses neo-liberal lobby groups and think tanks including Business for Britain, Civitas, UK2020 and the TaxPayers Alliance (the latter led by Matthew Elliott until he left to head up Vote Leave).
Also based at 55 Tufton Street is the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate denial front organisation chaired by leading Brexiter Nigel Lawson. Climate change denialists and the fossil fuel lobby played a big part in the Brexit campaign – unsurprisingly, because the EU has led on plans to tackle climate change, as crystallised in the Paris Agreement.
This is an alliance of pyro-technicians intent on burning regulations that have kept us safe for the past 40 years in a wide range of areas.
The men holding matches to the kindling include: