BBC delayed Brexit vote announcement, says David Dimbleby

David Dimbleby has revealed the BBC held him back from making his momentous Brexit vote announcement — even after the result became patently clear — before he eventually decided at the last minute how to declare it.

The former political presenter said he had not prepared how he would reveal the historic news, despite knowing which way the referendum had gone for most of the night.

Dimbleby said the BBC had made detailed studies of how voting had to go in each constituency for leave to win, and it became obvious what the outcome was well before his bosses allowed it to be broadcast.

Eventually, Dimbleby annnounced: “Well at 20 minutes to five, we can now say the decision taken in 1975 by this country to join the Common Market has been reversed by this referendum to leave the EU, and that’s the result of this referendum which has been preceded by weeks and months of argument and dispute and all the rest of it.

“The British people have spoken and the answer is: ‘We’re out’.”

Speaking now about those famous words, he said: “The BBC, very fastidious about any results of a democratic vote, they wait until it’s absolutely impossible for it to be wrong.

“And they kept us waiting. We had this whole chart of the whole country, every constituency, showing which way it had to go if it was to be pro Remain or pro Leave, and it was perfectly obvious what was happening.

“But John Curtice [the BBC’s election specialist] wouldn’t allow us to say for certainty.

“And when it came I didn’t know what I was going to say really. I hadn’t thought about it.

“I kept talking from the thing to the director saying ‘Can’t we say it now, come on, it’s four in the morning for God’s sake, it’s perfectly obvious what’s happening?’

” ‘No, no, just hang on, just hang on’.”

A pro-Brexit supporter letting his feelings over the vote be known three years after the vote in 2016

A pro-Brexit supporter letting his feelings over the vote be known three years after the result – Getty Images/Kiran Ridley

But it was only shortly before he did get the go-ahead that Dimbleby came up with the words to describe the result.

He said in a special interview for the latest The News Agents podcast: “I suddenly thought ‘Oh boy, I better say something because this is a big moment’.  I can’t just say ‘Oh well, the vote’s gone this way’.

“And I then suddenly remembered I’d done the ‘75 referendum, when we went into the Common Market as it was, and I just scribbled down a little note to myself and ‘that’s it, we’re out’.  Because that’s what it was, we’re out, you know we’d voted to leave the EU.”

He said criticism that his announcement wording “produced a moment of finality” when it was just the start of the negotiating process was unjust.

Referencing the phrase used by Brexiteers at the time, he said “What Brexit means Brexit you mean”.

Told we weren’t out the next morning and maybe he’d used the wrong emphasis, he replied: “It’s a quibble – nah, nah, that’s rubbish.”

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