James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

This site has been covering the big moments that defined the long campaign to leave the EU – celebrating those deserving credit for delivering victory

But there are a number of people whose actions against the leave campaign inadvertently paved the way for Britain’s exit. Watching Leo Varadkar bash Britain for his own understandable electoral reasons – with serious strategic consequences for Ireland resulting from the corresponding English backlash – shows why this group is worth thinking about. I name six players.

  • David Cameron.There was no public pressure for a referendum before it was called. Yes, UKIP won significant but small shares of the vote in many constituencies in 2010 and 2015 which cost the Conservatives seats. But anyone speaking to these UKIP voters even briefly understood they were primarily driven by concerns over immigration – not Europe. Often, immigration and EU membership weren’t even linked in their minds. By promising a referendum, Cameron launched UKIP to the masses and put Europe on to the agenda in a way it had never been. This was a terrible unforced error. Compounding it, he then messed up the “deal” with the EU at the start of the campaign – failing to sufficiently change the non-contributory aspect of the welfare state for non-British nationals. This meant that the end result was always likely to be at least tight.
  • Barack Obama. Obama’s trip to the UK was going well. He spoke as a friend and strategic partner. But at a press conference with Cameron, in apparently unscripted comments, he uttered those words “back of the queue” – regarding Britain’s access to a potential trade deal. Rightly or wrongly, the English just hate this sort of thing – they detest implied or explicit threats – and they responded accordingly. Vote Leave are said to have been inundated with small donations after Obama’s pointless comment (which has been shown not to be true) and the campaign got a much needed boost at an important time. Said to have been encouraged by the British side, it was an act of stupidity.
  • George Osborne. Osborne never wanted a referendum. And you can’t have too many complaints about the principles of the so-called Project Fear campaign. This is what campaigns do. It was perfectly reasonable to make the case the UK would be poorer outside the EU. But the suggestion that we would be in recession immediately after a Leave vote – although, it was slightly unclear as to what “immediate” meant – ultimately shredded the credibility of Remainers’ claims about the impact of leaving without a deal. It’d be unfair to say this was an Osborne unforced error, but there’s no doubt that the decision to ramp up fear had serious consequences after the vote.
  • The Electoral Commission. Whether you can pin its errors on a particular person, others will be better placed to judge. But the decision to go after Darren Grimes, while not a major story for the public, massively strengthened eurosceptic determination at a time when the campaign was flailing. Going after Grimes looked unfair, petty and hyper-aggressive. Coming as it did with Gina Miller’s litigation, the Grimes case persuaded pro-Leave veterans that they had to get serious about things. It turned what had become a disparate movement back into a more focused, harder-edged campaign. It had been basically assuming that things would turn out fine until this point.
  • Leo Varadkar. The Irish PM’s endlessly confrontational approach looked to have been chiefly directed at voters at home who might peel off to other parties. You can’t particularly blame a politician for that, although many in the UK media ignored this straightforward electoral reality – as if somehow Varadkar was a latter-day Kissinger. Ireland’s current election polls suggest that his tactic didn’t work in the long-term, but his comments cut through to the British public. As I note above in relation to Obama, the English can’t stand anything that looks like intimidation (Varadkar’s Irishness is irrelevant on this. I’ve never heard anyone in groups raise this point). He was arguably the person that most shifted the English electorate towards “no deal”.
  • Lady Hale. The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down prorogation completely changed the game on Brexit. It made the country take Boris Johnson seriously as a politician for the first time, and it Leave voters unite behind him, killing off Farage’s Brexit Party in the process. Conducting focus groups shortly after the decision, it was extraordinary how prorogation really persuaded the public that Johnson’s Conservatives were serious about Brexit – and could therefore be trusted on it. Lady Hale was the face of the decision and therefore carries most responsibility for the change in public attitudes. She paved the way for the final act.
  • Jeremy Corbyn. The country was divided on Brexit and remains so. Had there been a second referendum, it would surely have been close. A number of Vote Leave veterans believe that a second referendum would have delivered a landslide on a “People v Politicians” basis; I am doubtful. So when Jeremt Corbyn finally accepted the Conservative challenge and agreed to hold a general election, it offered the best possible path to exit. All of a sudden, the Conservatives got to hold what was essentially a referendum on who should be Prime Minister – and it was supremely unlikely that the voters would chose Corbyn. As conventional party politics took centre stage again, the country was more united than it had been in years – and the Government was able to claim it was getting Brexit done. What a journey.