UK, Brexit, EU, Brussels

Countdown to Brexit: Polls predict Leave campaign wins

REUTERS/Russell Boyce

As the campaign for and against Britain leaving the European Union enters its last week, opinion polls show the Leave campaign out in front and increasing its lead. Unsual  alliances have been formed in the Brexit debate.


Since last February there have been over 30 opinion polls and many - but not all - of them predict that the Brexit vote will win.

The latest poll, giving it a seven-point lead, has plunged the Remain campaign in panic.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has spoken in favour of staying, as did former prime minister Gordon Brown, also a Labour man.

They have found themselves allied with current Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative.

“You cannot succeed in securing financial stability or dealing with pollution” ouside the EU, Corbyn said, adding that the EU is “not the core of the problem” but may be “part of the solution.” Brown warned that Britain’s image may be tarnished internationally when it “decide[s] to walk away from our nearest neighbours.”

Leave hits back

The Leave campaign was quick to react.

“I can tell that the other side, the Remain side is a little bit rattled,” mocked Boris Johnson, the Tory ex-mayor of London. “They had a relaunch and they decided to use Gordon Brown ... they are resorting to more and more scare stories, more and more misery, more and more discussion about the end of civilisation again. Do we believe this fear mongering?”

In February Cameron negotiated with EU leaders during a summit in Brussels and claimed he won important concessions that were enough to silence the anti-EU critics. One of them was Britain’s refusal to pay for childcare for immigrant children.

And on 14 June the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg decided to support Britain’s refusal to give child aid to refugees. The timing of the ruling may not be a coincidence.

“From a legal point of view law is above politics,” says John Barry, a political scientist with Queens University in Belfast.

“So it may be presented by the Leave campaign as a political decision, [but] I have no evidence that the judges who come to this decision made it for political expediency.”

The Remain and Leave campaigns both contain some strange bedfellows.

“The Leave campaign brings together extreme right-wing parties, like Ukip, right-wing members of the Tory party - Boris Johnson, Michael Gove - but also some left-wing people, for example the Communist Party of Britain," says Barry. "Many left-wing social activists are arguing to leave.

“But at the same time you've also got the Labour Party, Gordon Brown, Social Democrats, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Scottish Nationalist Party, Alex Salmon, but also with David Cameron, arguing in favor of Remain.”

Meanwhile, EU critics are happy with the latest poll results.

“This is what we are expecting,” says Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group, a Thatcherite thinktank.

“It is not logical that Britain is in the EU. We don't fit, we don't to be a part of a political union, we know it is an enormous cost, we want to run our own country,” he says, adding that Brits don’t want to have decisions made by what he calls “the undemocratic European Commission and the un-accountable European Court of Justice".

“We don't want this, we want to run our own country, we want to be an independent country,” he adds.

Polemics aside, the Leave campaign seems to better appeal to public feelings.

“The main message for the Leave campaign is immigration,” says Barry. “It is very simple, we may disagree with it, and say it is right-wing, it is racist and so on. But from a political communications point of view it is extremely effective and it does relate to an issue that people feel strongly about.”

The Remain campaign has yet to find a simple message, he points out. "Their main argument is repeating that it will be a disaster if the UK leaves the Union. But I think this is wearing thin.”

A group of academics published a letter in theDaily Telegraph on 14 June, criticising both sides of the campaign for distorting the facts.

“The referendum question that people will faces on 23 June is about a very complex reality [but] will be boiled down to 'are you for staying or leaving the European Union'," says Barry, one of the signatories of the open letter.

"For example the Leave campaign talking about 150 million pounds a week that the UK is sending to Europe, which is factually incorrect. But also in the Remain campaign over exaggerating the job losses and economic impact of leaving.”

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