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NEWS 22 Jun 16

‘Remain’ Camp Confident on Eve of UK Poll

An MP’s murder and a stream of endorsements of the EU by businessmen and celebrities have handed the initiative back to the ‘Remain’ team in the UK referendum.

Marcus Tanner
BIRN
London
Photo: Youtube.

Hours before the historic “in-out” vote on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union on June 23, polls showed voters swinging back into the “Remain” camp after a week in which they had appeared to losing the argument.

Early last week, four polls all showed voters heading towards “Exit” door by a margin of between 1 and 10 per cent. However, the murder last Thursday of a popular MP by a far-right extremist, plus a stream of endorsements of EU membership from business people and celebrities, including football legend David Beckham, appeared to push a significant number of undecided voters into the pro-EU camp.

However, the murder last Thursday of a popular MP by a far-right extremist, plus a stream of endorsements of EU membership from business people and celebrities, including football legend David Beckham, appeared to push a significant number of undecided voters into the pro-EU camp.

The first blow to the Exit campaign was last Thursday’s killing of Labour MP Jo Cox in her northern English constituency.

Her killer, an unemployed 52-year-old gardener, clearly had mental problems; Thomas Mair gave his name to the courts as “Death to Traitors”.

However, the killing silenced the campaign for two valuable days – at a point when the “Brexit” camp was in the lead – and gave the Remain camp an opportunity to accuse its opponents of stirring up unacceptable passions.

When the campaign restarted on Sunday, new polls suggested that the Exit campaign had lost its former lead and that a narrow majority of voters now backed staying in the EU.

The latest telephone poll published by the BBC showed “Remain” in the lead with 45 per cent, “Leave” on 44 per cent and “Don’t knows” on 11 per cent.

Since Sunday, the Remain team has pulled of more coups, including an open letter signed by hundreds of leading figures in the business community, plus a ringing endorsement from sports star David Beckham.

Beckham’s backing for the EU side is a notable victory for the Remain team, as unlike some other celebrities, Beckham has unimpeachable patriotic credentials and is a regular fixture at national and royal occasions.

Having played a lead role in the UK Olympics and in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, among other events, his views are likely to carry weight with the kind of “flag-wavers” who might not otherwise be persuaded by celebrity pronouncements.

In growing expectation of a Remain victory, the UK currency, the pound, has already rallied on the markets.

A victory by the Remain campaign will end a period of chronic uncertainty in the UK and in Europe over Britain’s course, and will also end the immediate threat to the political future of the Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, David Cameron.

However, if the Remain camp wins by a narrow margin, there are concerns that the argument in Britain over its European future will only have been stilled, not silenced.

Many fear a repeat version of the Scottish independence referendum result, which pro-UK unionists won, but not by a convincing enough margin to resolve the discussion.

If the Exit camp notches up close to 44-5 per cent of the vote, which would match the latest BBC poll, few expect anti-EU campaigners to retire gracefully from the scene, either.

Moreover, the latest polls could be wrong. In the last general election in the UK, pollsters consistently underestimated support for the Conservative Party and overestimated support for the Labour Party. This has prompted experts and pundits to identify the phenomenon of so-called “shy Tories [right-wingers]” who conceal their right-wing views from the media and so make accurate polling difficult. All will become clear later this week.

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