After months of, at times, rancorous debate Great Britain is in its final stages on the referendum on whether to stay in the European Union (EU) scheduled on 23 June 2016. The Remain camp has massive advantages with the bulk of the political, trade union and City establishment backing the case to stay in but they have failed to “seal the deal” with the British electorate to date.
Prime Minister Cameron has pursued a similar strategy to the Scottish Independence referendum campaign, with a focus on the economic risks of leaving the EU, known to its critics as Project Fear. The Treasury, Bank of England and the major finance houses have all piled in with dire warnings of the impact of a Brexit vote with little or no impact on the opinion polls. If anything, the general public, if the current opinion polls are correct, are increasingly leaning towards Brexit.
In my opinion the major reason why the Remain camp are not doing as well in the polls as expected is primarily over-egging the economic risks of leaving in the EU. When the Prime Minister warns of World War 3 or a global recession if Britain votes to leave he damages his main asset; his credibility. The Remain camp are right to raise the risks of leaving the EU but it should be done in a balanced way which doesn’t insult the intelligence of the British public.
In my last commentary on the Brexit campaign, I noted that the addition of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson gave the Leave side a fighting chance of winning the referendum. Although Boris has had a troubled campaign to date, Michael Gove’s impressive performance during the recent studio debate shows what a strong asset he is to the Leave camp. Gove brings a seriousness and intellectual credibility to the Leave argument which may prove critical in persuading Tory-leaning floating voters to voting Out.
If the referendum campaign was a marathon then the Remain camp was supposed to out-sprint the Brexiteers doing the months when the full force of the Government machinery could be utilised to bombard the British public of the dire risks of leaving the EU. The Leave camp have survived this most deadly phase of the campaign with their support base intact.
Now, the Leave camp have started to utilise their trump card, immigration, in the final weeks of the campaign. Immigration has regularly appeared as one of the biggest concerns of the public for years and the majority of voters think that voting to leave the EU will help Britain control the flows of EU migrants into the UK.
Whilst the international refugee crisis has been relatively quiet over the past few months, now that the seas are warming up, we are starting to see thousands cross the Mediterranean every day from the shores of Libya. These pictures are being beamed into millions of British homes every night. Should ISIS succeed in attacking Euro 2016 in the coming weeks this could also have a major impact on the campaign.
Ultimately, the result will come down to the perceived economic risks of leaving the EU versus the cultural identity and security concerns of staying within a club which will allow unprecedented future migration into the country. Which is considered a more vital issue for the floating centrist voter will decide the outcome.
It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty how the public will vote on 23 June 2016 and both sides have a fighting chance of winning the referendum as we stand. I would not be surprised however if we wake up on the 24th June to discover that a slim majority have voted to leave out of a determination to gain control of Britain’s borders and its future.