If the polls this morning are anything to go by, the momentum for Brexit is building: an ITV poll for Good Morning Britain shows 45 per cent of voters planning on voting out, compared to 41 per cent who wanted the UK to remain in the EU. The poll is significant because it shows that in the purdah period in the final run-up to the referendum on June 23rd, the ‘Leave’ campaign’s support is growing. What’s more, a separate poll survey by TNS showed ‘Leave’ on 43 per cent compared to 41 per cent backing ‘Remain’.
The figures, based on a survey carried out last week, are also important because they reflect what was, by all accounts, a good week for those campaigning for Brexit: Michael Gove was widely praised for his performance in the Sky debate. Whilst in his TV appearance, David Cameron came under fire over the ‘Project Fear’ tactics used by the Government. As James Forsyth says, even cabinet ministers admitted that those campaigning for Brexit were on the front foot last week. But the key question is whether they can capitalise on these gains. There are 17 days to go until poll day on June 23rd: plenty of time for either side to blow it or, indeed, win it amongst that crucial group of undecided voters. So how will the week play out in the EU referendum debate?
David Cameron will again appear alongside some unlikely allies after last week teaming up with Sadiq Khan in his warnings about Brexit. Today, he’ll make the case for ‘Remain’ alongside Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett. He’ll be hoping that this cross-party support cuts through in the minds of voters and helps to shift this referendum away being seen as a referendum on the Government’s performance. In calling on ‘Leave’ to again spell out its economic case for life outside the EU, they’ll also be stepping up their focus on what they hope will be the single factor which persuades voters when they head to the ballot box: will a vote for out hit me in the pocket? Specifically, their branding of the ‘Leave’ campaign as perpetuating an ‘economic con-trick’ could prove powerful. But given the questions and controversy surrounding the Treasury’s own disputed warnings over Brexit, there’s a danger that sort of language could come back to bite them.
Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson won’t be dancing to the PM’s tune by highlighting that economic case. Instead, he’ll go on the attack today by making a speech in which he will say that Britain will be ‘forced’ to hand over more money if we stay put in the EU. Vote Leave are basing this claim on an apparent blackhole in European Union finances. Although ‘Remain’ will counter this by saying the UK does have a veto over long-term changes to the EU budget, there’s still a chance that this sort of warning will prove powerful. This might be an imitation of ‘Project Fear’ but with momentum for Brexit appearing to build, at least if the polls are anything to go by, ‘Leave’ will be hoping they can use this argument to continue to gain support. And with the public appearing to now favour Brexit, even if only by a small margin, it looks more and more likely that this EU referendum will go right to the wire.
The latest poll out this morning from ICM also puts ‘Leave’ in front, with 48 per cent of the vote, compared to 43 per cent for ‘Remain’. This indicates that one per cent of people have shifted towards backing Brexit since the last poll was carried out at the end of May. The number of ‘Don’t Know’s’ in this poll remains the same as before at nine per cent – again showing just how important the next fortnight will be for winning over those who haven’t made their minds up.
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