Thursday 23rd June is set to be one of the most hotly-anticipated and controversial days in British political history, as UK citizens vote in a referendum to decide whether or not they wish to remain a member of the European Union. The referendum – promised by Prime Minister David Cameron in his 2015 election manifesto – has now entered the final stages of campaigning. As both the ‘in’ camp, led by Britain Stronger in Europe, and their opponents Vote Leave ramp up the pressure it is still almost impossible to predict a clear winner.
As the date of the EU referendum in the UK draws ever closer, the latest polls are putting the two opponents almost neck and neck – with some polls even indicating the vote is equally split between the leave and remain sides. The intensity of the arguments from both sides have increased as judgement day looms nearer and both sides have accused the other of scaremongering to attempt to sway the electorate one way or the other.
The main thrust of the Remain campaign, is that the UK will remain stronger and more prosperous as member of the EU, countered by Brexit claims that EU membership is restrictive and over bearing – threatening British sovereignty – and that the UK would be much stronger as a standalone nation.
As one can imagine, the whole debate has become very emotively-driven as both sides appeal to voters’ emotions over the key issues on the table; the economy, immigration, sovereignty, security, and trade. These issues are at the heart of the arguments on either side and it can prove difficult to distil the facts from the debate as the campaigns take pot-shots at each other over conflicting statistics. There has been no shortage of controversy, especially after £9m of taxpayers’ money was used to fund a leafletting campaign outlining the government’s view on the referendum.
Britain Stronger in Europe has focused heavily on economic issues, in particular how the UK’s exports and economy could suffer in the wake of uncertainty after a “No” vote. A Treasury report estimated that each UK household would be £4,300 worse off by 2030 in the event of Brexit and that Britain would be ‘permanently poorer’. Vote Leave, on the other hand, have based their arguments around the lack of control they perceive the UK to have as part of the EU, whether that be physical controls on immigration, or democratic controls over EU laws and policy-making.
Essentially, the electorate faces a choice between the status quo, or a leap of faith into the unknown.