The Remain camp needs some new faces, and quickly

Craig Harrison writes for us about the upcoming EU referendum on 23rd June

If the latest polls on the EU referendum are anything to go by, then what seemed like a sure thing just a few months ago is now much less certain.

Figures from an online survey by Opinium, published by The Guardian at the beginning of April, put the Leave side on 43% – four points ahead of Remain.

While we are, rightly, much more sceptical about polls after the 2015 General Election; and while 18% of respondents in the Opinium poll were undecided, and thus unaccounted for; the results are still worrying for the Remain campaign.

Ever since talk of a referendum really gained momentum last year, ‘Inners’ across the UK have been sure that they’d win whenever the day eventually came. Now the date is set for 23 June, and all of a sudden they’re no longer very confident.

One of the problems is the man at the centre of the campaign to stay in the EU: Mr. David Cameron.

Almost since the get-go, Mr. Cameron has stumbled from one issue or crisis to the next – and while none of them have had anything to do with the European Union, his arguments for staying in are guilty by association.

Look at the last two months. His government launched a new Budget, proposing cuts to disability benefits and lower taxes for high-earners – resulting in a high-profile Cabinet resignation and a backbench revolt.

Mr. Cameron was then caught up in the Panama Papers scandal, dealing clumsily with accusations that he had been involved with off-shore dealings, to much public scorn.

These examples aren’t related to the EU, but they’ve hurt the man arguing loudest for an ‘In’ vote, and this is problematic.

The equation is one well known to the Cameron camp: the further into his regime we get, and the more controversy he gets caught up in, the more June’s vote becomes a referendum on his leadership instead of the UK’s place in the EU.

It’s all about optics. The Remain campaign is guilty by association with a Prime Minister seen to be failing.

This is all, arguably, alluded to by a senior source in the Vote Leave group, who is quoted in The Observer saying: “Six months ago I didn’t really think we had much chance of winning. But if things go our way, there is a chance, I think. And things really are going our way at the moment”.

So the Remain camp needs some new, less tarnished faces. President Obama’s visit to the UK on 22 April – when he is expected to deliver a statement in favour of the UK staying in the EU – will help.

As will an imminent intervention from Gordon Brown, who helped the case for maintaining the Union when delivering a passionate speech during Scotland’s independence vote.

But still more is needed. June’s vote has been described as one of the most important political events in a generation, and those in the Remain camp must get away from such close association with a Prime Minister who, for the moment anyway, is doing it more harm than good.

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  • chrisjones2

    Some viable arguments to remain might help too …. the last week has been disastrous for Remain and wheeling Obama in, to explain how important it is (for major US corporations) for us to stay embedded in Europe where they can keep jobs in low tax counties like Ireland and still sell us stuff, ant really going to cut it.

  • Ulick

    “If the latest polls on the EU referendum are anything to go by, then
    what seemed like a sure thing just a few months ago is now much less

    Did this blog get caught up in the Slugger fax machine?

    Mon 18th Apr: EU referendum: Remain nearly 10 percentage points ahead of Brexit camp, poll says(

    Wed 20 Apr: British support for staying in EU rises 3 percent points to 38 percent – TNS Poll (

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well spotted Ulick – and I’d add if you separate out phone polls from online, the phone ones tend to have a consistent lead for Remain.

    I do think it will be close though. The thing that gives me most cause for concern is relative turnout – I think the Leave brigade have two advantages there:
    – they skew quite heavily towards the older, more of whom actually place their vote
    – for a good number of them, this is issue No1, they are super-motivated to vote.
    The latter was the case with the Yes crowd in Scotland in 2014, but at least then the No campaign balanced it out by being stronger with older voters.

    I worry too that Labour voters won’t vote in anything like the numbers Tories will, due to the Labour party upper echelon’s apparent apathy over the issue. I think a further small factor will be a good chunk of non-Corbyn Labour people (tending to be educated, active and pro-EU) having been switched off from the party, not feeling like answering the call to go out and campaign. If indeed there is a call.

  • Nevin

    The Brexit poll tracker illustrates a steady slide downwards by the ‘inners’ whilst the ‘outers’ have been unable to make inroads; the ‘don’t knows’ could well clinch it.

    Craig highlights the contribution made by David Cameron yet ignores those of the elder ‘statesmen’ such as Jeremy Corbyn and Gerry Adams, in an unlikely ‘gang of three’.

  • Cavehill

    I am still confident of a remain win. Polling online shows a narrow result, but phone polling, which had the best results in 2015 shows remain out in front.

  • Ernekid

    Northern Ireland and Scotland will vote Remain. What England does is another matter entirely.

  • On the fence!

    Agreed, very little to do with “faces” in my opinion and more to do with reasons to leave vs reasons to remain.

    Remain seems totally based on finances, most of which are pure speculation anyway, while leave goes down the route of sovereignty, free trade, immigration, governance, etc, etc, which may also be speculation but “remain” make no effort to confront them giving “leave” a free score every time.

    All that having been said, I do not expect the announced result to be anything other than a “remain” victory.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Remain needs a lot more bonkers loudmouths with extreme views … Jeremey Clarkson is radically outnumbered by the Leave side.

  • WindowLean

    Poor Wales!

  • WindowLean

    Gordon Brown?? Jesus wept…I thought Eddie Izzard was bad!

  • StevieG

    This is genuinely the first time in a long time in some vote where I am completely undecided.
    I am looking to get informed, but at this stage in the EU’s existence, noone really knows anything of what the EU is for, and how to articulate the benefits over what it costs. I really do not know. It is not a federation; it is not a fiscal union. Who (in significant numbers) genuinely cares about the political institutions, and those who maybe know more of the structure, really believes it offers any democratic credence rather than being a chamber where…well I’m not really sure what it does (some analogies with here I guess can be drawn) and decisions are made in the Commission/Council with little regard to representative views (not that I attach much to this anyway). The ECB showed its total ineffectiveness around rebalancing the distribution of influence and financial power from 2008 onwards, and could be said to have exacerbated the situation in Ireland, Greece and Portugal based on German influence. I really know little of the CoJ.
    So, what would make me vote to remain…certainly not those ‘leaders’ advocating a yes, and if we were part of the Monetary Union, we could not leave. I have no clear answer. Oh, and Michael Gove/Boris Johnstone
    What would make be vote to leave…the cost, and belief that it offers very little today.
    Overall, if we were to advocate greater federation, and were a fiscal union, and make this a priority, I would supprt a remain. This will not happen though so what is the EU for in 2016? It is anachronistic. We have a democaritsation (more and more) of knowledge and comms through the internet, so the political need for it and the UK membership seem tenuous.
    Overall, I am (today) leaning to a leave as I see the cost probably outweighs the benefit.

  • chrisjones2

    Its very close. The problem with the polls is that older voters are more likely to bother voting and have a bias to leave so I suspect the polls are skewed toward remain. My won feeling is that the decision will come down to +/- 5% either way and I think it may be to go

    There is also the issue that there are 2 monthys to run and the Euro looks in trouble again. So lots of time for a sudden shift politically

  • On the fence!

    You’ll notice I said “announced” result.

    We won’t be allowed to leave, too many powerful people want things to stay as they are.

    I think true public opinion will be immaterial.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Whilst I can see the problem with Cameron not being a particularly convincing leader of the Remain side, I have to say if it comes down to ‘ guilt by association ‘ then the Brexit side aren’t looking too good.

    Not only do they have a bunch of lightweight no marks such as Gove, Johnson, IDS, Farage, Hoey, Botham, Bannatine and Michael Caine supporting them but the BNP and Marine Le Pen of the French National Front are on their side.

    The ‘pie in the sky’ delusion as to how easy it will be to renegotiate trade agreements after leaving the EU is simply ridiculous.

    Once out we become a trade competitor, why would that be in our favour?

    Tariffs would be imposed and add at least 10% to the price of any car we build and export to Europe.

    Any agreement to apply a quid pro quo would need to be agreed by all 27 remaining EU countries, some of whom would have very good commercial reasons not to do so in the interest of their countries.

    This particular older voter isn’t convinced with all this ‘brave new world’ jingoistic clap trap and is concerned as to the future for children and grandchildren.

    Not having to go to war against another European country, unlike the previous two generations of my family, has had a surprisingly positive effect on my outlook.

    I wish the same situation for my grandchildren.

  • Roger

    Wasn’t it annexed into England centuries ago?

  • Roger

    … but at this stage in the EU’s existence, noone really knows anything of what the EU is for…

    the three “Fs”:
    free movement of goods and services
    free movement of capital
    free movement of people….yes people…maybe that’s the tricky one.

  • Angry Mob

    There are equally odious people on both sides of the argument but that’s more a reason to ignore both official campaigns as they have both have descended into the lowest common denominator style of of campaigning where sound bites matter more than the actual facts.

    Indeed I will be voting to leave in spite of the Vote Leave campaign, not because of it.

    Whilst Vote Leave have very little grounding in reality the greatest flaw of the BSE and remain camp is using the worst case scenario as the basis for leaving, indeed you fall foul to this fallacy. The most pragmatic solution is the EFTA route where we would join Norway and retain access to the single market where there would be no trade tariffs like you mention.

  • Anglo-Irish

    ‘ Join Norway and retain access to the single market. ‘

    Couple of points.

    Firstly, per capita Norway is the tenth largest net contributor to the EU budget. As there are currently 28 countries that are members of the EU that is not an insignificant contribution.

    Secondly, the ‘Norway option’ would leave us in a position whereby we would still pick up 94% of the costs with no input into influencing future legislation.

    When the left wing Guardian and right wing Telegraph and Cameron and Corbyn agree about something maybe it’s worth taking a little more time for deliberation?

    You’re right about odious people mind you. Jeremy Clarkson has given his support to the Remain side and I can’t stand the dickhead.

  • Angry Mob

    Given that there are more net beneficiaries than contributors being tenth isn’t really that amazing a statistic, especially when you consider Norway is the richest country in Europe based on GDP; it would be paying significantly more than it is now were it inside the EU.

    This site breaks it down fairly well.

    As for Open Europe the figure is 94% of the current costs of current EU regulations. Ignoring OE dubious history I’d think 6% is a good initial reduction which would equate to a ~1.9bn saving. Given time this would be further reduced as unsuitable EU legislation is repealed.

    As for no say, it’s one of the worst myths perpetuated through this campaign. Anyone who says this must concede that even if Norway’s role is limited to consultation at the early stages of forming the single market rules that it cannot be said that Norway has “no say”. This however ignores the fact that Norway has more power than mere consultation such as veto rights and the fact that it represents itself at various international organisations who now make the bulk of legislation, which Norway has a direct say on before its handed down to the EU for implementation within the single market.

    So in reality, less pay and more say.

  • Angry Mob

    It’s actually the four ‘freedoms’.

    Just a pity there wasn’t a fifth for the freedom of sovereign nations.

    In Norway during their various referendums on joining the EU one of the lead campaigners key questions was something along the lines of “If the EU is the solution, what is the problem?”

    There is nothing that we could not achieve without EU political union through bodies that already exist such as NATO, UNECE, WTO etc.

  • Roger

    what was the fourth freedom, the one I missed out?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Norway is not a comparable model for GB in the Brexit argument. As you say it is the richest country in Europe and is self sufficient in energy.

    Britain has an enormous amount of debt which is increasing at a rate of over £300,000 per minute, it is dependent on external energy supply and has a poor productivity rate in comparison with other European nations.

    It is also South East biased and more dependent upon service industries than manufacturing.

    The fact is that neither those in favour of in, nor those wanting out really know what the result of either decision will be.

    The Brexit campaign is based far too much on wishful thinking for my liking.

    Yes, if everything went according to plans, dreams and wishful thinking it would be wonderful, how likely is that?

    Even the Brexit camp admit that we need to be in some form of trading alliance.

    Not even the most jingoistic among them are claiming that we can go it alone.

    So they accept we need to be in one of the five international trading blocks.

    They appear to be wanting that bloc to be the EU, but think that we can leave and then negotiate a better deal than we currently have as a member state?

    I’m not convinced, and if I was one of the remaining EU members with major influence I’d make it clear to everyone concerned that leaving the union was a bad idea by doing everything in my power to ensure advantage to EU members in any future negotiations with the state that chose to leave.

    Anyway, I’m off to the Lakes for the weekend so any response will have to wait a while. : )

  • Mer Curial

    I have to agree with on the fence.

    In the event of the majority voting to leave, the result will be fixed.

    There’s a widespread belief on the ground these days that Fianna Fail fixed the result of the 2nd Lisbon referendum, which is pretty par for the course from the mafia party of the Irish state.

  • Angry Mob

    You listed them all but goods and services are separate freedoms.

  • Roger

    Would I be right in thinking “Services” was added in decades after the first 3 Fs?

  • Angry Mob

    Those points you make are no more arguments to remain either but they do show not only can countries survive outside political EU but they thrive; nor do they exclude us opting for the EFTA solution.

    Iceland also has a higher debt than the UK but manages and Switzerland has high energy dependence on imports.

    The EFTA option means that we would not be negotiating a new deal from scratch but opting for an off the peg solution that already exists and is readily available to us if we choose to take that path. This would give us access to the single market and the freedoms it entails including goods and services which the SE so craves. No jingoism or wishful thinking needed, just pragmatism.

    There is very little the EU-27 would actually be able to do to actually punish us that would not equally disadvantage themselves. I found this article interesting as well regarding Sweden’s willingness to follow the UK where it to leave which would do more for ‘reform’ in the EU than were we to stay.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What a pity we can’t have a don’t know box to show up the farce of “Project Fear” as worked by both camps for what it is.

  • Nevin


  • Kenneth Armstrong

    It is a pity more ‘older voters’ didn’t hold your balanced view point. Far too many are voicing retro views about how we could return to the world as it was pre-1975. Even those from rural areas who should know about EU farm subsidies have been brain-washed into believing they will still be available irrespective of Brexit?

  • Anglo-Irish

    I’m afraid some older people- but thankfully not all – get a little carried away with ‘The good old days ‘ recollections, which were not as accurate or as good as their selective memory recalls.

    There is strength in numbers and if you wish to take part in a team you can’t expect to get your own way all the time.

    I look at our present leaders and have no confidence whatsoever that they possess the qualities required to transform an aging population with low productivity and massive debt into some kind of dynamic, go getting capitalist wonderland.

    The idea that it is only the EU preventing such a nirvana existing at present, and that once free of the burden imposed by Brussels we will prosper as we did in days of yore is patent nonsense.