Brexit campaign resumes and puts stayers just ahead

Secret meetings across Europe show uncertainty over what happens if UK leaves EU.
A woman holds a placard at a 'Britain Stronger in Europe', rally on June 19, 2016. Polls indicate the 'Remain' camp has edged ahead after the murder of Labour member of parliament Jo Cox. Ben Stansall / Agence France-Presse i
A woman holds a placard at a 'Britain Stronger in Europe', rally on June 19, 2016. Polls indicate the 'Remain' camp has edged ahead after the murder of Labour member of parliament Jo Cox. Ben Stansall / Agence France-Presse i

LONDON // Campaigning for the UK referendum on the European Union resumed on Sunday with toned-down rhetoric and a reversal of fortunes. The first opinion polls conducted since the killing of Labour politician Jo Cox showed the “Stay” camp is now slightly ahead of the Leavers, a reversal of their positions last week.

Staying in the EU now commands won 45 percent support , according to a Survation poll of 1,001 adults on Friday and Saturday for the Mail on Sunday newspaper while 42 per cent were in favour of leaving - a reversal of positions from the previous survey by the same pollsters. A survey by YouGov Plc for the Sunday Times, partly conducted before the attack on Cox, showed “Remain” on 44 percent and “Leave” on 43 percent, although the pollster said the rise in backing for the EU was more likely to be due to concerns about the UK economy post-Brexit.

Renewed campaigning kicked off with a debate on migration, the key issue for the “Leave” campaign, which created a dllemma following the death of Cox, a fervent supporter of remaining in the EU and passionate defender of refugees and migrants from Syria.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) admitted her death had had a detrimental effect on the “leave” campaign.

“We did have momentum until this terrible tragedy,”he said. “It’s had an impact on the whole campaign for everybody.”

On the day Cox died, Farage had unveiled a poster showing a column of refugees, with the headline “Breaking Point.” Fellow “leaver Michael Gove said he “shuddered” when he saw it.

“I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” said Mr Gove but defended the right of the “Leave” campaign to highlight as a concern the possibility that Turkey might join the EU, even though Cameron has said it isn’t likely until the year 3000 given the pace of progress.

In an article written four days before she died, Cox said the public had “legitimate concerns” about migration, but that a Brexit wouldn’t guarantee lower migration levels.

“We can do far more to deal with the pressures caused by migration from inside the EU,” she wrote.

The probability of a vote to leave declined to just under 30 percent on Sunday from almost 40 percent on Wednesday, according to bookmaker odds processed by the Oddschecker website.

Meanwhile Euorpean leaders have been holding secret meetings in Brussels and across the continent to discuss what happens if Britain does vote to leave the EU. Money markets are expected to be volatile and the Bank of England and European Central Bank have contingency plans to deal with a “Brexit shock” to sterling and the euro.

If Britain leaves, the EU will wave goodbye to a fifth of its economy and an even more substantial portion of its military clout.

* Reuters

Published: June 19, 2016 04:00 AM

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