Britain’s influence in the European Union will be stronger if it votes to remain in the bloc in the June 23 referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday (12 June) with the latest polls showing Britons almost evenly split over whether to stay or go.
One poll published late on Saturday gave a two-point lead to supporters of “Remain” and the other showed those in favour of Brexit were one point ahead.
In an interview on BBC television, Cameron – whose “in” campaign has been branded as scaremongering by pro-Brexit supporters for warning of the risks of quitting the 28-nation EU – highlighted the advantages of staying.
“If we wake up on June 24 and we are in, Britain’s authority within the EU will be stronger,” he said.
“No other country has done what we have done, hold a renegotiation (for improved EU membership terms), hold a referendum and then people will know that the British agenda … is going straight to the top.”
The prospect of a reinvigorated Britain is creating unease in some EU countries. Paris in particular fears that if the British vote to stay in the EU, the UK’s power to disrupt the European project would grow stronger.
While a Leave vote would have the benefit of closing the debate once and for all, a Remain vote would threaten to monopolise time and attention at EU summit meetings, at the expense of other subjects.
“The United Kingdom will be even more odious in Brussels if it stays in Europe,” warned Pervenche Bérès, a French Socialist MEP.
Tusk sees long EU-Britain divorce process after a Brexit
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk warned about a long divorce process — taking up at least seven years — if Britain votes to leave the EU.
The process of dissolving all contractual ties between the bloc and Britain would itself already take two years, Tusk told Bild daily in an interview to be published Monday.
And more time would have to be factored in before a new relationship could be agreed upon, he said.
“Every single one of the 27 member states as well as the European parliament would have to approve the overall result. That would take at least five years, and I’m afraid, without any guarantee of success,” added Tusk.
In a stark warning Friday, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Britain would no longer have access to the single market like non-EU members Norway and Switzerland do, should voters opt out.
“In is in. Out is out,” he told Spiegel magazine. “I hope and believe that the British will ultimately decide against Brexit. The withdrawal of Britain would be a heavy loss for Europe.”
‘Decade of uncertainty’ if Britain votes Leave
The referendum will be a decision with far-reaching implications for politics, the economy and trade in Britain and well beyond.
Cameron reiterated a warning made in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that pensions and the publicly funded National Heath Service could face cuts after a vote for Brexit.
Rejecting accusations of scaremongering, he said it was his job to talk about the potential dangers of pulling out of the EU but that there was a “strong, bold, patriotic, positive case” for staying in.
“If we vote In, I think there will be actually a wall of investment,” he said. “Companies that are responsible for employing people in this country and making things in this country will want to do more, employ more, make more … if we vote out, it is a decade of uncertainty.”
Britain’s pound weakened by as much as 1.2% against the US dollar immediately after an ORB poll for the Independent newspaper published on Friday showed a sharp swing toward Brexit.
JP Morgan said its analysis of four polls from the last week gave the “In” campaign a 5.1 percentage point lead, which it expected to widen in the final two weeks of the campaign.
“Based on historical experience, we think status quo bias should begin to push the polls in favour of ‘Remain’,” the bank said in a note to clients on Sunday.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, described the “in” camp’s warnings over Britain’s economy – Europe’s second biggest – as a “daily prophet of doom”.
“These are ludicrous scare stories that are being put up. Even if sterling were to fall a few percentage points after Brexit, so what? The point is we have a floating currency and it will be good for exports,” he told the BBC.
Farage, who has previously said the issue of Britain’s EU membership would not be resolved if the result is a close vote for “in”, said the referendum was likely to be the only chance to leave.
“If the Leave side was to narrowly lose, the chances of parliament giving us another referendum in the short term is probably pretty slim, so I do view this as the one great opportunity,” he said.
The spiritual leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said on Sunday he would vote in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, hailing the bloc as a force for peace and reconciliation.
- 23 June: Referendum
- 24-28 June: Proposed extraordinary plenary of the European Parliament.
- 28-29 June: EU summit in Brussels