It's been a dramatic week in the EU referendum campaign, with Leave making a breakthrough in the polls and speculation mounting that David Cameron's days as PM are numbered. Max Liu reports...
- Britain to stay in the EU 2/51.39 (72% chance)
- Britain to leave the EU 5/23.5 (28% chance)
Was this the week when Leave finally gained the upper hand in the EU referendum campaign? With just over a fortnight to go until Britons vote on June 23, the outers have gained momentum. This is largely down to an ICM phone poll which gave Leave the lead by four points. The odds on Brexit have been cut to 5/23.5 (from 4/15.2 last weekend) but bettors still make Remain the comfortable favourite at 2/51.39 (a 72% chance).
As for other pollsters, YouGov have the two sides neck and neck on 41% each and 13% undecided, while the What the UK Thinks Poll of Polls, which aggregates results from the most recent six polls, has Remain ahead by 51 to 49. The gist, then, is that the contest is getting tighter, with support for Leave increasing in the past week.
Or so it appears. Leave have been successful in bringing immigration into the centre of the debate. That was inevitable, though, with the annual immigration figures coming out last week. The ICM poll, which put Leave ahead, was conducted across the Bank Holiday Weekend, when immigration was dominating the news. Also, bear in mind that Bank Holiday Weekends are notorious for providing unbalanced telephone polling data, due to the number of people who are away.Will the Leave campaign sustain their momentum?
Just like the general election last year, David Cameron and George Osborne have tried to put the economy at the centre of the referendum debate. They appear to believe that, because the strategy worked 12 months ago, it will succeed now. But this week, the Telegraph published an interesting poll which indicates that the majority of people do not believe they will be financially worse off if Britain leaves the EU. If so, the dire warnings about Brexit from the Treasury, the Bank of England and the IMF haven't been effective.
Will Cameron leave after the referendum?
A YouGov poll shows only 36% of people who voted Tory in 2015 supporting Remain. To win this referendum, then, Cameron is depending on the support of people who didn't vote for him. At the same time, rumours circulate about leadership challenges within the Tory party, with up to 50 Tory MPs reportedly prepared to call for Cameron's resignation if Britain votes Leave. There's scant liquidity in the market on Cameron's exit dates but a bet on the PM to be gone in 2016 is becoming more appealing by the week.
Corbyn's half-hearted support for Remain
If you're longing to hear the positive case for EU membership then you will have been disappointed this week by Jeremy Corbyn's speech. The Labour leader reiterated his party's support for Remain but said a Labour government would oppose TTIP - the trade agreement favoured by leaders in Brussels and Washington. Corbyn might be ahead of the game on TTIP but his problem is that many people think he's a closet-Eurosceptic.
Former-Labour leaders were out in force this weekend, making the case for Remain. Neil Kinnock warned that Britain could choose "Brexit by default" if Labour voters don't turn out on June 23. So Corbyn needs to rally his MPs and his supporter to the Remain cause.
Comparisons with Scotland in 2014
The furore about this week's ICM poll reminds me of the situation shortly before the referendum on Scottish Independence in 2014. The odds on Scotland voting Yes hovered around 3/14.0 for months and only significantly narrowed as the vote neared. 'No' was always favourite and that proved to be correct but only after Cameron and the rest of the Better Together team pulled out all the stops. That's exactly what the PM and his allies on the Remain side need to do now.