Friday 28 April 2017

EU referendum: Brexit campaign takes lead with just over a week to go

Passion: Former London mayor Boris Johnson is campaigning to leave the EU Photo: PA
Passion: Former London mayor Boris Johnson is campaigning to leave the EU Photo: PA

Peter Dominiczak

The Leave campaign has moved into the lead in the referendum campaign with just over a week to go, a poll for The Telegraph has found.

The Brexit campaign, led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, is on 49 per cent of the vote compared to Remain’s 48 per cent amongst those definite to vote, the survey finds.

It is the first time that the Leave campaign has been in front since the beginning of April and comes just days after David Cameron’s Remain campaign was said to be “panicking” over the prospect of a Brexit.

In an analysis of the poll for this newspaper Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the Tory general election victory last year, says Leave’s tactics “may be beginning to pay off”.

The poll also shows that Leave has also increased its support amongst the electorate as a whole, not just among those who say they will definitely vote on June 23 - suggesting momentum is with the Leave campaign.

Amongst all voters, the Brexit campaign has seen an increase of four points in the last week and is now on 44 per cent, compared to Remain which has seen its share of the vote fall by three points to 49 per cent.

It comes after the Leave campaign has in recent days focused on the issue of immigration, in particular the number of foreigners who could come to the UK if Turkey becomes a member of the EU.

Read more: Brexit vote is about the supremacy of Parliament and nothing else: Why I am voting to leave the EU

“These positive trends for Leave among the entire electorate, as well as definite voters, indicate that both its messaging and campaign tactics may be beginning to pay off,” Sir Lynton writes.

“But with just over one week left until Britain heads to the polls, the question is whether they will pay off in time.”

It came as Mr Cameron’s Remain campaign left senior figures in Labour to be the focus of the pro-EU campaign amid growing fears that the party’s voters are increasingly minded to back a Brexit.

Gordon Brown gave a major speech in which he made the “positive” case for the EU but risked angering eurosceptics by comparing them to supporters of Donald Trump.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who has been accused by figures in his own party of failing to make the case for the EU, will on Tuesday give a speech saying he has “just nine days to convince Labour supporters to vote Remain”.

However, Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor who is backing Remain, suggested that Mr Cameron's EU deal does not do enough to limit migration and said the Government must “press Europe to restore proper borders”.

Meanwhile, Mr Gove, the Justice Secretary, said that he did not mind if his “Cabinet career is over” because of his decision to campaign for a Brexit.

Read more: Irish Tory politician slates Taoiseach's 'desperate' remain roadshow

Mr Gove, who is said to have angered Mr Cameron by campaigning so forcefully for an EU exit, said that “the most important thing” is to “make a principled case for leaving the European Union.”

And there was a major row after a pro-Brexit campaign released a post on social media drawing links between the killing of at least 49 people in a US nightclub and the EU referendum debate.

The post, on the official Twitter account of the Leave.EU campaign, was denounced as "shameful" by Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan and "cowardly" by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

And George Osborne, the Chancellor, on Monday night said that voting to leave the EU would be a “dereliction of duty” and said that the Government may need to cut disability benefits.

The ORB poll finds that seven per cent of all voters are still undecided and less than a quarter (22 per cent” are likely to change their minds before the referendum.

The expectations of a victory for the Remain campaign has dropped to its lowest point since the first poll in March, with just over half (54 per cent) of voters believing Britain will vote to stay in the EU, a drop of five points.

Read more: Ireland 'will have a Plan B' if UK opts for Brexit

Nearly a quarter of voters (24 per cent) now believe that Brexit will win on June 23, the survey finds.

According to the poll, the Leave campaign has in the last week improved on the issues of the economy, immigration and the NHS.

When asked which side “will create more jobs”, Remain comes out on top with 41 per cent to Leave’s 38 per cent, an increase of four points for Leave.

Asked which side “will improve the UK’s immigration system”, Leave has a clear lead with 55 per cent compared to Remain’s 19 per cent.

And when asked which campaign “will damage the NHS”, Leave  is now on 35 per cent compared to Remain on 37 per cent.

Two other polls on Monday found that support for leaving the EU is hardening.

Two ICM polls for The Guardian - one telephone, the other conducted online - put Leave on 53 per cent, six points ahead of Remain on 47 per cent, if “don't knows” are excluded.

Telegraph.co.uk

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