- Phone and online research both report ‘Leave’ 5 points ahead
- ‘Remain’ deploys Gordon Brown to reach wavering Labour voters
U.K. polls showed momentum is still with the campaign to "Leave" the European Union as the influential The Sun newspaper urged its readers to vote for Brexit in next week’s referendum.
Three new polls published on Monday with both phone and online surveys showed the “Leave” side opening up a 5 percentage-point lead over “Remain.” Phone polls had previously tended to show better results for “Remain.” The findings come in the wake of other polls in recent days that have shown growing momentum for a so-called Brexit.
Adding even more fuel to the "Leave" campaign, The Sun, a U.K. tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, urged its readers late on Monday to vote to leave the EU with a front-page headline for its Tuesday edition of "Be-Leave in Britain."
The EU “has proved increasingly greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis,” The Sun said in an editorial. “Our future looks far bleaker if we stay in.”
The endorsement comes as the campaign to stay in the EU deployed former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier on Monday to try to reach his party’s voters and persuade them to back continued membership in the June 23 referendum. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne called for pro-EU businesses to speak up about their concerns.
“People who are concerned or businesses who are concerned or investors who are concerned about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU should speak up,” Osborne said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Liverpool. “This is not the moment for businesses to sit it out.”
Though traders and political junkies are hungry for new information, even pollsters are urging caution about reading too much into survey results before the June 23 plebiscite. The U.K. has little experience with referendums, and a yearlong inquiry into pollsters’ performance in the 2015 general election concluded there are no easy fixes for greater accuracy.
Taking Osborne’s advice, Terry Leahy, the former chief executive officer of Tesco Plc, predicted a recession in the event of Brexit.
"Foreign investment will go, jobs will go," he told business leaders in Liverpool. "We cannot afford another recession. This is really serious."
Addressing a key issue for the “Leave” campaign, Ed Balls, Labour’s former Treasury spokesman, criticized the way the EU currently handles immigration while also calling for people to vote “Remain."
“We need to press Europe to restore proper borders, and put new controls on economic migration,” he wrote in the Daily Mirror. “But if we leave the EU now, we can’t make those changes happen, and we’ll face the worst of all worlds -- stay in the Single Market and be forced to accept free movement of people like Switzerland and Norway; or leave the Single Market and see jobs, investment and our public services hammered.”
An ICM telephone poll of 1,000 people conducted June 10 to 13 found “Leave” at 50 percent and "Remain" at 45 percent, ICM said in a statement Monday. An online poll of 2,001 adults conducted over the same dates put “Leave” at 49 percent and “Remain” at 44 percent. An ORB poll for the Telegraph showed that among those certain to vote, "Leave" is at 49 percent and "Remain" is at 48 percent. No details on methodology were available.
The ICM poll was hotly anticipated on financial markets. The polling company’s website crashed earlier in the day after a rumor spread that it was about to be published. Less than four hours later, the pound briefly spiked when an old ICM poll showing "Remain" 10 percentage points ahead was shared on Twitter before. Martin Boon, ICM’s political analyst, pleaded on Twitter for everyone to “calm down a bit.”
In another poll released later in the evening, a Times/YouGov survey showed "Leave" support at 46 percent with "Remain" at 39 percent, according to a tweet from the Times’s Sam Coates. Phone polls had previously tended to show better results for “Remain.”
Anxiety over the Brexit prospect jolted financial markets, with the pound gaining as much as 0.5 percent after the outdated poll circulated. After the poll with the latest numbers was published, sterling was little changed at $1.4216 as of 6:27 p.m. London time. It had earlier dropped 1 percent to $1.4116, the lowest since April 14.
Earlier, Brown sought to relaunch the opposition party’s campaign to keep Britain in the 28-nation EU. With Osborne’s Conservative Party split over the referendum, "Remain" is hoping that Labour can convince those voters who have yet to decide how to vote to support its campaign as polls suggest the result is on a knife-edge.
“It makes sense to set minimum standards across Europe,” Brown said in a speech in Leicester, central England. “Maternity pay, gender equality, holiday pay, a maximum working week -- all gained from Europe.”
For “Leave,” former London Mayor Boris Johnson was dismissive. “If you have a relaunch with Gordon Brown, that’s got to be some measure of desperation,” he told the BBC.