David Cameron’s campaign to stay in the EU received a boost on Sunday as a new poll showed more people believe the economy will be stronger if Britain remains inside the 28-nation community than if it opts for Brexit.
With less than two months before the in/out referendum, the latest Opinium/Observer poll shows 38% of voters believe the UK economy would fare better inside the EU, against 29% who think it would do better if the UK voted to leave. The online poll shows the result is still on a knife-edge, although Remain appears to be making progress and now holds a narrow lead. Remain is on 42% (up 3 points on the previous Opinium survey four weeks ago) while Leave is down 2 points on 41%. The proportion who say they don’t know how they will vote has dropped from 18% to 14%.
The survey comes as Remain campaigners accused leading campaigners for Leave of hypocrisy for campaigning against the huge Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership EU/US trade deal now being negotiated – having previously praised it as a deal with huge potential benefits for the UK.
Tory voters were deeply divided over EU membership, with 45% backing Brexit and 43% Remain. By contrast, more than twice as many Labour supporters (59%) want to stay in the EU as want to leave (28%).
The findings suggest that warnings about the damage to the UK and global economies from Brexit, issued recently by the IMF, the OECD and the Treasury, and reinforced by US President Barack Obama on his recent visit to the UK, may be having an effect on public opinion.
Opinium found voters to be less sure about the effect that the decision will have on their own finances. Nearly four in 10 believe it would neither help nor harm them, while 23% thought that Brexit would make them worse off and 21% better off.
Remain claimed that the Leave campaign was losing the argument on the economy, and said its leaders, including Boris Johnson, had performed a brazen U-turn on the TTIP trade deal because they felt unable to admit that anything that the EU was doing could be good for the UK economy.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph in October 2014 Johnson wrote that “there is absolutely nothing not to like about the TTIP”. He added: “So it is all the more surprising that we have heard so little about a great project now under way. It is Churchillian, in that it builds transatlantic links; it is all about free trade; and it brings Britain and Europe closer to America. The idea is to create a gigantic free-trade zone between the EU and the US, or a TTIP – a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It is sometimes referred to as the “Tafta” – the Transatlantic Free Trade Area.”
On April 16 this year Liam Fox, another leading light in the Leave campaign, was proclaiming on his website that critics of TTIP on the left were wrong: “Underlying the agreement is the opportunity to add £10bn to our economy every year, which is almost £400 per household, which means more jobs, more choice and reduced prices,” he said.
But since campaigning for the referendum has been under way, the Leave camp has changed its line, claiming TTIP is dangerous, with some even suggesting that it could lead to the breakup of the NHS by allowing privatisation of parts of the service in a competition free-for-all.
A spokesman for Vote Leave said: “Some people on our side are beginning to look again at TTIP and to look at it in more detail. It is very much not a free-trade deal. The important thing is that we should have power over own trade deals and with this deal we don’t.”
A spokesman for the Stronger In campaign said: “They cannot claim one day that it is great for the UK and then say it is terrible the next. It is complete hypocrisy.”
Opinium found that 39% of voters believed that being a member of the EU made the UK more influential in the world while only about half as many (18%) thought it made Britain less influential.
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