EU Referendum: ‘It’s going to get nasty’

Jon Danzig |

EU Campaign Nasty Blog 2

The EU referendum campaign is going to get ‘nasty’, promised those pushing for Britain to leave the EU.

In a taste of what’s to come, two Eurosceptic students interrupted a speech by Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a CBI conference yesterday, yelling, “CBI! Voice of Brussels”.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign is “now gearing up for 12 months of protest, including disrupting the meetings of pro-EU companies and organisations.”

Their campaign director, Dominic Cummings, was reported to say:

“You think it’s nasty – you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

He promised a “guerrilla-style war” against pro-EU bodies and companies and said, “These guys have failed the country, they are going to be under the magnifying glass. Tough s**t.”

The two students who disrupted the Prime Minister’s speech obtained passes to the conference by setting up a fake company and website, reported The Telegraph.

The CBI has repeatedly been a target of Eurosceptics because they undertake paid research for the European Union.

In a Parliamentary debate earlier this year, Eurosceptic Tory MP, Bernard Jenkin, claimed that the CBI received funds from the European Union, “presumably to promote the EU.”

Added Eurosceptic Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg: “We know that the CBI is in part funded by Europe. It is therefore under an obligation either to return that money or to support the objectives of the European Union.”

But the CBI robustly rejected the allegations.

Their Director of Campaigns, Andy Bagnall, told me, “We strongly refute these misleading claims. The EU debate has a long way to go and both sides must base their arguments on the facts if they are to have any value at all.”

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s Director of Economics, added that the organisation competitively tenders to provide the EU with economic data and that this represented just 0.6% of the CBI’s total annual income.

She told me, “The CBI is under no obligation to promote the EU. We speak on behalf of our 190,000 members who employ nearly 7 million people and while the majority wish to remain within a reformed EU, we do not shy away from criticising aspects of European legislation where necessary.

And Ken Clarke, former Justice Secretary and a co-President of British Influence, wrote to say:

“It is really absurd for hard-line Eurosceptics to argue that the CBI is being bribed by Brussels to support British membership of the EU. Anyone who knows any number of senior businessmen knows that the vast majority strongly believe in the benefits of membership.”

According to the latest opinion polls, Britain is split right down the middle on whether the country should remain a member of the European Union or leave. A poll by Survation for the Daily Mail this autumn revealed that the electorate was 51/49 against Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

The poll revealed a stark difference to a poll by Ipso Mori at the beginning of the summer, which claimed that 75% of British people were in favour of Britain’s continued membership of the EU, with only 25% wanting to leave.

That’s all now changed, according to some commentators, because of Europe’s mishandling of the refugee crisis.

The new poll revealed that if the “current migration crisis gets worse”, 22% of those wanting Britain to ‘Remain’ in the EU might switch to the ‘Leave’ campaign.

So there is everything to play for by both sides of the campaign. If the new poll is right, neither side currently has enough support for a decisive win, so both sides will have to work harder. No wonder things are getting desperate.

But is ‘getting nasty’ the way to win hearts and minds, and most importantly, votes? Wouldn’t a more calm, considered and edifying debate, where both sides listen carefully and politely to both sides of the argument, be in the best interests of the country?

After all, whether Britain remains in the EU or leaves, we’ll all still have to live with each other after the referendum result is announced.

So wouldn’t it be better for the referendum campaign to be civil, rather than to become a civil war?

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