FirstFT: Brexit briefing special

Everything you need to know ahead of the referendum

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David Cameron, the British prime minister, warned that a vote on Thursday to leave the EU would be “irreversible”, as campaigning resumed following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. A number of polls showed a narrowing lead for the “Leave” side, after a fresh warning from the International Monetary Fund that Brexit would “permanently lower incomes” in the UK and harm other European economies.

Robert Shrimsley points out that in coverage of Mrs Cox “some ethnic minority groups have been quick to note that in a number of countries a Muslim attacker is normally depicted as a sane terrorist while a neo-Nazi is normally described as a lone wolf.” (FT)

Voting intentions

The FT’s poll of polls shows equal support for the two camps, while cautioning on the different methodologies and interpretations when gathering information and likelihood to vote. “Generally the more certain someone is that they will vote in the referendum, the more likely they are to respond ‘Leave’.” (FT)

Tracking by bookmakers shows Remain more significantly ahead. One academic quipped that gamblers should bet in euros on Brexit and in sterling on “Bremain” to exploit likely currency movements whatever the result. (The Conversation)

Opinions

The FT last week concluded in its leader: “This is no time to revert to Little England. We are Great Britain. We have a contribution to make to a more prosperous, safer world. The vote must be “Remain”.”

The Economist also supports Remain, dismissing those who attack Brussels as the source of so many current problems. “Many of the biggest obstacles to growth - too few new houses, poor infrastructure and a skills gap - stem from British-made regulations. In six years of government, the Tories have failed to dismantle them.”

The Telegraph is among the outlets arguing for Brexit: “The path we took [with EU membership] offered much but led us into a cul-de-sac, hemmed in by a sclerotic, hide-bound, rules-obsessed, inward‑looking institution.”

Views from elsewhere

Der Spiegel stressed (in English): “This vote is about preserving Europe’s competitiveness in times of change and struggle between world powers. It’s about nothing less than the future of the peace project started in 1946 by erstwhile enemy nations on a devastated continent.”

A recent Pew Research Centre survey showed people in France and Greece were more negative about the EU than those in the UK, whose views were in line with the Germans - 48 per cent saw the EU in an unfavourable way. (FT)

Anatole Kaletsky cautioned against Brexit as a potential “catalyst for another global crisis ... Those who vote for populist upheavals will have no one but themselves to blame when their revolutions go wrong.” (Project Syndicate)

The arguments

The FT answers your 10 most common questions about Brexit, with Chris Giles highlighting the benefits for business of the EU and an analysis of the aftermath if it happened. Martin Wolf cautions over fears on immigration, and warns of the rise of populism if “Project Lie” wins. “If the UK can choose Brexit, maybe Donald Trump will become president of the US.”

The Economist offers a 20-page free guide and a summary of the different sides’ views.

The BBC explores whether the UK is better off out or in and provides a “reality check”. So does the non-partisan Full Fact. From its own perspective, the European Commission provides a (rather less snappy) Euromyths buster - including three entries on bananas.

Media influence

Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Communication and Culture concludes that the FT’s coverage has been among the most strongly pro-Remain, but - adjusted for circulation - 18 per cent of British newspapers readers have been exposed to the pro-Remain message and 82 per cent to pro-Leave reporting. It also shows that until the past few days, broadcast interviews have been dominated by Conservative leaders at the expense of Labour or union representatives.

Simon Wren-Lewis at Oxford University laments inadequate coverage of the widespread expert consensus on the economic drawbacks of Brexit. “There is something rather worrying about a world in which the ideas that get across to policymakers or voters are the ones put forward by academics with the best PR.” (The Conversation)

What has the EU achieved?

While much of the debate has seemed defensive, a reminder of European achievements over the years, from trade, cross-border policing and consumer protection to easier travel and freedom to retire across the EU. (Independent).

Timothy Garton-Ash describes the different motives that drove the past achievements of the European project: “searing personal experiences of war, occupation, Holocaust, fascist and communist dictatorships; the Soviet threat, catalysing west European solidarity; generous, energetic American support for European unification; and a West Germany that was the mighty engine of European integration, with France on top as the driver. (Guardian)

Context

Matthew d’Ancona describes how Brexit went mainstream in the Conservative party, tracing it to fringe meetings with Norman Lamont in 1994. (Guardian).

Yet Philip Stephens shows that even in 1952 Harold Macmillan called for closer links to Europe. “We have to consider the state of the world as it is today and will be tomorrow, and not in outdated terms of a vanished past.” (FT)

Europe’s governments have always jealousy guarded their powers rather than planning to subordinate the nation state. (The Economist).

Europe by numbers

The UK in Europe: a visual guide to Brexit

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