London (CNN) – British politicians are making their crucial final pitches to a bitterly divided electorate Wednesday to persuade undecided voters of the merits of remaining in or leaving the European Union (EU).
On the eve of the historic EU referendum tomorrow (Thursday), a decision that will shape the direction of country and its place in the world for decades, Britain is a nation divided.
Polls have consistently shown voters — a record 46.5 million of whom have registered — split down the middle, with the outcome too close to call.
The leading political parties and newspapers are similarly divided on the so-called ‘Brexit’, or British exit, from the 28-member union — an outcome that would be a huge blow to the European project.
The undecided voters could make the difference.
With so much confusion generated by an acrimonious campaign — and many of the fundamentals of the debate in dispute by opposing camps — the outcome of this momentous decision may come down to a question of gut instinct.
‘Great Debate’ yields few answers
The “Leave” and “Remain” camps attempted to appeal to those instincts as they squared off Tuesday night for a fiery, two-hour televised “Great Debate,” billed as the final centerpiece of the campaign.
Amid a gladiatorial atmosphere before 6,000 in London’s Wembley Stadium, six speakers representing the opposing camps clashed on such core issues as whether a Brexit would help or hurt Britain’s economy.
Leading “Leave” campaigner Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and former London mayor, described the EU as “a job-destroying engine.”
“You can see it all across southern Europe and you can see it alas in this country as well,” he said, lambasting Brussels for imposing a “multitude of regulations” on British business.
By contrast, the “Remain” camp has argued that a vote to leave would do lasting harm to Britain’s economy.
The debate focused on familiar themes of security, sovereignty and immigration, with Johnson’s successor as London mayor, “Remain” advocate Sadiq Khan, accusing his opponents of “scaremongering” by raising the specter of Turkey joining the EU, potentially giving its citizens free movement within the union.