Britain divided on eve of historic EU referendum

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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.
nation dividedPolls 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.”
brixit“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.
“Turkey is not set to join the EU,” he said, holding up a pro-“Leave” leaflet that highlighted Turkey’s proximity to war-torn Syria and Iraq. “You’re telling lies and you’re scaring people.”
Allies — from the United States to other members of the EU and NATO — are all in favor of Britain remaining in the union, Khan said.
“In fact, all of them are saying we’re safer together.”
In turn, Johnson said it was the “Remain” camp that was guilty of drumming up fear, arguing that a Brexit offered “hope.”
“If we vote ‘Leave,’ we can take back our country,” he said to raucous applause. “This Thursday can be our country’s independence day.”
The “Leave” campaign has received more funding than its opponents, according to the latest figures from Britain’s Electoral Commission.
They showed that the pro-Brexit camp received just under £15.6 million (US$22.9 million) in donations, while “Remain” got £11.9 million (US$17.5 million) from February 1 to June 9.

 

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