'Leave' group leads in opinion polls as Brexit 23 June deadline nears

London: Opinion polls on Tuesday showed a clear lead for the 'Brexit' camp in favour of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) in the 23 June referendum.

The so-called Brexit side edged ahead in a key survey just over a week before Britain votes on its future within the economic bloc next Thursday.

A YouGov survey for The Times puts "Leave" on 46 percent, up three points since the end of last week, and "Remain" is on 39 percent, down three — giving Brexit its largest lead since the start of the campaign. 11 percent of people do not know how they will vote and 4 percent plan to abstain.

Once the "don't knows" and "will not votes" are excluded, 54 percent would vote to leave and 46 per cent would vote to remain, the biggest lead for the Brexiteers so far.

 Leave group leads in opinion polls as Brexit 23 June deadline nears

UK PM David Cameron. Reuters

An ICM poll for The Guardian on Monday gave the Brexit campaign a six-point lead, with Leave on 53 percent and Remain on 47 percent, while an ORB poll for The Daily Telegraph has put "Leave" on 49 percent among those certain to vote on 23 June, one point ahead of Remain at 48 percent.

John Mills, chair of the Labour Leave campaign, said "The polls are swinging our way, which is very good news but we must not be complacent".

Leading Labour MPs within the "Remain" camp, including Keith Vaz and Virendra Sharma, issued a fresh plea of their own to Indian-origin and other ethnic minority voters.

"The Leavers' false claim is that, if we leave, there can be higher non-EU immigration while bringing down overall
numbers. Let's not be seduced by this lie from people who are anti-immigration and who have spent their lives campaigning against the interests of working people," they wrote in The Guardian on Tuesday.

In a direct attack on Conservative party's most prominent Indian-origin voice in favour of Brexit, Priti Patel, they add "Where there are shortages in certain sectors, like our curry houses, it's government rules that are the root of the problem".

"Prominent 'Leave' campaigner, Patel, who is the Employment Minister, has responsibility in this area, so she is in fact the source of the problem while claiming to be the solution," they said.

The British Election Survey (BES) released last month had found that 51.7 percent of Indian-origin voters are against Brexit, compared to 27.74 percent in favour of leaving the economic bloc.

However, there is a significant percentage (16.85 percent) of those who fell into the "don't know" category, who are likely to hold the key in the referendum and this is the group both camps are now focusing on.

Opinion polls are not being seen as a reliable reflection of the mood of the voters by either side ever since they had decisively predicted a hung Parliament in the May 2015 general election which threw up one of the largest Conservative party majorities in history.

The momentum, however, does seem to be titling in favour of Brexit with the Sun newspaper also coming out in favour of leaving the EU on Tuesday.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid is famous for mostly backing the winning horse in elections in the UK.

In a front page editorial under the headline "BeLeave in Britain", the paper warned that staying in the EU would be worse for immigration, worse for jobs, worse for wages and "worse for our way of life".

"This is our last chance to remove ourselves from the undemocratic Brussels machine and it's time to take it," it said.

Prime Minister David Cameron-led "Remain" camp received its own boost with a European Court ruling in favour of UK's right to curtail state benefits handed out to EU immigrants.

A legal action brought by the European Commission against the British government over planned tests for foreigners to claim benefits was thrown out by Europe's highest court.

Britain had a right to impose a more stringent test for child benefit and child tax credit – known as a "right to
reside" – for EU migrants in order to protect its finances, the court said.

A spokesperson for HM Revenue and Customs said, "The UK welcomes the Court of Justice of the European Union's
judgement, which supports our view that we are entitled to ensure only EU migrants who have a right to be in the UK can claim our benefits".

The decision comes as a welcome relief to Cameron, who will be redoubling efforts in the remaining week to swing more voters in favour of remaining within the EU.

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Updated Date: Jun 14, 2016 18:44:42 IST