Cameron faces Brexit grilling as youth rush to register
Prime Minister David Cameron will seek to regain the momentum in his campaign against a Brexit in a prime time appearance on Tuesday, as young people rush to register to vote ahead of a midnight deadline.
Cameron is under pressure to deliver a convincing television performance after opinion polls gave a slender lead to the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum.
The news caused a temporary fall in the value of the pound, amid concerns of the potential global market turmoil of the 28-nation bloc losing its first member.
In a potential boost to the “Remain” campaign, new figures from the Electoral Commission revealed a sharp rise in the number of young people registering to vote ahead of a deadline of midnight on Tuesday.
Some 226,000 people applied to register on Monday alone, including 148,200 people under the age of 34 — a group which is overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU.
There was also a spike in registration applications on Friday, which coincided with a campaign by Facebook, which displayed a “register to vote” button for 24 hours.
There are concerns among the “Remain” camp that their supporters are less likely to turn out than those backing a “Leave” vote, who tend to be more committed.
“Leave” moved into the lead in the WhatUKThinks polling average on Monday for the first time in weeks with 51 percent against 49 percent for “Remain”, excluding undecided voters.
But the latest polls on Tuesday put “Remain” back in the lead with 51 percent to 49 percent.
Cameron will take part in a live question and answer session at 2000 GMT on ITV television, alongside UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage — although the two men will not go head to head.
The prime minister’s side has so far focused on the economic risks of leaving the EU, backed by warning from the IMF and the governor of the Bank of England.
The head of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, added his voice on Tuesday, warning of the difficulty Britain would face in forging new trade deals if it left the European single market.
“The likelihood is that a British exit would lead to a sequence of complex negotiations -— with the EU itself, with the 58 countries that have trade agreements with the EU, and also with all the other members of the WTO,” he told The Times ahead of a speech in London.
– ‘Spreading fear’ –
Cameron’s first television grilling of the campaign last week was criticised in the press, and he will be hoping for a better reaction in Tuesday’s event with Farage.
The UKIP leader is not part of the official Vote Leave campaign but has been dictating the Brexit agenda with his relentless focus cutting the hundreds of thousands of EU migrants who come to Britain each year.
The “Remain” campaign turned their fire on Farage with a new video ahead of the debate, highlighting derisory comments he has made about gay people, Romanian migrants and ethnic minorities.
“Share this video if you don’t want to live in Farage’s Britain,” it said.
Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi, who backs Brexit, also attacked Farage in a joint letter with senior female human rights advocates after he suggested that women in Britain may be at risk of mass sex attacks by migrants.
“Spreading fear in this way is an age-old racist tool designed to stoke division about the latest group of immigrants arriving in Britain,” they wrote in the letter to The Guardian newspaper.
But Vote Leave maintained the focus on immigration by publishing details of 50 EU citizens convicted of serious crimes in Britain who cannot be deported because of the bloc’s laws and court rulings.
“This puts British families at risk,” said junior justice minister Dominic Raab.
Junior immigration minister James Brokenshire, for the “Remain” camp, countered that the European Arrest Warrant had allowed the deportation of 6,500 criminals since 2010.