The Final Countdown: the development of Brexit polls and media headlines

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It is quite frankly impossible to open up a newspaper at the moment without coming across a new claim from one of the two camps about the effects that the referendum on Thursday 23 June will have on Britain. Indeed, the amount of Brexit information is somewhat overwhelming, so we have put together a sample of some of the developments on both sides of the arguments in the chronological order in which they have appeared in the media, alongside some official polls.

Please be aware that this is not a comprehensive overview of the issue and that, due to the nature of Brexit, some of the claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Further to this, last year’s general election proved that although polls are interesting to follow, they do not always predict what actually happens when the electorate put pen to paper. Who knows what we will wake up to find on Friday 24 June.

  • 22 February – poll by ICM shows Remain campaign lead: 42% stay, 40% leave, 17% undecided – 2,021 sample size.
  • 20 February – Prime Minister David Cameron announces that the date for the referendum is Thursday 23 June 2016: This comes after renegotiations of Britain’s relationship with Europe in an intense two-day summit in Brussels. David Cameron made his announcement in Downing Street after briefing the cabinet and stated that he would be campaigning to remain in a reformed EU.
  • 24 February – fund manager Neil Woodford disagrees with some of Britain’s biggest companies by suggesting that leaving the EU would not damage Britain’s economy: Woodford voiced his view that the claims expressed by the FTSE 100 bosses in a letter published on the 23 February are incorrect. Instead he suggests that it is difficult to create a credible economic argument on either side and that the focus should be on issues such as immigration and sovereignty.
  • 1 March – poll by YouGov shows Remain campaign lead: 39% stay, 37% leave, 19% undecided- 2,233 sample size.
  • 10 March – researchers warn about the negative impact that Brexit would have on science: They argue that leaving the EU would impede research due to the loss of funding and incentive for European scientists to work in Britain. The researchers wrote their opinion in a letter to The Times and it was signed by more than 150 fellows of the Royal Society, including Professor Stephen Hawking.
  • 20 March – poll by ICM shows Leave campaign lead: 41% stay, 43% leave, 17% undecided – 2,000 sample size
  • 12 April – Nigel Farage dismisses the IMF’s claims about the economic consequences of Britain leaving the EU: The UKIP leader suggested that the claims made by the International Monetary Fund were biased and that it was inappropriate for the IMF to comment on the issue.
  • 15 April referendum campaign kicks off: Campaign events and rallies across the country as the 10 week countdown to the referendum begins.
  • 17 April – poll by ICM shows Leave campaign lead: 43% stay, 44% leave, 13% undecided – 2,008 sample size
  •  22 April – Barack Obama warns British voters that it could take up to 10 years to secure a trade deal with the United States from outside the European Union: Obama shows support for remain campaign in his visit to Britain. 
  • 28 April – ‘Economists for Brexit’ back the Leave campaign: a group of eight influential economists claim that Britain economy would be boosted by 4% outside the EU, making them the first group of economists to publicly support the Leave campaign.
  •  3 May – poll by ICM shows Leave campaign lead: 44% stay, 45% leave, 11% undecided – 2,040 sample size.
  • 9 May – Senior Conservative MP Crispin Blunt backs Brexit: The chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee declares his support for the Leave campaign and suggests that leaving the EU is the best way for Britain to play a stronger role in foreign affairs.
  • 11 May Figures released by the elections watchdog show that Brexit campaigners are dominating the referendum fundraising battle: Data released by the Electoral Commission shows that those campaigning to leave have raised £8.18 million in donations and £6 million in loans. The data shows that groups seeking to stay in the European Union have raised £7.54 million.
  • 19 May – Lord Owen criticises the economic claims of the Remain campaign: the former Foreign Secretary suggested that a swift exit from the EU would protect Britain in the face of a Eurozone collapse and that there is no way of making a precise calculation of the financial implications of Britain leaving the EU.
  • 20 May – Justice Secretary Michael Gove warns that if Britain votes to remain in the EU, the pressure from continued EU immigration would overwhelm the NHS: Michael Gove, who is a supporter of the Leave campaign, suggests that immigration could make the NHS financially unstable by 2030 if Britain vote to remain in the EU.
  • 20 May – British celebrities sign a letter supporting the Remain campaign: stars including Jude Law, Keira Knightely and Benedict Cumberbatch suggest that a vote to leave the EU would harm the creative industry. Almost 300 actors, musicians, writers and artists are backing the Remain campaign because of the importance of the funding that the industry receives from the EU.
  • 22 May – Poll by ICM shows a tie: 45% stay, 45% leave, 10% undecided – 2,003 sample size
  • 23 May – Chancellor George Osborne warns of the negative economic impact of Britain leaving the EU: He suggests that it would cause a year-long recession and cause up to 820,000 job losses within two years. Publishing Treasury analysis, he says that a Leave vote could result in growth being 3% to 6% lower. Boris Johnson and former Chancellor Lord Lawson express scepticism about these claims.
  • 26 May – Alex Salmond speculates about a second independence referendum: Salmond suggests that Scotland would vote for independence within two years if Britain left the EU. Salmond is backing the Remain campaign.
  • 27 May – French President François Hollande warns of the economic dangers of leaving the EU: Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit in Japan, Hollande warns that the move would have a negative economic impact on Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. 
  • 30 May – Poll by ICM shows Leave campaign lead: 44% stay, 47% leave, 9% undecided- 2,052 sample size
  • 3 June – David James and John Barnes suggest that Brexit would be good for British football: The two football legends claim that leaving the EU would give more talented British players the chance to play for top teams.
  • 6 June – The pound falls: Sterling hits a three-week low against the dollar after two surveys indicate rising support for Britain leaving the EU. The YouGov poll showed 45% in favour of leaving and 41% staying in Britain and the EU and the Observer/Opinion poll showed 43% in favour of leaving and 40% in favour of remaining in Britain.
  • 6 June – Poll by YouGov shows Remain campaign lead: 43% stay, 42% leave, 11% undecided – 2,001 sample size
  • 7 June – Senior Conservatives warn that Pro-Europe MPs will attempt to stop Britain leaving the single market even after a Brexit vote: At this point, Remain supporters have a strong cross-party majority as fewer than 200 of parliament’s 650 MPs support the Leave campaign. This could result in Pro-Europe MPs defying the public’s vote in the case of a Leave victory.
  • 7 June – Donald Trump backs Brexit: The US presidential candidate told Fox News that Britain would be better off leaving the EU than remaining. He stressed that this was a personal belief rather than advice for the British people.

These polls and many more can be found on the Financial Times website:


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