EU referendum: Remainers get boost but Brexiters ahead

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2016 20:25 IST
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage (right) campaigns for Brexit on Monday. Britain's opposition Labour Party has scrambled to make the case for Europe to its members as world stock markets slipped amid concern over a British exit from the EU in a knife-edge referendum next week. (AFP)

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) provided a boost to the “Remain in EU” camp on Tuesday after delivering a pro-Britain judgement on state benefits for migrants, but the “Vote Leave” camp appeared to continue its surge as the June 23 referendum draws closer.

The Vote Leave camp received a major boost when the mass circulation The Sun came out openly in favour of Brexit. The Ruper Murdoch-owned tabloid has a history of taking a political stand and favouring parties during elections.

It is most known for its gloating 1992 headline “It’s the Sun Wot Won It“, claiming credit for the Conservative Party’s unexpected election victory after the tabloid declared its support for the party. It supported the Conservatives during the 2015 elections.

As opinion polls showed a continued Brexit surge, the ECJ rejected a challenge to Britain’s right to deny some European Union migrants child benefit and child tax credits, which has been one of the key issues in the public discourse on migration from within the EU.

The court said it is lawful for Britain to withhold family benefits to EU migrants who are not working if they do not have the right to reside in the UK. It said this is justified on the basis of "protecting" a state's finances.

The ruling was welcomed by the government and Remain campaigners, but ridiculed by the Vote Leave camp that said it was "absurd that the UK had to run every nut and bolt of domestic policy" past a court in Luxembourg and engage in "lengthy and expensive" legal battles.

A large-font headline of ‘BeLEAVE in Britain’ set the tone for The Sun’s piece supporting the cause of leaving the EU. Staffers insisted its position on the referendum was decided by the editor and not by Murdoch.

It said: “WE are about to make the biggest ­political decision of our lives. The Sun urges everyone to vote LEAVE. We must set ourselves free from dictatorial Brussels. Throughout our 43-year membership of the European Union it has proved increasingly greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis.

“For all David Cameron’s witless assurances, our powers and values WILL be further eroded.

“The Sun has campaigned relentlessly against the ever-expanding superstate. But the EU cannot reform. Remain has conducted a deceitful campaign. It has been nasty, cynical, personally abusive and beneath the dignity of Britain.”

It added, “Our country has a glorious history. This is our chance to make Britain even greater, to recapture our democracy, to preserve the values and culture we are rightly proud of.” 

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