The EU referendum is nearly over, and it could have been so different for both sides | The Friday Article

Vote Leave’s campaign has been filled with hyperbole and exaggeration. I’ve talked about their campaign before, and how dangerous claims that free movement will harm the NHS, along with a gradual shift to the far-right, will not win them the referendum, or Boris a place in 10 Downing Street.

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, supports the Grassroots Out campaign, but it was always unlikely to be the official leave campaign. Photo: European Parliament on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

From the start, Stronger in Europe has always been the main campaign for the UK staying in the European Union and it makes sense to have the Prime Minister as the frontman for the group (however contradictory his statements on the EU have been in the past). The mistake came when Vote Leave were chosen as the official campaign for leaving the European Union – that was when the war within the Conservative Party began.

Since then, it’s dwindled down to opinions and arguments, with the undecided voters rightfully asking both sides to just state the facts. Statistics and data are two things which have been manipulated in this debate from either campaign. Claims about Norway and the £4300 sum on the remain side have been debunked as estimates and predictions, whilst Vote Leave’s misleading £350 million figure – which excludes the rebate and other money we get back from the EU – has pretty much defined their campaign for all the wrong reasons.

In the beginning, Vote Leave made the economic argument, before realising that the money we save doesn’t outweigh the risk of job losses and the single market position we have now. Instead, it moves towards immigration, alluding to stereotypes and misconceptions about immigrants affecting our healthcare. The public has already seen scare tactics in British politics – we all know what happened to Zac Goldsmith…

So now, as some leavers voice their concerns about Vote Leave towards the end of the campaign, we can only wonder what could have happened if Grassroots Out or Leave.EU were the official out campaign. Who knows? If Leave.EU did file the judicial review, not only might we have a different leave group, but there were reports it may delay the date of the referendum. It would anger those who have already made up their minds, but it would allow those who are undecided to research more into the European Union.

It is somewhat hilarious that UKIP, as the party which pushed for a referendum on membership of the European Union, hasn’t had much of a say in general. Granted, certain MPs and MEPs have spoken out, but Nigel Farage and Grassroots Out (which Farage supports) have both been brushed aside. As much as Vote Leave wanted to avoid the far-right views of UKIP when it comes to the leave vote, it couldn’t help but move towards these strong views at the end of the campaign.

The initial reluctance from Vote Leave to lean towards these views could have meant that if we had another official leave campaign group which was different, it wouldn’t be Grassroots Out. Whilst some members of the Conservative Party may have views which place them in this group, the majority of Tory leavers may be reluctant to side with this group. In the mad rush for these MPs and MEPS to pledge allegiance to a leave campaign, most may end up siding with Leave.EU.

What that would have meant for the leave campaign? We’ll never know. The sad fact of this debate is that it has become more than a referendum. After watching televised debates, I sympathise with those who have been undecided as to what they will vote for. The EU referendum was full of hyperbole, talk about the future of the Conservative Party, and accusations of scare-mongering.

Who knows? If the official campaign groups were different, all of this could have disappeared and we’d have had a proper debate. The public are fed up with scare tactics and arguments. If we started all over again, we could have had a proper debate – something the general public have wanted for a very long time.

Liam

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