- Dominic Raab, a justice minister and a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, has said Tory MPs may push for a second referendum after the 2020 election if Remain win. (See 3.56pm.)
- Just a quarter of voters believe that Britain leaving the European Union would make them poorer, according to new polling that suggests the remain campaign’s central message is failing to hit home. As Heather Stewart reports, Britain Stronger in Europe has poured resources into convincing the public that a vote to leave on 23 June would jeopardise economic growth and hit jobs; the Treasury published research suggesting it would cost the average household £4,300.Tony Blair and John Major: Brexit would close Irish borderRead moreBut while 63% of those polled by Ipsos Mori thought leaving the EU would reduce immigration – the central thrust of the leave campaign – just 25% thought it would reduce their own living standards. The poll was commissioned by the UK in a Changing Europe, a group of non-partisan academics.
- About 5,000 ballot papers have been sent to people ineligible to take part in the EU referendum, the government has admitted. As the Press Association reports, the details were released as emergency laws extending the deadline for people to register to vote on June 23 were approved by MPs. The legislation had to be rushed through parliament after the government registration website crashed close to the original deadline of midnight on Tuesday, resulting in potentially thousands of people being unable to submit their applications. The extension will allow people to register to vote until midnight on Thursday. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin disclosed the number of ineligible ballot papers sent out as he took the legislation through the Commons. He said it is believed around 5,000 papers have been wrongly sent out across the UK. EU nationals and a 17-year-old girl were among those sent postal voting papers, despite not being allowed to take part in the poll, MPs heard.
- Michael Eavis, the founder of Glastonbury, has used the Glastonbury website to give five reasons why people should vote Remain.
That’s all from me for now.
I will be launching another blog later to cover the ITV debate, featuring Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Gisela Stuart for Leave against Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Eagle and Amber Rudd for Remain. I will launch the blog here at around 7pm, and the two-hour programme starts at 8pm.
Starmer says Leave turning politics into 'truth-free zone'
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow immigration minister, has told the House magazine in an interview that he is worried that the Leave campaign is turning politics into a “truth-free zone”. He explained:
There’s a development in politics that we have to be really careful of, which is allowing politics to become a sort of truth-free zone – this sense that it doesn’t really matter if you’re telling the truth, that it doesn’t really matter if you say one thing one day and another thing the next day. Some of this is happening I’m afraid in the camp that want to leave the EU.
There’s a very loose relationship with the truth. We must be really careful. Let’s have a hard debate. But we mustn’t allow that to enter our politics. It really matters actually whether people are being honest about the facts when they present their arguments. It really matters. And if we get casual about that we’ll lose something in politics forever.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with inventing the world wide web, has declared in favour of staying in the EU. In this week’s New Statesman he says:
I believe Britain should stay in the EU. The logical reason is that we need structures of all scales to manage this planet, and there are a good many things that are best done at the scale of Europe ... The EU level, though, is essential for us ... My heart and wallet are at one: Britain should remain in Europe.
My colleague Severin Carrell has tweeted a picture of George Osborne on the farm in Scotland with Ruth Davidson shovelling - hay, I think, but us urban types don’t know. (I doubt Osborne does either.)
Osborne rules out second referendum
George Osborne also indicated that he would not accept Dominic Raab’s argument that a narrow Remain win could lead to the Tories returning to this issue within the next few years. (See 3.56pm.) The June vote would settle the matter for a generation, Osborne said. Asked about the prospect of a re-run, he said:
I think it will settle it actually. Everyone understands this is the big decision. It’s important for people to recognise there isn’t going to be some second EU referendum. If we vote to leave, we’re leaving. [If] we vote to say, we’ve made our decision we want a strong economy, we want a strong UK and we want Britain out there in the world, shaping events and not being shaped by them. And I think that will last for at least a generation.
Osborne says Farage's campaign rhetoric has been 'disgusting'
George Osborne has attacked Nigel Farage for using “pretty disgusting” rhetoric about the threat of migrants sexually attacking women and refugee bodies washing up on British beaches.
In a marked escalation of attacks on the Ukip leader and by extension the entire leave campaign, the chancellor singled out Farage for representing a “mean-spirited, narrow and divisive” vision of Britain. He said that “tendency” was now coming to dominate the anti-EU campaign.
Speaking to reporters on a campaign visit to a Scottish sheep and beef farm with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, Osborne said:
The Nigel Farage tendency is taking over their argument and you’re increasingly getting this Farage vision of Britain, with all this talk of bodies washing up the sea shores and women being at risk of sexual assault from migrants.
It is pretty disgusting. And we want to say no to it. We want to say that is not the country we are. We’re a country that is big and bold and strong, and united, and we want to say no to this mean-spirited, divisive, negative view of Britain that you get from Nigel Farage and company.
Tory MPs may push for second referendum after 2020 if Remain win, says Vote Leave minister
Conservative MPs may push for a second referendum on EU membership with a few years if Remain win, Dominic Raab, the justice minister, has said.
Raab, who is a senior figure in Vote Leave, made the revelation in an interview with the House magazine. He said that he would expect MPs to respect the verdict of the people but also that it was inevitable that the prospect of a second referendum would be an issue in the next leadership contest, which he said he hoped would be near the 2020 general election.
This was particularly the case if Leave lost narrowly, he said.
His comment implies candidates in the next leadership contest may be under pressure to offer a second referendum after the 2020 election.
Raab told the magazine:
You would be naïve to suggest that [a second referendum] wouldn’t become a factor and one element in that [the next leadership contest.]
I think the sensible thing, if it’s very close – within a couple of points – would be to take pause, respect the verdict of the British people and effectively shelve this debate until that point, which I hope is going to be as close to the 2020 election as possible.
I think that’s the pragmatic, sensible approach. Then we can all get on with delivering the business of government ...
I think the public would expect us to accept their verdict, but of course things change. I’m just realistic and I’d like people to acknowledge that whenever the Tory leadership election is, I think it’s obvious that it will be part of that.
Major and Blair - Key quotes
Here are the key quotes and news lines from Sir John Major and Tony Blair’s joint appearance in Northern Ireland earlier.
Sir John Major
- Major said the unity of the UK was on the ballot paper because a vote for Brexit would probably lead to Scottish independence.
I say, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, that the wrong outcome on June the 23rd will affect our union, and will jeopardise that unity. Because the plain uncomfortable truth is that the unity of the United Kingdom itself is on the ballot paper in two weeks’ time ...
If Scotland votes in the referendum to stay in the European Union but the UK as a whole chooses to leave, there is a serious risk of a new referendum. Not straight away, perhaps, but ultimately, nationalist pressure for another shot at leaving the UK in Scotland could prove to be uncontrollable and politically irresistible.
And, in those circumstances, if the UK was outside the European Union, I can well envisage a different result in that referendum.
- He said Brexit would have a “wholly negative effect” on the relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
And though I have no doubt, whatever happens, that those relations between the UK and Ireland will remain cordial, I do worry about the prospect of a British exit. Which would leave Ireland on the other side of the table in a new negotiation between Britain and 27 other European Union nations.
If that happens, it would have a wholly negative effect on the relationship between our two countries.
- He said that the EU was not just for the elite, but for ordinary people and for the young too. This is what he said when asked what it had to offer the working class.
I’m working class. I come from Brixton. I lived there at a time of mass immigration. My family lived in two rooms in a multi-occupied and, from time to time, multi-racial house. So I’m not part of any elite. And of course there are people across Europe who are elite. But there are millions, 500m people, who are in the EU who are strong supporters of it. This is part of the nonsense that people are being fed, that Europe is only for the elite ...
Europe is not for the elite; it’s for you. It’s for your generation. Tony and I aren’t going to be here in due course. But you are. It is your future that we are voting on on 23. Don’t go back to what our past was. Look ahead to your future and vote to stay in.
- He said investment into the UK would be “much smaller” if it left the EU.
From around the world as a whole it is overwhelmingly likely - you can’t put a figure on it, you can’t say how quickly it will happen - that there will be a much smaller investment in every part of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. And that investment isn’t abstract. It’s jobs.
- He said his experience being brought up poor meant that he knew that prosperity, which he said was linked to EU membership, was not just an abstract matter.
People tend to regard prosperity as something that one ought not really to talk about. But if you have ever lived in a position where you could not pay the bills at the end of the week, you understand that prosperity actually matters. Prosperity isn’t just a question of not being able to pay the bills. It’s a security of mind. And if you have ever been in a position where you cannot do that, I promise you, it never, ever leaves you.
- Blair said leaving the EU would make it impossible to maintain the common travel area between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
If we, as the UK, vote to leave, we’re then in a new, unique situation. The Republic of Ireland remains in the European Union. The UK leaves the European Union. So then what happens to the common travel area?
Now the Leave people say it would just stay, but when you go into the detail, you realise how difficult that is if not impossible because of course, if the UK were to leave the European Union, the border with the Republic becomes the border of the European Union.
So what that would mean by the way, because of course, there were still be the free movement of people within the European Union including the Republic of Ireland with the rest of Europe, if you then retain the common travel area, it means someone from any part of Europe can come to the south and then come to the North and there are no obviously border checks within the UK. So you couldn’t possibly have such a policy because if you did have such a policy it would make a nonsense of their entire argument for leaving which is all to do with the free movement of people within the European Union.
So what you would actually have to do is end up either having border controls and custom checks on the border between North and South, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, and think of those hundreds of miles of border, think of the constant interchange of people, think of the commerce, the goods and services which are freely traded across that line, the problems of doing that are absolutely immense but the only alternative would then be to have, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK which would plainly be unacceptable as well.
He said the inability of Leave campaigners to have answers to questions like this was “unforgivably irresponsible”.
- He accused Leave campaigners of being ideologues.
The Leave campaign has consistently ignored the impact of Leave on the UK. They ignore in particular the impact economically, socially, politically on Northern Ireland, and that is because their ideological fixation with leaving Europe is more important to them than the clear disadvantage Northern Ireland would suffer if we left and the consequent damage to the UK as a whole.
We should always distrust those who put ideology before such practical considerations because those who pay the price of the ideology are not those who are advocating it.
- He said leaving the EU would go “against the grain” of the future because the future was about countries coming together.
Around the world people are coming together. Wherever you go, whether it’s the Far East or central Asia or South America, people are trying to come together. And for us now to break apart from a set of relationships that have grown up over four decades, where we literally are in a situation where half of what we trade, we trade with the rest of Europe, where we have these fundamental relationships, not just for our economy but for our strategic position in the world, to break this apart is not just, for all the reasons we’ve given, wrong for us. It goes against the grain of the future. The future is not about countries breaking apart their alliances. The future is about countries coming together.
- He said leaving the EU would be “about the worst thing” Britain could do to prepare itself for the future.
The case for staying, for remaining, is not a case about just how we manage today’s world. It is about how we manage tomorrow’s world as well, how our future is governed, and how opportunity comes to us as people in that future. It is an uncertain and insecure future. But leaving the European Union is about the worst thing we could do to prepare ourselves for that future properly. That’s why, in my view, we really should remain.
- Tony Blair and Sir John Major have said that leaving the European Union would mean imposing border controls and customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
- The influential Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has revealed that she is defecting from the campaign for a leave vote in this month’s referendum and will be casting a vote for Britain to remain in the European Union. She said she had changed her mind because some Vote Leave campaigners admit in private that their claim about EU membership costing £350m a week is not true. She accused them of practising “post-truth politics”. (See 9.07am.) In an interview she hinted other MPs might also defect to Remain. The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who is pro-Leave, claimed Wollaston’s conversion was phoney.
- Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has called for Labour politicians to raise their game to win the EU referendum for remain, saying Tory divisions meant it was down to Labour to get the vote out.
- Arron Banks, the funder of the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU, is considering whether to legally challenge to the government’s decision to extend the deadline for registering to vote in the EU referendum by 48 hours.
- Young people will be hit hardest by a British exit from the EU, according to the head of the CBI, who said there would be almost a million fewer jobs by 2020, with apprenticeships and graduate roles likely to be hit hard. As Anushka Asthana reports, Carolyn Fairbairn said past experience told her that a third of the people hit by a slump in employment of 950,000, projected by her group in a study carried out with PWC, could be under the age of 34.The director general, who said she felt “emotional” about the potential impact on young people, also revealed in an interview with the Guardian that the CBI’s partner organisations in Commonwealth countries, including Canada, India, South Africa, Singapore, Kenya and Jamaica, had spoken of plans to reduce the amount of money the invest in the UK in the event of Brexit.
- Low-income households are likely to shoulder a disproportionate share of the costs of Brexit if the UK votes to leave the EU in this month’s referendum, a respected thinktank has warned. Responding to the report, Vote Leave’s chief executive Matthew Elliott said:
This is yet another report from a former supporter of the Euro masquerading as new research that is simply recycling and repackaging previous reports. That means the same dodgy assumptions of establishment economists and the Treasury underpin the findings - it is the same people who predicted the world would end if we did not join the euro.
- Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP and former shadow home secretary, has accused Boris Johnson and Michael Gove of “deliberately telling lies” in the referendum campaign. (See 11.25am.) She said she did not know how they could live with themselves given what they are doing.
No 10 says move to extend voter registration deadline cannot be challenged in court
Downing Street has said that Leave.EU has no hope of challenging the decision to extend the voter registration deadline in the courts. (See 10.16am.) It also dismissed claims this was a way of helping Remain voters to register.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman said:
The government position is clear - that this is a legally watertight approach. This isn’t about how people may vote in the referendum. There is no way of knowing at registration how people intend to vote. This is about the government providing a service to enable people to exercise their democratic right. We had problems with that service we want to rectify and address it.
This is an important choice facing people and if they haven’t registered to vote, then we are making sure we deal with the service so that those who want to can.
British embassy in Ankara says it is working to help Turkey join the EU
In his interview with Andrew Neil last night, George Osborne, the chancellor, insisted that Turkey would not be joining the EU.
But Leave.EU points out that the British embassy in Ankara says on its website that it has a team working on “a wide range of issues including Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, the economy, energy policy and international security”.
Arron Banks, the Leave.EU co-founder, said:
Turkish accession poses huge risks to our finances, our public services and our national security. Cameron and Osborne still want it, but they know the public don’t and think they can get away with pretending it isn’t going to happen, even with government websites boasting that they have teams dedicated to speeding it the process.
Scottish voters may switch away from voting to remain in the EU because their support for remaining in is far weaker than the opinion polls suggest, the IPPR think tank and polling organisation Ipsos Mori has warned today.
Russell Gunson, director of IPPR Scotland, said focus groups in Edinburgh, Perth and Elgin found widespread ignorance, a lack of identification with Europe, dislike of “scaremongering” by both sides and anxiety about immigration amongst 10 negative factors influencing voters. He said:
It seems the EU referendum is more of a ‘tinman’ referendum in Scotland, lacking heart and lacking passion, especially compared to the independence referendum.
While the polls may show significant support for remain in Scotland, our research shows this support is potentially quite soft, and could therefore weaken between now and 23 June.
A host of Scottish opinion polls have given the remain camp a significant lead over leave, with one putting it at 50%, but the National Centre for Social Research found earlier this year Euroscepticism is at record levels in Scotland. It said 43% want EU powers reduced and 17% of Scots want to leave.
Shapps announces he is backing Remain
Grant Shapps, the Conservative former party co-chairman, has announced that he has decided to vote Remain. He explains why in a post on his website. Here’s an extract.
Having agonised about my own decision long and hard, I have finally reached the conclusion that in the end the potential turmoil for business is really quite difficult to ignore. I think that the uncertainty about market assess for British companies and the potential that has to put jobs as risk, does just tip the balance in favour of remaining. I will therefore personally vote to remain.
These arguments are very finely balanced, no one truly knows the impact that the referendum’s outcome will have. Speaking as a former Conservative party chairman, I take this opportunity to ask the party to recognise that whilst colleagues have widely differing views on this EU referendum, in the end we are all working to try to build a stronger country for everyone. This debate with all its necessary divisions, should therefore be kept in context because, whatever the outcome, we will need to continue to work closely together afterwards for the good of the nation.
Villiers says Brexit would not lead to border controls between Northern Ireland and Republic
Tony Blair said that leaving the EU would make it impossible to keep the common travel area between Ireland and Northern Ireland. (See 11.53am.)
In a statement from Vote Leave, Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, said she did not accept this.
Northern Ireland, like the rest of the UK, will flourish outside the EU. We can keep an open land border. The common travel area between the UK and Ireland has existed for nearly 100 years since the creation of the Irish state in the 1920s. It will continue if we vote to leave. There would be risks to manage but they are not significantly more serious than risks that are already managed effectively today through bilateral cooperation between the UK and Ireland.
The idea that thousands of non-Irish EU citizens would suddenly start crossing the border is far-fetched. If we vote leave and change the rules on free movement for non-Irish EU citizens, then if they come to the UK across our land border without legal clearance to do so, they would not be able to work, or claim benefits, or rent a home, or open a bank account and could ultimately be deported. There are plenty of mechanisms we can use to control immigration and deal with risks around illegal migration which do not involve physical checks at our land border. The reality is that there has never been a genuinely ‘hard border’ enforced between the UK and Ireland and there would not be one if we leave.
Major and Blair for Remain - Snap verdict
Major and Blair for Remain - Snap verdict: Of all the Remain media events we’ve seen, that was probably one of the most effective. Sir John Major and Tony Blair may seem like figures from the distant past, but in 1997 around three quarters of the British electorate voted for parties led by either one or other of them. People generally like seeing political opponents come together and this was a more genuine cross-party excursion than David Cameron’s stunt with Harriet Harman, Tim Farron and Natalie Bennett because Major and Blair were genuinely complimentary about each other and communicated their message together. At the event on Monday Cameron hogged all the questions and, when it was over, could not get away fast enough from Harman et al. Major and Blair also adopted a relatively understated tone. They made strong points about the future of the UK, Britain’s relations with the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit, the Irish common travel area and about the economic impact of Brexit on the UK generally, but they did so with an air of enlightened, but slightly detached concern which made a pleasant change from some of the more shrill scaremongering we’ve heard. Perhaps Major and Blair are so tarnished by the ERM and Iraq respectively that no one takes any notice (although seeing Blair in Northern Ireland is a reminder that the “warmonger” narrative omits a big part of the story of his premiership), but it is likely that they still have some persuasive clout.
Blair says they need to wind up soon.
Around the world people are coming together, he says.
For the UK to break apart from a set of relationship that has grown up over four decades, is not just wrong; it “goes against the grain of the future”, he says.
- Blair says breaking up “goes against the grain of the future”.
It is not just a case about now, says Blair. It is about how we manage the future too.
Leaving the EU is “about the worst thing we could do to prepare ourselves for that future properly”, he says.
Q: We will soon be leaving schools. How will students benefit from leaving, and what are the dangers of leaving?
Major says the questioner will want a productive job. He may want to look after himself and his family. People think of prosperity as an abstract thing. But if you have ever been in the position of not being able to pay a bill at the end of the week, you know that is not abstract.
I promise you, that never, ever leaves you.
Major says we are simply going to be better off by staying in.
Q: Remain say the economy of Northern Ireland will suffer if we leave. But wages are already low in Northern Ireland. How will it be worse?
Blair says there are many challenges for Northern Ireland. Governments have to do what they can to change that. But, if the UK leaves the EU, those problems become worse. It would be harder for Northern Ireland to attract investment.
If the government then wanted to retain access to the single market, it would have to allow free movement, like Norway. And the UK would have to contribute to the EU too. He says Norway’s per capita contribution is about the same as the UK’s.
He says remaining is not a solution to all these problems. But leaving will make the problems worse.
Q: The EU has invested significantly in Northern Ireland. Would a UK government continue with that level of funding?
Major says he and Blair have just visited the Peace Bridge.
He says investors invest in the UK because they want access to the EU market.
If the UK left the EU, it is “overwhelmingly likely” that investment into the UK would be much smaller.
- Major says if UK leaves the EU, it is “overwhelmingly likely” that investment into the UK would be much smaller.
Q: Peter Mandelson said last week Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, was irresponsible for backing Leave. Do you agree?
Blair says people are entitled to their views.
But anyone backing Leave has to answer questions such as the one about the common travel area.
Blair says Major is from a working class background and became a Conservative prime minister. He says he is from a middle class background and became a Labour prime minister.
He says his father grew up in the shadow of war. It is important to remember what the EU achieved, he says.
He says Europe stands for social protection. The Leave campaigner do not want this, he says.
He says it is “irresponsible” to back leaving without being able to answer basic questions.
Blair says he went to work as a barman in Paris shortly after the UK joined the EU. He says we should not give up the freedom to travel around Europe lightly.
Major and Blair's Q&A
Major and Blair are now taking questions.
Blair starts by saying he was a bit worried when the moderator said they would be facing their toughest audience. “That would be quite a high bar in my case,” he says.
Q: What reasons are there for working class people to stay in the EU?
Major says he is working class. He comes from Brixton. He was brought up in a two-bedroom house. It was a mixed community. He is not elite. People say Europe is just for elites, but that is “nonsense”. When the UK joined the EU, it was described as the sick man of Europe. Since then it has got much richer. It is projected to become the richest country in Europe.
He says when he was young, for a holiday people went to Brighton. Now young people can go around Europe without visas.
He says he objects strongly to the Leave campaign saying the EU is just for elites.
- Major says the EU is not just for elites.
He says he and Blair are not going to be here in future. This is about young people. “Don’t go back to what our past was,” he says.
Blair says the relationship with Ireland is better and stronger than ever before.
He was the first prime minister to address the Irish parliament, he says.
He says the EU, for all its faults, represents an enormous coming together of people.
The spirit that brought people together in Northern Ireland is one we need as we make this decision, he says.
Blair says the Leave campaign have ignored the impact of Leave on the UK.
That is because their ideological preoccupation with leaving is more important to them than the consequences of leaving.
You should always distrust people who put ideology ahead of national interest, he says.
Blair says if UK leaves EU, it would be impossible to keep common travel area with Ireland
Blair says people in the Leave camp are not interested in discussing the problems that might occur if the UK leaves the EU.
The common travel area between the Republic and Northern Ireland is a good example.
It started in the 1920s.
The UK and the Republic joined the EU at the same time. So the common travel area could continue.
If the UK leaves, what happens to it, he asks.
He says Leave say it will just stay.
But that would be difficult, or impossible.
- Blair says if UK leaves EU, it would be impossible to keep common travel area with Ireland.
He says it would be impossible to keep it because otherwise EU citizens could just to Ireland and cross into the UK.
You would have to have border checks, he says.
The problems of that would be “immense”.
But the only alternative would be border checks between Northern Ireland and the mainland, which would be unacceptable.
He says Brexit would put the union at risk. And it would put Northern Ireland at risk.
- Blair says ignoring these concerns is “unforgivably irresponsible.”
Tony Blair is speaking now.
He says it is a real pleasure to be with Sir John Major. Whatever their differences, he has always had the highest respect for Major. He is someone who has always had the interests of Britain and Northern Ireland at heart.
He says many in the audience are too young to remember this. But in the 1980s in Northern Ireland people lived in constant fear. Bringing about peace was not easy, but it was a vast cooperative effort. Major played an essential part, he says.
It involved people putting aside enmities and coming together.
It was painstaking, he says.
He says the Good Friday agreement also involved a new relationship between the UK and the Republic within the EU. They could come together in part because they were both members of the EU.
He says these things took a long time to put together. It is foolish to put them at risk, he says.
Major says Brexit would have “wholly negative effect” on UK relations with Ireland
Major turns to Northern Ireland.
He says he and Blair know how carefully the peace process was put together.
He says both men know about the stops and starts, and the compromises, involved in building a peace that will endure.
He says no problem took up more of his time as prime minister.
However routine the troubles were, he was convinced that it would be possible to bring peace to Northern Ireland, he says.
People were sick of the violence, he says.
He says it is extraordinary to come to Northern Ireland and see a successful power-sharing agreement. Thirty years ago, that would have seemed impossible.
He says Brexit would put this at risk. It would “put all the pieces of the constitutional jigsaw up in the air again, and no one could be certain where they would land”.
He says he accepts that relations between the UK and Ireland will prove cordial, whatever happens.
But if the UK leaves the EU, Ireland would be on the other side of the table. That would have a “wholly negative effect” on relations with Ireland.
- Major says Brexit would have “wholly negative effect” on UK relations with Ireland.
Major says it is not a coincidence that every living former prime minister, as well as the current one, thinks the UK should stay in the EU.
They have all seen how EU membership increases British influence, he says.
He says people should fight for the UK’s interests in Europe. That is the right choice for our country, he says.
Major says the Scottish independence referendum should have settled that matter for a generation.
But, if Scotland votes to stay in the EU while the UK as a whole votes to leave, there is a “serious risk” of a second independence referendum.
Pressure for a second vote could prove irresistible, he says.
And he says, the next time, it is likely Scotland would vote to leave the UK.
So England would be out of the EU, and the UK would have broken up.
The “most successful union in world history” could be broken up for good, he says.
Major says 'the unity of the UK” is on the ballot paper
Sir John Major goes first.
He says staying in the EU is good for Britain. But today he wants to focus on one argument in particular, he says.
He says the UK is a union of four countries.
He says without a shadow of doubt that the wrong outcome will put the union in doubt.
The unity of the UK is on the ballot paper, he says.
- Major says “the unity of the UK” is on the ballot paper on 23 June.
Major and Blair campaign together in Northern Ireland
Sir John Major and Tony Blair at doing a joint Q&A with students in Northern Ireland now.
There is a live feed at the top of this blog.
Yvette Cooper accuses Boris Johnson and Gove of 'deliberately telling lies'
At the Labour event in the Shard this morning Yvette Cooper, Labour’s former shadow home secretary, said Leave campaign had showed Boris Johnson was not fit to be prime minister, directly accusing the ex-mayor of lying in order to advance his own career.
Johnson, cited by polls as one of the most trusted figures by the public on the EU, would lose his reputation eventually, Cooper said.
Watch what happens over time to Boris Johnson’s reputation, the way he ignores the truth, and think he can have any kind of authority.
How could you have someone like that as a prime minister? Someone who is happy to rip up the facts and talk up complete fiction for his own personal interests. In the end, people will see through that.
She said Johnson and justice secretary Michael Gove were “deliberately telling lies” about Turkey’s accession to the EU, saying they were well aware such a scenario was a long way from reality.
They know this, they are not stupid, but they are deliberately misleading and manipulating the facts, deliberately telling lies.
I don’t know how they live with themselves, manipulating and telling lies in this way, they know what they are doing. I don’t know what their conscience is saying to them but they should really think hard about the way they are twisting and distorting this.
Cooper said she believed Johnson and Gove, both former journalists, believed they could “talk in politics as the same way as they used to as columnists, just to be provocative.”
David Campbell Bannerman, a pro-Brexit Conservative MEP who was a special adviser in the Northern Ireland Office when Major was prime minister, is also accusing the two former prime ministers of scaremongering.
Sir John Major and Tony Blair will be starting their event in Northern Ireland shortly. We will have a live feed at the top of this blog.
Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, has said they are both discredited in Northern Ireland.
Bill Clinton says leaving the EU could put peace in Northern Ireland at risk
Earlier Claire mentioned the fact that Bill Clinton, the former US president, has urged Britain to stay in the EU. His short New Statesman article where he makes this declaration is now available here, on the magazine’s website.
Here’s an excerpt.
In a tumultuous world, marked by slow growth, excessive inequality, massive refugee flows, and sectarian violence, it’s tempting to believe we can reduce our exposure and increase our personal and economic security by turning inward and keeping the world’s problems out. We’d all like to have the benefits of global interdependence without the burdens. However, because there are disruptive forces we cannot escape, co-operation and collective action are much more likely than withdrawal and isolation to produce prosperity and security. For a nation as large, diverse, and successful as the UK, there is no escape from the growing pains and contradictions of the 21st century world.
It is also important not to minimise the benefits of EU membership to the UK. For example, I was honoured to support the peace process in Northern Ireland. It has benefited from the UK’s membership in the European Union, and I worry that the future prosperity and peace of Northern Ireland could be jeopardised if Britain withdraws.
At the Labour event Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, spoke about his fares announcement yesterday that led to claims he had broken his promise to freeze fares. Khan insisted this was not true.
I was quite clear my promise to London is to freeze fares over the next four years. 96% of passenger journeys in London will have their fares frozen, and it will mean 11m passengers benefiting from what I set out yesterday.
Asked about the “not a penny more for their travel” line in the manifesto, Khan went on:
I think to be fair if you read the line before, I was quite clear it is TfL fares. Promise made, promise delivered. I have frozen TfL fares. Now I need to do one of two things: persuade the government to give me the power to run TfL trains. If I ran those trains I’d freeze those fares as well. Or the government should say to the private operating companies, do what the mayor’s doing and freeze those fares as well.
I can do a better job than [the train companies] are doing ... If I can make TfL waste efficient and cut fares in four weeks, why can’t they make the TOCs [train operating companies] do the same?
Banks threatens to challenge voter registrations extension in court - but expert says his case 'hopeless'
Arron Banks, the co-founder of Leave.EU, put out a statement this morning saying he was thinking of taking legal action to try to stop the government extending the deadline for voter registration. He suggested this could involve challenging the result of the referendum after 23 June. He said:
For the government to alter election law during an election period is absolutely unprecedented and unconstitutional. This isn’t some democratic initiative, it’s a desperate attempt by the establishment to register as many likely Remain voters as possible before polling day. Terrific efforts have been made to target young people, thought to be more sympathetic to the EU, while older voters who backed Remain in 1975 but have grown heartily sick of the bloc after forty years of broken promises were given a body swerve.
This follows hot on the heels of the Electoral Commission issuing thousands of ballots to EU nationals with no right to vote in the referendum, turning a blind eye the councils issuing postal voting guidance suggesting that voters put their cross in the box for Remain and doing nothing about Cameron spending over £9m on propaganda leaflets, in blatant violation of its own guidelines and of the Council of Europe’s code of good practice on referendums, too. There are now serious questions hanging over this organisation, which had already lost much public confidence following allegations of corruption during elections in Oldham and Tower Hamlets.
Taken together, we believe that the above constitutes a clear attempt to rig the referendum or, at a bare minimum, to load the dice. We believe It is unconstitutional at best and have been advised that with legitimate cause we could challenge this extension. We are therefore considering all available legal options with our legal team, with a view to potentially launching a judicial review now and after the outcome of the referendum on 23rd June.
Readers with good memories will remember that Banks also threatened to go to court to challenge the Electoral Commission’s decision to make Vote Leave the lead out campaign, not Grassroots Out, which includes Leave.EU. That came to nothing after Banks had second thoughts and dropped the idea.
Carl Garnder, the legal blogger and former government lawyer, has tweeted at length about this. He says Banks’s legal case is “hopeless”.
Khan says only Labour can win referendum for Remain
Sadiq Khan, the new Labour mayor of London, has been speaking at a Labour event in the Shard this morning, with Alan Johnson, chair of Labour In for Britain, Harriet Harman, the former deputy leader, and Yvette Cooper, the former shadow home secretary.
Khan said it was up to Labour to win the EU referendum for Remain.
Every day we see another example of why David Cameron and the Tories simply cannot win this referendum as they lose credibility with the public. They are simply too riven by division. It now falls to us, and it’s time for us to step up.
Jeremy, Harriet, Alan, Yvette, the whole shadow cabinet, and every Labour MP, Councillor, member and supporter in Britain - the responsibility is ours. We don’t want to look back in two weeks’ time and think - did we do enough?
And Johnson said the Tories were making the contest look like “a bunfight in the Eton tea room”.
With David Cameron and Boris Johnson trading blows in this campaign it sometimes resembles a bunfight in the Eton tea room. This debate is not about who is to lead the Conservative Party, it’s about the kind of country we want Britain to be: engaged with our continent or isolated on the periphery; erecting barriers or building bridges; a great trading nation or a small minded country where exploitation flourishes.
As the largest political party in the country we’re asking our members to do even more in the final two weeks of the campaign in persuading Labour voters to protect jobs, our economy and workers’ rights by staying in the EU, the largest commercial market in the world.
The truth is Labour are the only major political party who are united on this issue, so we need everyone - MPs, councillors, members and supporters - to redouble their efforts to defeat Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and their friends by convincing a million more people to vote Remain.
This is from my colleague Jessica Elgot.
Here is some Twitter comment on Sarah Wollaston’s “defection”.
From YouGov’s Joe Twyman
From the BBC’s Kamal Ahmed
From Deborah Mattinson, the Britain Thinks pollster
From the Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn
From the Ukip MEP Roger Helmer
From the New Statesman’s George Eaton
From Heidi Alexander, the shadow heath secretary
From Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary
From Conservative MP Michael Fabricant
Just for reference, here is a post showing what the cross-party Commons Treasury committee and the Institute for Fiscal Studies are saying about the Vote Leave £350m figure that Sarah Wollaston has denounced as a lie. The Treasury committee says it is “highly misleading” and the IFS says it includes assumptions that are “clearly absurd”.
Wollaston accuses Vote Leave of practising 'post-truth politics'
Here is Sarah Wollaston’s article in the Times (paywall) explaining why she has changed her mind on Brexit and now decided that she is in favour of staying in the EU.
In the article Wollaston, a Tory MP, chair of the Commons health committee and a former GP, says that Vote Leave’s claim that leaving the EU would save £350m a week which could go to the NHS is not true, that Brexit would damage the NHS because it would damage the economy and that the Leave campaign, by focusing on immigration, “looks increasingly indistinguishable from Ukip”.
She also suggests she has been influenced by conversations with her father.
In recent weeks I have also observed the professionalism and care of the NHS from my father’s bedside as he recovered from a heart attack and a triple bypass. We had time for long conversations about the referendum and our place in Europe. Now 81, as a teenager he was trained as a mine clearance diver with the Royal Navy. For him, the risk of war in Europe is not some abstract debate but a horror against which the EU, for all its imperfections, has brought us protection.
In an interview on the Today programme a few minutes ago she said that some Vote Leave campaigners admit in private that their claim about EU membership costing £350m a week is not true. She accused them of practising “post-truth politics”.
I think right from the outset there are people within the Leave campaign who acknowledge in private that they know this is not true, but what they are trying to encourage is a discussion about the amount. Well, this is a kind of post-truth politics. Having come into public life complaining about open and honest data, I can’t step foot on a battlebus or distribute a leaflet with information that I know to be untrue. And I’ve told them that.
Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary and one of the cabinet minister backing Brexit, has accused Sir John Major and Tony Blair of scaremongering. In a statement issued by Vote Leave she said:
Support for the peace process in Northern Ireland is rock solid. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland believe their future should only ever be determined by democracy and consent and not by violence. I very much hope figures who played such an important role in the peace process would not suggest that a Brexit vote would weaken that resolve in any way. Whatever the result of the referendum, Northern Ireland is not going back to the troubles of its past and to suggest otherwise would be highly irresponsible.
Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Claire.
We’ve already mentioned the fact that Sir John Major and Tony Blair will be campaigning together in Northern Ireland today, highlighting the threat Brexit would pose to the peace process, and to the unity of the UK as a whole.
According to remarks released in advance, Major will say:
I believe it would be a dreadful mistake to do anything that has any risk of destabilising the complicated and multi-layered constitutional settlement that underpins stability in Northern Ireland.
But that is what a British exit from the EU would do: it would throw all of the pieces of the constitutional jigsaw into the air again, and no-one could say where they might land ...
The most successful union in world history would be broken apart for good.
And Blair will say:
I say, don’t take a punt on these people [the Leave campaign]. Don’t let them take risks with Northern Ireland’s future. Don’t let them undermine our United Kingdom ...
We understand that, although today Northern Ireland is more stable and more prosperous than ever, that stability is poised on carefully constructed foundations. And so we are naturally concerned at the prospect of anything that could put those foundations at risk.
Time for me to log off and leave you in the hands of Andrew Sparrow for the rest of today’s action and mudslinging.
Thanks for reading and for the comments.
Reuters reports that the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, the country’s leading forecaster, has warned that Dutch exposure to a possible British exit would be greater than for other members of the EU and could trim 1.2% percent off the Netherlands economy by 2030:
A Brexit will have a relatively severe effect on the economy of the Netherlands,” it said.
The CPB’s analysis, which reviewed four other Brexit scenarios in the EU, provided the most negative outlook yet on the possible impact of a British exit for the Netherlands. The government and central bank have so far said the impact would be limited.
Brexit-related costs may reach €10bn, or 1.2% of the Dutch economy, which is the sixth largest in the bloc. They could increase by as much as 65% to 2% of GDP, said the CPB, whose forecasts are used by the government to determine budget policy.
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would take two years, while uncertainty about trade agreements between the EU and Britain would have an impact on investment in Britain, it said.
Renegotiating trade agreements could take several years but even if completed successfully the Dutch economy would be worse off, the CPB said.
“The economic damage caused by that uncertainty will be the greatest in the short term and can already be seen in the run-up to the UK referendum,” it said.
The worst-hit sectors of the Dutch economy would be chemicals, plastics and rubber, electronic equipment, motor vehicles and parts, the food processing industry and metals and minerals, the CPB said.
An eagle-eyed reader spots a flaw in today’s diary:
I imagine one of them – possibly the prime-time TV option – will win out, but we’ll let you know.
Alternatively, Stuart could try out that old sitcom favourite, the two-timer date, and dash from studio to spires between questions.
It’s only breakfast time and we have the first Nazi reference of the day. And a derogatory mental health reference for good measure. Sigh.
It comes courtesy of Alan Sked, the founder of Ukip, as Press Association reports:
The Remain campaign’s tactics have been compared to those of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels by the founder of Ukip.
Professor Alan Sked also used a speech at the London School of Economics to suggest that prime minister David Cameron was a lunatic.
Sked said Remain “seeks to scare the voters with a Big Lie technique that Josef Goebbels himself would have been proud of”.
He went on:
We are told that Brexit – that is to say, the re-establishment of a harmless, normally self-governing, democratic Britain – would lead to war, genocide, economic collapse, terrorist infiltration, isolation and much worse.
Not so long ago people who went around crying that the end of the world is nigh were locked up in lunatic asylums. Today they are allowed to live in Downing Street.
Sarah Wollaston has clearly been uncomfortable with the £350m figure for a while, at least:
John Redwood has been speaking on the Today programme about the case for leave and that £350m figure that Sarah Wollaston, in her reasoning for switching sides, called “untrue”.
Redwood insisted Vote Leave was correct to use the figure:
It’s the gross figure … You then need to allow for the fact that we get a rebate … That is the official gross figure.
He said pro-Brexit politicians would “want to carry on paying that money” that currently comes back from the EU to farmers and others within the UK.
Today presenter Nick Robinson pressed him pretty forcefully on the £350m:
We don’t actually send it … We only send what the discounted bill is, it’s £267m.
After what is spent of that £267 in Britain, Robinson says, the real figure is £161m.
That’s not the point, Redwood told him:
It’s the money that we could spend on our priorities … We could do so out of all the money we’d save.
He insisted the £350m figure was “not a lie”.
Questioned on comments by George Osborne yesterday that suggested Turkish membership of the EU was not on the cards, Redwood said:
That is against government policy.
The government has made it very clear they wish to help accelerate Turkish membership.
He’s clearly wrong.
Good morning and welcome to the daily EU referendum live blog. I’ve scooped up all you need to know for the day ahead; Andrew Sparrow will be along later to take his seat. Do come and chat in the comments below or find me on Twitter @Claire_Phipps.
The big picture
A boost for Bremain (sorry, I fell for the alliteration) this morning, with news that Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, previously a Brexit backer, has now said she will vote for Britain to stay in the EU. The push that became a shove was, the former GP says, the claim by Vote Leave that quitting would free up £350m a week for the NHS – something she says “simply isn’t true”:
For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue.
If you’re in a position where you can’t hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can’t be campaigning for that organisation.
In an article for the Times (I cannot find it on the website but see it here), Wollaston adds:
The Leave campaign has redrawn its battle lines around immigration for the final weeks of the campaign and looks increasingly indistinguishable from Ukip.
Does the defection of one MP matter much? David Cameron is certainly pleased. Responses from the leave side range from critical to dismissive to conspiracy theorist. Perhaps, though, it suggests – as the c12% of undecided voters might confirm – there are people who have been waiting to hear the arguments before they settle in a camp. The very idea!
Don’t expect any floor-crossing this evening as ITV hosts a referendum debate that is actually a debate featuring, for remain, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Tory energy secretary Amber Rudd and Labour’s shadow business secretary Angela Eagle; and for leave, Conservatives Boris Johnson and energy minister Andrea Leadsom, and Labour’s Gisela Stuart. ITV’s Julie Etchingham moderates again.
Expect: questions on a second Scottish referendum; disputes over that £350m figure; Tory leadership speculation; some sort of joke from Johnson about being the only man on the stage as if that isn’t (reversed) absolutely the normal state of affairs for every single woman in politics.
And after the debate, please don’t all rush at once to register to vote before the all-new midnight Thursday deadline. MPs will vote earlier in the day to allow the 48-hour extension to the registration deadline, following the crashing of the official website as the original cut-off point approached on Tuesday night.
Pro-Brexit Tory MP Bernard Jenkin and Leave.EU funder Arron Banks have both warned that that if the result of the referendum were to be close, the decision to extend the deadline could be challenged by a judicial review. But the Electoral Commission said it supported the extension.
You should also know:
- Tony Blair and John Major will campaign together today in Northern Ireland.
- George Osborne says voting for Brexit means embracing Nigel Farage’s divisive vision.
- Uncertainty over the EU referendum has driven the biggest fall in the number of people trying to buy a property since the financial crisis.
- Citigroup warns staff of Brexit jobs risk, while Brexit supporter Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, writes to his 6,000 employees to say there is “very little to fear” from leaving the EU.
- Oxford University’s Migration Observatory says the introduction of an Australian-style points-based immigration system will not guarantee that net migration will be reduced to the tens of thousands.
No fresh polls today. Enjoy the silence.
- At 8.15am, Labour’s Andy Burnham gives a speech in Manchester warning that the referendum should not be seen as a single issue protest vote.
- At 9am London mayor Sadiq Khan, Alan Johnson, Yvette Cooper and Harriet Harman roll up for a Labour In event at the Shard.
- Former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major head to Northern Ireland; chancellor George Osborne is in Scotland.
- From 8pm to 10pm, it’s the ITV referendum debate: Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon are the headliners.
- At 8.30pm, the Oxford Union hosts a referendum debate with Michael Howard, Michael Heseltine, Gisela Stuart, Alex Salmond and Yvette Cooper (again).
- At 10.30pm Question Time on BBC1 has Eddie Izzard, Nigel Farage, Hilary Benn, Chris Grayling and Allison Pearson on the panel.
- And at midnight – have I mentioned this? – voting registration CLOSES.
Nicholas Vinocur and Tara Palmeri in Politico say France will not play nicely in the event that Britain votes to leave the EU:
The French push is focused on convincing the remaining EU countries to unwind all treaties and agreements binding the UK to the bloc quickly, so the divorce is sealed by withdrawing subsidies, re-evaluating trade relationships sector by sector, denying British supervisory bodies EU recognition in areas like financial services, and establishing new immigration rules, to name just a few levers …
France would not be acting out of spite, officials said, and has no interest in setting off a tit-for-tat war of punitive measures. But as a core EU member, sources said it had a responsibility to strengthen the bloc and deprive anti-EU parties – not just the FN but also the likes of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands – of a chance to use Britain as a shining example of what life can be after the European Union.
The Spectator pits Matthew Parris and Daniel Hannan against each other to give their best reasons to vote In or Out (I’m going to let readers assume which of them argues which case). A taster:
Europe has become a proxy for people’s sense of powerlessness.
Ask yourself, though, who the ‘we’ are who would be ‘taking back control’. The ‘we’ used by Brexiteers is menacingly unspecific. Some of the ‘we’ want much less regulation, some want much more, some want different. The collective ‘we’ can only survive the first few yards of this journey – from now until 24 June. After any decision to leave, that sense of purpose would fragment.
‘Europe’ has soaked up for us a million gripes about the modern world: a proxy and convenient target for a national irritability which, were Europe to be removed, would not go away.
Baffling claim of the day
The Telegraph leads today with the news that “Thatcher minister quits Tories in Brexit row”. The minister is Sir John Nott, the row is that he says he won’t renew his party membership until Cameron is replaced as leader, and the baffling bit is that the article says Nott “is understood to have voted for Ukip in European elections” in 2014 anyway.
Celebrity endorsement of the day
Former US president and potential First Dude-in-waiting Bill Clinton, writing in the New Statesman (again, apparently not online yet; the morning briefing is just too darned ahead of itself), cites the “future properity and peace” of Northern Ireland as a reason to vote remain:
Britain is a leading representative of Europe throughout the world … I hope you will stay.
The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has come to the same conclusion, writing in the Telegraph today:
Not all decisions should be made purely on the basis of ‘What’s in it for us?’ It is also significant, therefore, that a far higher percentage of young people wish to stay in the EU than older people; it is they, principally, who will have to live with the consequences of the decision that we take on June 23.
The day in a tweet
If today were a book ...
It would be Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Or Tom’s Midnight Garden. Or Midnight Express. Anything with midnight in it, basically. MIDNIGHT. Got that?
And another thing
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