Labour ramps up EU referendum campaign as stocks drop
Britain's opposition Labour Party on Monday scrambled to make the case for the EU as stock markets slipped over fears the country will vote to leave in next week's knife-edge referendum.
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown will defend EU membership to left-wing voters while Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny was also due to begin a tour of the United Kingdom to campaign against Brexit.
“You’ve got to be at the table, you’ve got to be a negotiator. I know from my own experience that that is absolutely essential,” Brown told BBC radio.
Many Labour supporters plan to vote “Leave” due to concerns over levels of immigration from the European Union to Britain.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to have temporarily stepped back from campaigning to allow Labour to make the case to its side.
Some analysts believe that support or a lack of it from Labour voters could be decisive to the “Remain” camp’s hopes of victory.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made only a limited number of appearances in the referendum campaign.
“From now until 10:00 pm on 23 June, we will not rest and I will not stop explaining why nine million Labour voters have most to gain from remaining in the EU,” Brown will reportedly say in his speech, referring to the time when polls close.
The voice of Brown, the party’s last prime minister between 2007 and 2010, is seen as influential with Labour supporters.
His intervention late in the Scottish independence referendum campaign in 2014 was credited with helping the successful push to stay in Britain.
– ‘Investors seek safety’ –
World stock markets slid further on Monday after several recent opinion polls suggested the “Leave” camp could win.
An average of the last six polls by the What UK Thinks project puts the “Leave” and “Remain” camps on level pegging at 50 percent.
Tokyo’s main stock index dived 3.5 percent to a two-month low by the close on Monday.
Worries over Britain’s EU membership vote sparked a rally in the safe haven yen currency, which in turn hammered shares in Japanese exporters.
“Risk aversion continues to drive markets ahead of the US open on Monday, as investors seek safety ahead of a number of key risks events,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group.
“Should the UK vote to leave the EU next week, it would be a massive test of the markets’ ability to deal with a significant blow.”
Around 1015 GMT, London’s FTSE 100 index was down 0.5 percent compared with Friday’s close.
In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index retreated 1.2 percent and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 1.3 percent.
The British pound hit two-month lows against both the euro and dollar.
Also on Monday, Ireland’s Kenny began a tour of the UK to try to shore up support for “Remain”, particularly among the estimated 600,000 Irish citizens living in Britain who can vote.
He was due to give a speech in Belfast in Northern Ireland later on Monday and meet Cameron in Manchester on Thursday.
He will then attend a British-Irish Council meeting in Glasgow, Scotland on Friday, his press office said.
“It is of course entirely up to the British people how they choose to vote but there are many Irish passport holders resident in the UK and descendants of Irish people who are entitled to a vote and it is important that they are made aware of the Irish national interest,” Kenny’s spokesman told AFP.
Ireland, an EU member which is also part of the eurozone, is concerned that Brexit could hit its trade ties with Britain and mean the restoration of customs checks along its border with Northern Ireland.