Labour comes out fighting against Brexit

10th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

After weeks on the sidelines, senior figures in the opposition Labour party came out fighting for Britain to stay in the EU on Friday amid fears their failure to get out the left-wing vote may result in a Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is officially backing the "Remain" campaign but has been keeping a low profile, leaving members of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives to fight it out between themselves.

But with opinion polls showing the race for the June 23 referendum is neck and neck, raising the real possibility that Britain could become the first country to leave the EU, senior Labour figures are now stepping up.

Ahead of a speech in London on Friday, former party leader Ed Miliband acknowledged in a BBC interview: "Some Labour voters don't know where we stand at the moment."

Corbyn has refused to share a platform with Cameron and there are concerns some Labour voters will abstain or back a Brexit to give the Conservative leader a bloody nose.

Miliband urged them not to, saying: "This is not a mid-term protest... This is a once-in-a-generation decision which will shape our country for decades to come."

He accused the "Leave" campaign, also backed by the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, of "trying to perpetrate a fraud on Labour voters".

"They want to get out of the European Union not to improve workers' rights but to sweep them away," said Miliband, who stepped down after losing last year's general election.

Labour deputy party leader Tom Watson was due to release predictions on Friday of how Britain might look outside the EU, on the premise that Cameron would be ousted in favour of a more right-wing Conservative government.

The economic turbulence of a Brexit would create "a massive black hole in the public finances, and an unfair Tory government that will make ordinary families pay for it through further cuts and tax rises", he said, according to the Daily Mirror tabloid.

- 'People's revolution' -

A YouGov poll for The Times this week found public opinion evenly split between leaving or staying in the EU, but Labour voters favoured "Remain" by 61 percent to 26 percent, with the remainder either not voting or undecided.

However, Labour voters were also marginally less likely to say they would definitely vote.

Andy Burnham, Labour's home affairs spokesman, admitted in a BBC interview Thursday that the campaign had not focused enough on its traditional base.

"Here we are two weeks away from the very real prospect that Britain will vote for isolation," he said.

The leaders of 10 major trade unions came out in favour of staying in the EU this week, but many workers blame the mass migration caused by the EU's freedom of movement rules for driving down wages.

Two backbench lawmakers, John Mann and Dennis Skinner, on Friday announced that they were backing Brexit as the best way to secure workers' rights.

In an article for The Sun tabloid, Mann said the arrival of hundreds of thousands of EU migrants into Britain each year was "worsening inequality".

He added: "A people's revolution is under way. This is about returning power to the people."

- Tory attacks dominate debate -

Labour's push for votes came after senior Conservatives attacked each other in the first head-to-head television debate of the referendum race on Thursday.

Three campaigners from each side -- five of them women -- argued their case over two hours.

Tory energy minister Amber Rudd, who is backing "Remain", laid into lead Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, the Conservative former London mayor tipped as a future prime minister.

In clashes over migration, Johnson said: "There has got to be democratic consent for the scale of the flows that we are seeing."

Rudd hit back, saying: "I fear that the only number Boris is interested in is the one that says Number 10" -- the premier's address in Downing Street.

© 2016 AFP

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