With the next EU summit – where David Cameron hopes to secure a deal on EU reforms – less than a month away, both the In and Out campaigns are ramping up their activity this week. Leading pharmaceutical companies have warned that leaving the EU would isolate Britain’s scientists and reduce its influence in medicine. Meanwhile, in a slightly shaky interview on the Today programme this morning, former CEO of M&S and Britain Stronger In Europe campaign chief Sir Stuart Rose argued that access to the single market is vital to the success of UK businesses. He warned that £600,000-£700,000 would be lost per business if the UK leaves the EU, and that those campaigning to exit cannot demonstrate how the benefits of leaving would outweigh this. In what is likely to be a common theme in the campaigns around Brexit, the interview highlighted that both the In and Out campaigns are dealing in hypotheticals, throwing around statistics about the pros and cons of the EU that are difficult to back up.
The date of the EU referendum continues to be a headache for David Cameron. Pressure not to rush is coming from all sides. Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party are unhappy at Cameron’s efforts to quickly push through a vote following the potential renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU, whilst the SNP and Labour have expressed fears that a vote this June would not give the pro-Europe campaign enough time to build a positive message. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, added her view that it would be disrespectful to the May elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern to hold the EU referendum in June as the campaigning period would overlap. However, again revealing the wide range of views around every aspect of the referendum, others on the Pro-EU side worry that pushing the vote back to September could damage the In campaign should there be another migration crisis this summer. In reality, much will depend on the outcome of Cameron’s negotiations at the EU summit.