People passionate about the EU debate; less so about the campaigners

Do the British public know, or even care, about the EU referendum? The Bank of England will reveal their findings on Wednesday into the effect Brexit could have on the nation’s finances. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, will give a speech at Oxford University, coinciding with the release of a more detailed written report.

Carney courted controversy last year when he intervened in the Scottish independence referendum. That campaign engaged the public to a degree not seen before in British politics. Could the EU decision generate similar enthusiasm? Notebooks in hand and iPhones on record, we went out into the bustling area around Oxford Street to see what people thought about the EU referendum.

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In a traditional but pricey pub, Daniel O’Sullivan, a TV advertising manager, was certain Britain should stay in the EU. He thought power was coalescing into Chinese and US hands, and without the EU’s support, Britain would struggle to compete. Worse still was the eventual future that he believes awaits the country, if it made the physical divide from Europe into a political one. “Eventually, it [Britain] will be forced to make arrangements with America. I do not want the UK to have relationships with America, I want the UK to be European.”

Outside the pub, and wishing to move outside the EU, one man agreed to talk for as long as his cigarette took to finish. He believed EU rules and regulations took authority away from Britain. “We give them way too much money, and then they tell us what to do!” The prospect of an independent Britain gave him some hope: “It will be much stronger, much better than it is right now, being dictated to by European arseholes”. 

aAlexandra, a University of Westminster student, happily chatted despite being interrupted in the library. “I would vote for the UK to stay in the EU.” She didn’t think Britain would vote to leave, but if it did, it would be a stupid decision. According to her, countries couldn’t be separated in today’s world, and needed to cooperate with everyone else.

What should interest activists on both sides of the campaign is that no-one spoken to knew the name of any of the three official groups: Leave.EU,  Vote Leave, and Britain Stronger in Europe. These groups will need to look at ways to change this. With 17% of voters undecided, and a 5% lead in favour of staying in, there will be plenty of developments still to come.

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