The EU referendum is a divisive issue spanning from socialist left to the far right of the political spectrum, and neither Labour nor the Conservatives can boast of having a party united behind a common position. The debate has given rise to unlikely alliances, for example the union of George Galloway with Ukip’s Farage and the Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson having announced his position in camp ‘out’.
Critics regard Johnson as a right-wing populist, operating beneath a calculated facade of buffoonery. His supporters argue he is engaging and different to the Westmister’s norms, despite his Etonian and Bullingdon past. Johnson has positioned himself at loggerheads with the Prime Minister as he told the Telegraph, “an unreformed EU… is hellbent on a federal project over which we have no control”. However, the Treasury, supported by a wide range of economic advisors, has argued that Brexit would cause “an economic shock” and that the risks outweigh the possible gains.
Some have also interpreted Johnson’s decision as ploy to further his own chances of replacing the incumbent Cameron, who has stated he will not run for a third term as prime minister. Some on the left of politics believe an in/ out decision is irrelevant because it boils down to multinationals and the corporat-ocracy deciding which outcome will make them the most money, arguing the particulars will make little difference either way.
Others, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, are seeking to form a leftist coalition within the EU, which can work towards reforming the union’s less desirable traits – such as closing up tax loopholes that multinationals like Google exploit – Corbyn told ITV, that he wants to “wants to see an EU that is about protecting our environment and ensuring we have sustainable industries
across Europe”. Significantly, he will not share a stage with Cameron and argues the prime minister’s agenda is “the very opposite”, despite both backing the campaign to remain within the union.
A third-year business student said he would be voting out in the coming referendum because of a “fundamental disbelief in [the EU’s] policy of uncontrolled immigration, the bureaucracy, disparate prosperity and cost in the EU, as well as a strong conviction in the right of democratic independent governance for every country”. When asked if Boris Johnson had influenced his decision, he told me: “No, it would not have affected my decision either way”.
Emma Pemberton, a third-year history student, said she will be voting to leave and that she is aware of the benefits of remaining in the European union, however she believes that “the benefits are outweighed by the disadvantages”. Similarly, she said that Johnson’s involvement did not sway her because she “had already decided before” he announced his position.
Rosie Fitzgerald, a third year English and creative Writing student said she will be voting to stay in the EU: “It’s not broken, so why try and fix it? Britain receives a huge amount of research funding from projects like Horizon and it would jeopardise the Erasmus programme, which has enabled my good friend to study in Sweden this semester”.
Jack Anderton, a third-year biological and medicinal chemistry student will also be voting to remain. He told me that the “Out camp are pandering to the far right, that immigration should be celebrated not feared because we are an island nation with a history of diversity”.
Furthermore, Jack said he values his ‘freedom to move and work’ within the EU and that our membership gives us “a bill of human rights”.