Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Unsightly scramble over EU chocolate

The campaign to persuade Britons to leave the European Union reached a new level of farce over the recent holidays when pro-Brexit supporters claimed the high price of Easter eggs as one reason to support an out vote.

At issue were the “punitive tariffs” imposed by Brussels on cocoa-based products from outside the European Union, which could be renegotiated once the United Kingdom had left the bloc.

But any pretence that this was a serious point degenerated when various Brexit spokespeople resorted to schoolboy humour, claiming the EU made Easter more “egg-spensive”; that supporters of the EU were “rabbiting on” about its virtues and that consumers would be “hopping mad” over the impost.

Even so, with less than three months to go before the referendum that will decide the UK’s fate, voters seem to be tuning in to the Brexit slogans and soundbites rather than having any interest in a serious debate over the consequences of withdrawal.

Polls which originally gave the Remain campaign a healthy lead have narrowed, with one actually suggesting Brexit had a paper-thin winning margin.

Some commentators believe the Brexit campaign is being conducted with greater passion than Remain and the country is sensing this.

However, it comes in the same week as analysts say that Prime Minister David Cameron’s strident support for staying in the EU will cost him his leadership win or lose.

They state that an out vote would certainly force his resignation and replacement by a solid Eurosceptic (read Boris Johnson) who would be better suited to manage untangling the years of European legislation before the UK could actually say goodbye.

Even a close win for Remain might leave Cameron vulnerable to a backlash from the significant number of rabid anti-Europeans on the Conservative backbenches who would want to take it out on the man they considered had cheated them of their prize. 

All this was predicted by Tory grandee Lord Heseltine months ago when he warned the Prime Minister it would be the end of his authority if he allowed himself to be dragged into a slanging match over the EU with senior members of his own party.

Something that could leave a bitter taste in Cameron’s mouth long after the sweetness of Easter has been forgotten.

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