Britain's pro-EU side nervous as odds slashed on 'leave'

AP News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2016 12:28 PM
Britain's pro-EU side nervous as odds slashed on 'leave'

LONDON (AP) — Nervous "remain" supporters stepped up campaigning in Britain's European Union referendum Tuesday after odds on a vote to leave the bloc dramatically narrowed following a string of polls showing a surge in "leave" sentiment.

The pound fell to a two-month low against the dollar on Monday, to $1.4131, and the FTSE-100 share index fell below 6,000 points for the first time in nearly four months, as bookmakers cut the odds of an exit vote in the June 23 referendum to as short as 6-5. "Remain" was still the favorite, but only just, after several phone and online polls suggested growing support among voters for leaving the 28-nation bloc.

Senior Labour Party figures warned that leaving the EU could cause a recession and trigger big public-sector job losses.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said trade unions across Europe had "bought us better working conditions, longer holidays, less discrimination and maternity and paternity leave."

"We believe that a Leave vote will put many of those things seriously and immediately at risk," he said.

Employment Minister Priti Patel, a "leave" supporter, insisted there would be "more than enough money to go round" if Britain doesn't have to pay millions a week to the bloc.

Polls suggest the "leave" campaign has had success by focusing on public anxiety about immigration, which has soared from other EU countries over the past decade. Free movement of people within the bloc is a key EU principle.

In a bid to regain ground on the issue, a senior Labour politician suggested the party could seek to limit free movement if it formed a government after a "remain" vote.

"I think a future Europe will have to look at things like the free movement of labor rules," deputy leader Tom Watson told the BBC.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun tabloid on Tuesday urged its readers to vote for an EU exit, with a front-page editorial under the headline "BeLeave in Britain."

The newspaper — which has a history of backing the winning side in elections — urged voters to reject a "dictatorial" EU that "has proved increasingly greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis."

The Sun has seen its readership decline in the online news era, but it remains Britain's biggest selling newspaper, with a circulation of more than 2 million.

Meanwhile, a top EU official said "the world needs the European Union," in a remark seen directed at Britain ahead of next week's vote.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had so far declined to comment on the referendum.

During Tuesday's opening of a two-day conference in Oslo, Norway on conflict mediation, Mogherini said the EU internationally is "strong voice for peace on our global stage."

Mogherini said "the world needs also this kind of European Union," adding "it is sad to me to see that some European citizens have to be reminded of that from the outside."

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Associated Press Writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this story.