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Sunday papers split over EU referendum

Published 19/06/2016

The EU has nailed its colours to the Remain mast
The EU has nailed its colours to the Remain mast

On the last weekend before the EU referendum, many of the Sunday newspapers have nailed their colours to the mast on whether they are in favour of a Leave or Remain vote.

The Mail on Sunday and The Observer backed Remain while the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph backed Leave.

In contrast to its sister title's largely pro-Brexit stance, the Mail on Sunday warned it is "not the time to risk the peace and prosperity" of the UK.

In a two-page editorial, the paper said that "by any calculation" Britain would be bound to face higher tariffs, turmoil in the financial markets and a period of uncertainty if there was a vote to Leave on June 23.

It accused Brexit campaigners who argued that the UK could thrive in "splendid isolation" outside the EU of peddling a "dangerous illusion".

"The human head knows that, especially in the world we now inhabit, our deepest desires must somehow be moderated to suit the increasingly tough reality of a competitive world in which, though still a great nation, we no longer have the power or the wealth which once allowed us to live in splendid isolation," it said.

"Those who would have you believe in the plucky Little England of the past are selling a dangerous illusion."

It said the "single-minded leaders" of the Leave campaign were so intent on securing independence from the EU they were "ready to pay any price for it" - even it meant people losing their jobs.

The Sunday Telegraph came out in favour of Brexit with an editorial saying: "On balance we believe the Leave campaign has articulated an ambitious vision for Britain as an independent nation, once again free to make its own decisions. Remain, by contrast, has resorted to grim pessimism.

"Without the EU, they imply, the UK would be diminished and a diplomatic pariah, scrabbling to put together trade agreements while our economy flounders."

The newspaper accused Chancellor George Osborne of making "unconscionable threats" over pensions and "dire predictions" on trade agreements that, with other issues, amount to an "unremitting tide of gloom".

A Sunday Times editorial said that, while better diplomacy might have rendered the referendum unnecessary, now the question is being put to the electorate, voting Leave is the best way to stop increasing political and economic union.

The paper said Brexit would not have to happen immediately, and suggested the pressure a vote to leave would put on Brussels would allow the UK to renegotiate better terms with Europe.

Criticising the EU's economic recovery since the recession, and its impact on British sovereignty and security, the paper said: "In the event of Brexit, Brussels may pursue a 'global security strategy', perhaps including an EU army without a UK veto.

"We must keep out. It is Nato that guarantees our security."

The editorial dismissed claims that a vote to leave would mean "chaos and disruption", instead suggesting a slow approach to the process of withdrawal would allow the UK to "remain in the single market for years to come while allowing the City of London to keep its access".

A new emergency brake on immigration would also be possible to negotiate once Britain was in the "derogation" process, it claimed.

Offering an opinion despite admitting that staff on the paper hold a variety of views, the editorial reads: "On Thursday, therefore, we should vote 'leave'.

"Yes, we must be prepared for difficulties, but we should hold our nerve.

"This vote may be the best opportunity we shall ever have to call a halt to the onward march of the centralising European project driven by the inherent flaws in the eurozone."

The Observer said voters should not turn their backs on the European project in an article headlined, "For an international, liberal and open Britain, we need to be part of the EU".

Leading economic institutions have warned that Brexit would damage the UK and in light of new challenges and conflicts, "the need for a collective of countries to find ways of acting together has never been greater", it said.

The editorial warned that a vote to Leave might result in a second Scottish referendum.

Admitting that the paper has "always been proud of its internationalist, liberal worldview", it said: "Despite its many flaws, this paper believes the EU has, without question, been a force for good."

On Tuesday, The Sun published a front page editorial backing Brexit.

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