EU referendum: Three things the EU "In" campaign must do to prevent the end of the United Kingdom

Peter Wilding
David Cameron has promised a referendum on the EU before the end of 2017 (Source: Getty)

So now we have two “out” campaigns.

Both will battle it out to secure the holy grail of formal endorsement from the Electoral Commission, a decision unlikely to come before early next year. Already both sides have begun hostile artillery bombardment – so far only of each other. On one side is the anti-immigration Leave.EU supported by Nigel Farage and his backer, Aaron Banks; on the other, oddly enough, stands UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, and their previous backer, Stuart Wheeler. Although the personality combat fills the column inches the stakes are much higher.

For the leavers, globalists are facing off the isolationists. Those who want us to be a Norway with nukes, an open market state free from rules against those who want us to be a Little England, a closed nation state free from immigrants.

Read more: Former M&S boss to lead pro-EU campaign

This may be an amusing spectacle for now but, if, as they must, these campaigns eventually come together they might already have mobilised their core support in time for the referendum vote. With a favourable following wind of another refugee or Eurozone crisis, it is entirely possible that the public might swing behind a leave vote - for the wrong reasons at the wrong time.

Which is why the “In” campaign has a formidable task and a golden opportunity. The task – to build a robust ground operation to win such a majority to put the Europe question to bed for a generation – is beginning already. But the opportunity is to beat the leavers on three critical fronts. First, optimism. In our polling it is now clear that the public responds to a hope not fear campaign. There needs to be a mix but if the emphasis is all doom and gloom, people will be turned off.

Second, vision. Too often pro-Europeans have been all head and no heart with facts always trumping emotion. These days voters are bored by statistics, however robust. Worse still, overuse of them leads to accusations of scaremongering. The vision must be of our country leading not leaving our continent not only for now but for the generations to come.

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Third, the future. Where would the leavers actually leave us? There are many pain-filled exits but so far the world the globalists and the isolationists paint are a neat blend of fantasy and nostalgia. When the Norway option is derided by Norway’s own Europe Minister, you know the leavers aren’t being straight with the people.

Against this background, Number 10 has told business to shut up about Europe. Scotland says Brexit will trigger another independence referendum. Recently only 47% of the small and medium sized companies that form the backbone of the country’s economy said they wanted to stay in.

Bigger businesses that once carried the flag for continued EU membership seem silenced, worried about flak from the media, their shareholders and customers. Far from learning the lessons of their eleventh hour appearance in the Scottish referendum, business is timidly passing the buck onto the politicians. And the politicians are passing the buck back onto the people.

When it is launched on Monday, the “In” campaign must - and I trust will - begin a battle for Britain uniting all in a once in a lifetime decision. Success will end our country’s long term identity crisis. Failure will end the United Kingdom.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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