LONDON • Bookmakers' odds have shifted sharply towards Britain voting to remain in the European Union in the June referendum, a move in sentiment also reflected by the pound rising yesterday to near a six-week high against the euro.
Both moves followed an intervention by US President Barack Obama in the EU debate, but supporters of leaving the EU warned the "In" camp not to celebrate too early. Mr Obama said Britain would find itself "in the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the United States if it voted to quit the EU on June 23, and said it would be safer, more prosperous and more influential if it stayed in.
Following his unexpectedly forceful intervention, the implied probability of a vote to remain in the 28-nation bloc rose sharply to about 75 per cent, according to live odds from bookmaker Betfair.
Ladbrokes' betting barometer, also based on live odds, indicated a 73 per cent chance of an "In" vote.
Sterling hit a six-week high against the euro of 77.52 in early Asian trade, with traders saying Mr Obama's intervention was helping sentiment as it underlined the weight of argument from global and financial leaders in favour of the "In" camp.
The EU issue has split the ruling Conservative Party, with Prime Minister David Cameron leading the campaign to stay in while six of his Cabinet ministers and a large proportion of his party's lawmakers are openly campaigning for Brexit, as leaving is known.
The "Leave" campaign fought back yesterday, with Mr Boris Johnson, the outgoing Conservative mayor of London, seeking to undermine the arguments made by Mr Obama. "For us to be bullied in this way... for people to say we are not going to be able to cope on our own is completely ridiculous," he told ITN television. In an opinion column in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, he accused the "In" camp of "crowing too soon".
Another prominent "Leave" campaigner, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, wrote in the Times newspaper that the next wave of EU expansion, which could include Turkey and Albania, would create a migration "free-for-all" and place "unquantifiable strain" on Britain's public services as millions more people gained the right to move to the country.
But Home Secretary Theresa May, who is in the "In" camp, took on the immigration issue, which polls suggest is a salient one with voters.
She said in a television interview on Sunday that Britain's EU membership made it more difficult, though not impossible, to control immigration.