Brexit outcome poised on razor's edge, say latest polls

LONDON • British public opinion is too close to call on whether the country should stay in the European Union, with many voters still undecided as interest groups and political leaders make their cases, according to two polls released this weekend.

An online survey by Opinium for the Observer newspaper showed that 44 per cent support Britain remaining in the 28-nation bloc, up from 43 per cent a week ago.

About 42 per cent of respondents backed leaving the EU, also up 1 point from the poll released on June 4, as attitudes start to crystallise ahead of the June 23 referendum, but the differences are not statistically significant.

A YouGov online survey published in the Sunday Times in Britain showed 43 per cent backed leaving, up 1 percentage point from a June 7 poll, and 42 per cent favoured remaining, unchanged from a week earlier.

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has added his voice to a chorus of leaders from within and outside the EU about the risks of pulling out from the grouping.

"I see only negative economic outcomes" if Britain votes to exit, Mr Lew said in a television interview on Saturday. A Brexit would also put geopolitical stability at risk, he said.

While a focus on immigration has allowed the "Leave" campaign to gain momentum less than two weeks before a vote that's divided the ruling Conservative Party, most polls, like the Opinium and YouGov surveys, are too close to call.

In contrast, an ORB poll released on Friday showed the "Leave" camp ahead by 55 per cent to 45 per cent - a reading that caused the pound to slump.

In Saturday's Opinium poll, 13 per cent of the 2,009 adults surveyed said they didn't know if Britain should stay or go. When pressed, though, about 38 per cent of the undecideds were leaning towards "Remain" and 25 per cent towards "Leave" - suggesting that late-deciders could tip the balance in favour of staying. In the YouGov poll, 11 per cent of the 1,671 adults surveyed said they didn't know how they would vote.

The government on Friday said 1.5 million people applied to vote in the final seven days of registration after the deadline was extended by two days.

That's because the official website crashed shortly before the original limit of midnight on June 7, prompting "Remain" campaigners to raise concerns that the fault may have thwarted sign-ups among young people, who are more likely to vote to stay in the EU.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Brexit outcome poised on razor's edge, say latest polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe