Brexit referendum

Leaders, businesses across EU urge UK to Remain

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A "Vote Remain" campaign billboard advertisement in London. Hungary's Prime Minister has even taken a full-page ad in the Daily Mail appealing to Britons not to vote to leave the bloc.
A "Vote Remain" campaign billboard advertisement in London. Hungary's Prime Minister has even taken a full-page ad in the Daily Mail appealing to Britons not to vote to leave the bloc. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • National leaders, companies and media organisations across the European Union have mobilised to persuade Britons to vote "Remain" in the high stakes Brexit referendum tomorrow, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken the unusual step of buying a full-page advertisement in the Daily Mail newspaper to sway Britons' decision.

Mr Orban's advertisement in Monday's edition of the Daily Mail told voters that the decision to stay in the EU was theirs, "but I would like you to know that Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union".

The advertisement even carries Mr Orban's signature, lending his weight to the emotional appeals from other EU leaders for pro-European sentiment and solidarity, as well as warnings that the economic consequences of Britain leaving the bloc would be dire, reported The Financial Times.

France's biggest businesses, from Airbus to Michelin, have implored their "amis britanniques" to stay in the EU in a cross-Channel love letter published in several British dailies, reported Agence France- Presse.

"S'il vous plait, amis britanniques remain!" (Please stay, British friends.) We love you, but we are in business not just in love," read the letter published in The Sun, The Telegraph and The Times.

"Our companies invest in the UK and employ thousands all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in every walk of life. We invest because you are a leader in Europe's single market and we all trade freely within the EU," it continued.

The letter, signed by 34 of France's top businesses, said that this investment depended on the United Kingdom being "firmly and lastingly anchored within the single market".

Earlier this month, German news magazine Der Spiegel had published a special bilingual edition with the words "Please Don't Go" set against the Union Jack. And Sweden's biggest financial daily Dagens Industri channelled the country's popular band Abba to urge Britons "to take a chance on EU", reported The Financial Times.

But Mr Orban's advertisement is the first by an EU leader spending public funds on an ad in a British paper for a "Remain" vote.

Until recently, most EU leaders had refrained from becoming directly involved in the referendum, fearing a backlash against foreign interference, but an apparent swing in public opinion towards a "Leave" vote is likely to have encouraged them to speak out.

US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have also supported the fight for Britain to remain in the EU.

But Mr Orban's advertisement drew a negative reaction from the euro-sceptic Ukip MP for Clacton, Mr Douglas Carswell, who suggested that it had been paid for by the Hungarian Prime Minister's political opponents, the far-right Jobbik Party.

"Quite something that the extremist Jobbik party in Hungary wants us to Remain. You want political union (with) them?" he tweeted.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline Leaders, businesses across EU urge UK to Remain. Subscribe