The EU referendum campaign groups: who’s In and who’s Out?

Politicians, business leaders and activists are building their campaign groups ahead of the referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

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The UK will have a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. There will be a nationwide vote at some point – most likely in late 2016 or early 2017 – when the electorate will decide to “remain” or “leave”.

The question, proposed by the Electoral Commission and accepted by Downing Street, will most likely be: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Cross-party campaign groups on either side of the debate are beginning to form. It’s up to the Electoral Commission which of these groups will become the official campaign for each side. What are these groups, and who is associated with each one?

In

Britain Stronger in Europe

What?

The key group trying to convince voters that the UK should remain in the EU.

Who’s in charge?

Stuart Rose, Tory peer and former Marks & Spencer chairman.

Who else is involved?

Big names on the board include Karren Brady, West Ham United vice-chair, Tory peer and Apprentice aide; Danny Alexander, former Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Megan Dunn, National Union of Students president; Caroline Lucas, Green party MP and former leader; Peter Mandelson, Labour peer and former Business Secretary; Brendan Barber, former Trades Union Congress secretary-general, Peter Wall, former Army chief; Jude Kelly, the artistic director of the Southbank Centre.

Its executive director is Will Straw, former Labour candidate and son of former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Its director of strategy is Ryan Coetzee, who was behind the Lib Dems’ most recent general election campaign.

The three living former prime ministers, John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown, are backing this campaign.

It also has a group of cross-party “champions”: Tories Flick Drummond MP, Sajjad Karim MEP, Ben Howlett MP, and Damain Green MP; Labour MPs Emma Reynolds, Stephen Kinnock and Chuka Umunna; Lib Dem peer Jim Wallace, and Green MP Caroline Lucas

Show me the money!

David Sainsbury, the Labour peer, supermarket heir and billionaire businessman, is providing seed funding for this campaign.

Strengths:

Boasts backers from across the political, business and public spectrum. Looks relatively diverse, with a reasonable gender balance. It’s the main cross-party “In” campaign.

Weaknesses:

Launched on Monday 12 October – later than its rivals, and has been accused by business leaders of “playing catch up”. Lacks a charismatic leader – Lord Rose isn’t particularly exciting.

Most notable moment so far?

TV presenter June Sarpong (who is also on the board) launching the campaign to attract the “younger vote” – in the process baffling young journalists and viewers who had never heard of her.

 

British Influence

What?

British Influence started out as the embryonic EU “In” campaign in 2012, a cross-party pressure group “making the argument for Britain to have influence in a Europe that we know has to change, but the exit door's not the answer”, as former Labour frontbencher Alan Johnson explained to me late last year. It now describes itself as a “key partner” of the main campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter has an open dialogue with British Influence, but emphasises that it is an independent organisation and a separate entity.

Who’s in charge?

Peter Wilding, an EU political commentator and solicitor in EU law, is the founder and director. He describes himself as “neither a ‘phile’ nor a ‘phobe’, just a realist campaigning for British influence in Europe”.

Who else is involved?

A range of politicians from different parties have been associated with the group, including Johnson, Alexander, Mandelson, and the former Tory ministers Ken Clarke and Damian Green. Though still sympathisers, some of these figures have found other priorities – Johnson is leading the “Labour Yes” campaign, and British Influence informs me that Clarke is heading up the Conservative equivalent, for example.

Show me the money!

Has also received support from Lord Sainsbury.

Strengths:

A well-known ally of the main campaign. The springboard for pro-EU politicians campaigning across party lines.

Weaknesses:

Its influence has dwindled as its politicians have drifted to their party political pro-EU campaigns and to the main cross-party campaign.

Most notable moment so far?

Securing three big-hitters (Mandelson, Alexander and Clarke) from each of the main parties (at the time) as its co-presidents.

 

Out

Vote Leave

What?

The main “Out” campaign. It was launched on 9 October 2015, and is seen as the classier of the movements to leave the EU.

Who’s in charge?

Matthew Elliott, who founded the influential campaign group Taxpayers’ Alliance, and ran the successful campaign against AV; Dominic Cummings, the former special adviser to Michael Gove, who writes about policy and politics.

Who else is involved?

It has a cross-party group of politicians on board, including the eurosceptic MPs heading up Labour’s anti-EU group, Labour Leave, Kate Hoey and Kelvin Hopkins. It also has the Tory “Out” movement – Conservatives for Britain – onside, founded by Tory MP Steve Baker with backers including the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson. Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, is a supporter – breaking ranks from the party line, which is to back Leave.EU.

Business for Britain, a group of UK business leaders, is also backing Vote Leave.

Show me the money!

A political coalition of funds coming from Tory donor and city millionaire Peter Cruddas, Labour’s biggest individual donor (before he pulled his funds after Jeremy Corbyn’s win) John Mills, and Stuart Wheeler, a Tory-turned-Ukip donor.

Strengths:

It is seen as the main business-backed, cross-party movement against Britain’s EU membership. It has backers from across the political spectrum.

Weaknesses:

It looks a bit pale, male and stale compared to its main “In” rival. It has to compete with another “Out” campaign, which is backed by Ukip.

Most notable moment so far?

When Carswell chose it over the Ukip-backed campaign. Also a hint at the TUC conference this year that the GMB union could be onside.

 

Leave.EU

What?

The alternative “Out” campaign, styling itself as the “grassroots” anti-EU movement. It is favoured by Nigel Farage, who has referred to it as an “umbrella group that will lead the campaign” against Britain’s EU membership. It focuses on the argument about UK’s borders, more so than the financial pros and cons.

Who’s in charge?

The CEO is businesswoman Liz Bilney, though Farage is the unofficial frontman.

Who else is involved?

Wealthy Ukip donor Arron Banks is the founder, and most of Ukip is onside (apart from its only MP, Carswell, see above), as are some British business figures like entrepreneur Jim Mellon and Blackwell books’ Toby Blackwell. It claims to have over 200,000 supporters.

Show me the money!

Banks is the main financial backer.

Strengths:

The anti-immigration argument could be an easier vote winner than complex debates about investment and business. Farage is a popular politician.

Weaknesses:

Not as well respected as its “Out” rival, Vote Leave, because it lacks cross-party consensus and a broad base of business backers. Its name is also a bit odd.

Most notable moment so far?

Having to change its name from “The Know” (already a little strange) when the Electoral Commission tweaked the wording of the referendum question to be a “Remain/Leave” answer rather than a “Yes/No” answer.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.