UK

Cross-party UK EU exit group launches

UK and EU flags Image copyright AFP

"Vote leave - take control."

The message of a new, cross-party campaign vying to get the UK to leave the EU could hardly be clearer.

On Friday, the group, which contains politicians and, crucially, financial backers from across the political spectrum, launches officially.

The date of the actual referendum on our membership of the EU is not yet set, but it is becoming clear who will shape up on each side.

This new campaign, Vote Leave, is funded by major Conservative donor and City millionaire Peter Cruddas, John Mills, Labour's biggest private financial backer, and Stuart Wheeler, for years a Tory donor but more recently a supporter of UKIP.

Clashes ahead

The expectation is that they will spend up to £20m, around half the amount the Tories spent in the 12 months before the election.

And it will fold in three existing campaign groups: Conservatives for Britain, Business for Britain and the Labour Leave campaign.

They already have the backing of politicians like Lord Lawson, Kate Hoey from Labour, and Douglas Carswell from UKIP, and their hope is to build support and credibility across the spectrum.

The campaign will begin with its "take control" plea to voters - citing the £350m it will claim is paid by UK taxpayers each week to the EU.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Leave.EU campaign, being run by UKIP's leader Nigel Farage and party donor Aaron Banks (left and right) will be run separately to Vote Leave

The campaign's argument is simply that the EU has too much control over too much of our lives.

But stand by for clashes over how much money we get back, compared with what we put in.

The arguments over whether we really gain or lose economically will be a central strand of the referendum debate, with the government, most of the Labour Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and much of the business world pressing the case that the rewards of being in the EU are much greater than the costs.

'Campaign muscle'

But Vote Leave has money, campaign muscle, a plan to build a politically broad-based group, and a clear message.

It is also confident it will end up becoming the official campaign, designated by the Electoral Commission, rather than the campaign Leave.EU that includes the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage and UKIP's multi-millionaire donor, Aaron Banks.

The two groups, Vote Leave and Leave.EU, have had talks and may eventually join forces, but for now they are being run as separate campaigns.

On the other side, the In campaign, which makes the case for the UK's EU membership, is expected to launch early next week.

But, by the time you are reading this, Vote Leave will already be trying to flood the internet with its message, trying to establish not just its arguments but itself as the established campaign group making that side of the argument.

This debate may last as long as two years, but the race is already on.

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