Hitting the press just days before the EU referendum, Britain’s Sunday newspapers have declared their positions on whether to stay or go, with three of the nation’s most read titles calling on readers to vote Britain out of the European Union.
The Sunday Telegraph today called on readers to “vote Leave to create a Britain fit for the future”, as it blasted the European Union for being “extremely expensive and increasingly detrimental to job creation” for the United Kingdom. While the paper criticised the level of debate surrounding the referendum, it praised the Leave campaign for articulating an “ambitious vision for Britain as an independent nation, once again free to make its own decisions”.
The paper contrasted this optimism with the “grim pessimism” of the Remain campaign which it accuses of “unconscionable threats” and “dire predictions” about Britain’s future. The Telegraph editorial states: “Leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe. A vote for Brexit on Thursday will not change our geography… there is a world beyond Europe that the Remain camp simply ignores. A world that offers enormous opportunities for Britain to be a global player once more”.
“Just as in 1973, when we joined the Common Market, we are at a crossroads in our history. The path we took then offered much but led us into a cul-de-sac, hemmed in by a sclerotic, hide-bound, rules-obsessed, inward‑looking institution.
“The EU belongs to the past. On Thursday we hope the country chooses the future – and votes to leave”.
Also asking its readers to vote Leave, and with a significantly higher circulation, is the Murdoch News International owned Sunday Times. While the paper acknowledged “We know that readers of The Sunday Times don’t want to be dictated to”, it has backed vote leave not to necessarily get Britain out of the European Union, but to give the government a mandate to work for “fundamental reform” of the European Union from the inside.
While the idea of a “second referendum” is deeply unpopular with many Brexit campaigners, the Sunday Times still slams defenders of the EU on inflated claims of what the political bloc has given Britain. The editorial states: “What galvanised the British economy was not entry into Europe in 1973 but the series of reforms initiated by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Only then did we start to outpace the major players of the West. Among the reforms ushered in at the end of that period was the single market. But the single market is flawed and incomplete”.
“We are sceptical about our partners’ project of political union, not because we are little Englanders but because we have seen where such utopian thinking has led before. This country has not been occupied by foreign powers or had its borders redrawn in living memory. While much of Europe has lived under dictatorships, sometimes recently, we have had a continuous experience of democracy, liberty and the rule of law. History, not hysteria, makes Britain different”.
The Sunday Times‘ limited support for Brexit stands at odds with their weekday sister paper The Times, which has backed remain.
Other newspapers have elected to back Britain remaining in the European Union. The left-wing Observer, one of Britain’s smallest circulation Sunday newspapers and sister to the Guardian contradicts the claims made by the Sun and Times that Britain’s economic recovery was more to do with Thatcher than the Common Market and calls upon readers to back the EU.
Today’s Observer editorial advances the view that the age of the nation state is over and that “liberal democracies” must work together. The piece comes just hours after a Guardian editor penned a piece stating that “I like the EU, but I’m voting out”. The money editor blamed the EU for wage depression, high rent, remarking: “You can’t divorce and keep the benefits of marriage, say the remain camp. But the EU was never a marriage. We’re more like flatmates who recently haven’t been getting along too well. But we can still get back together, even if one of us flounces off to the parents for a bit after a bust-up.
“Yes, there is uncertainty, but democracy is a messy business. If the risk is that wages may stabilise in places, if the risk is that rents may fall – then they are risks I’m happy to take”.
The divide over Europe hasn’t been entirely along left-right lines, either. One of Britain’s most read right-leaning Sunday newspapers the Mail on Sunday has backed Remain today. Deputy news editor David Rose said: “For a safer, freer, more prosperous – and yes, an even Greater Britain: why we urge you to vote Remain”.
Also news-international owned, but with double the readership of the Sunday Times is Britain’s highest-readership Sunday newspaper the Sun on Sunday, which echoes their weekday counterpart today by splashing: “A vote for Brexit is all it takes to set Britain free”.
The paper too cites Margaret Thatcher as the reason behind Britain’s economic prosperity over the past 40 years, and slams the negative campaigning to keep the UK in the European Union, remarking: “And we have our leaders panicking to keep us locked in, using personal abuse and dangerous rhetoric.
“This negative campaign has been based on little except promoting phoney fear of giving up our EU membership. On the two other big issues — immigration and sovereignty — they simply have no case.
“The decision to leave is the most important of a lifetime, but perhaps the easiest. Scrapping the free movement of people — that sacred foundation stone of the EU — will finally give Britain some control over the numbers of migrants flooding in from Europe.
“Our population is expanding rapidly, a rate of 333,000 a year, and we are powerless to stop it despite all the pressure it is piling on to our hospitals, schools, transport systems and housing stock”.
The Sun newspapers pride themselves on picking winners in elections. Political spin-off Sun Nation boasts the paper has backed the winning party in every general election since Thatcher took power in 1979, so the Sun’s coming out strongly for Britain leaving the EU may be seen as a good omen for Brexit campaigners.