One of the most intense battlegrounds in this referendum campaign has been on social media as both the Remain and Leave campaigns compete to get their messages across to voters, especially on twitter. The South East Conservative European Network has done the same over the past couple of months sending hundreds of tweets and re-tweets from @SECENuk to our followers to draw attention to key points or perspectives which we believe can help to inform the choice to be made on June 23rd.
As we approach the day of decision, it is worth looking back at some of the highlights. With respect to the economy, William Hague’s video intervention in which he took aim at the Leave campaign’s lack of an economic plan for Britain outside the EU in the event of #Brexit was particularly noteworthy. @SECENuk was also impressed by the oft-retweeted fact that the 430,000 businesses which regularly export to Europe would face mean average tariffs of £79,000 per business if we leave. Of course, the economic argument has been regularly reinforced on twitter and other channels by the Remain campaign and nowhere more clearly than its excellent graphic that shows the World Bank, the IMF, the CBI, Bank of England, and the OECD, arguing that the UK economy is #StrongerIN (Europe). Just in case there was any doubt, their graphic also shows world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and Indian PM Narendra Modi lining up alongside Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking, to make the same point.
The Remain campaign has also stressed in its twitter feed graphics that for every pound we put into the EU, we get almost £10 back through increased trade, investment, jobs and growth. This seemed a powerful riposte, worth re-tweeting on several occasions, to the heavily contested and now apparently discredited ‘fact’ that Britain sends £350 million every week to Brussels and gets nothing in return.
The economy has clearly been the spearhead of the Remain campaign but immigration also features prominently on social media. In various interventions, people such as Laura Sandys have powerfully made the case that whilst immigration needs to be addressed, #Brexit isn’t the answer. @SECENuk was also compelled to tweet The Times editorial that appeared on June 18th in which the point was made that EU migration is not the main cause of pressure on the NHS. Instead, the pressure comes from an ageing population and rising cost of treatment.
It has also been interesting the way that fears of Turkey joining the EU has featured regularly on social media despite this being a hypothetical prospect which the Prime Minister has been clear that he opposes it. Followers of the debate on twitter might have been confused then by the position of Boris Johnson after a 2006 video was posted and retweeted by @SECENuk in which the former Mayor of London made a strong and, as customary for him, convincing argument that Turkey should be allowed to join the EU.
Security has been another of the key battlegrounds in which @SECENuk has participated on social media during this referendum campaign. The sight of the current and former Secretary Generals arguing that a strong European Union with a strong Britain is good for NATO, has surely been impressive and something we have regularly promoted on the channel. But it was the argument put forward by the former Head of British Intelligence, Sir John Scarlett, which had us hitting the re-tweet button quickly. In an article for The Times, (June 11th) Sir John argued that his more than three decades at the heart of British intelligence convinced him that leaving the EU would put our security at risk.
One has also been left wondering what our European neighbours think about all this and we were certainly moved to re-tweet calls by many EU leaders to remain in the EU. But it was the intervention by German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, and an editorial in Der Spiegal who really moved us to comment on twitter. In what appeared to be an emotional appeal to British voters, it was made clear that Germany sees the UK as a kindred spirit which is needed to help shape the future of Europe. This left us wondering aloud on twitter about the argument of the Leave campaign who says Britain can help lead the world but somehow feel that shaping the future of Europe is beyond us. Anglo-German leadership would certainly be a powerful force for economic, political and social change in the EU which is actually demanded by many of our partners on the continent… but only if the UK were to #Remain in the club.
But will we?
We’ll know at some point on Friday June 24th but given the multiple sources of information, facts, analysis, and commentary, which has been relayed across traditional and social media channels, few of us could go to the polls on Thursday in any doubt that the choice has been clearly framed for us.
All of our tweets can be viewed by following us @SECENuk