9 of the most significant events in the EU referendum campaign


As the months-long campaign draws to a close, here's a recap of some of the most significant events in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

1. The announcement

David Cameron

After a special Cabinet meeting on February 20, David Cameron announced a national poll would be held on June 23 and agreed that ministers would be free to campaign for Leave. Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Theresa Villiers and John Whittingdale confirmed they would be in the "out" camp. And, in a major boost for the Brexit camp, Boris Johnson finally declared he was joining Vote Leave.

2. Immigration argument

Tensions over immigration have repeatedly flared up throughout the campaign. Pro-Brexit campaigners seized on figures released in May that showed net migration to the UK rose to 333,000 in 2015 and a hike in Leave campaign's polling has been linked to fears over the rising number of newcomers. But Remain warned the rhetoric is fuelling hatred and figures from all sides turned their fire on Nigel Farage when he launched a poster showing migrants queuing to get into the EU under the slogan Breaking Point.

3. Killing of Jo Cox

Jo Cox memorial

Just hours after the poster launch, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed outside an advice surgery in her Batley and Spen constituency. The tragic death of the much-loved politician, a mother of two, has cast a deep, dark shadow over the final week of the campaign as MPs from all sides mourn her loss. Both sides suspended campaigning in the days after the shocking killing and the tone remained subdued once activities resumed. Cox was an ardent Remain supporter.

4. The Queen got involved

The Queen was most definitely not amused when she was dragged into the campaign after The Sun claimed she had voiced strong Eurosceptic views during a lunch with former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Buckingham Palace complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. The watchdog ruled the "Queen backs Brexit" headline was inaccurate but the newspaper insisted it had not made an error.

5. Economy argument

George Osborne

Stronger In has put the economy at the heart of its campaign and it has been buoyed by a raft of experts who have issued stark warnings about the future if Britain goes it alone. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said consequences of Brexit would be "pretty bad to very, very bad" and Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned about a plummeting pound. But Vote Leave's Michael Gove insisted the public had "had enough of experts" and claimed they "consistently" got it wrong.

6. Strange photo opportunities

Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson buys asparagus

From London's former mayor posing with a whole salmon to the Prime Minister and Baroness Jowell strolling over the Abbey Road crossing made famous by the Beatles, there has been no shortage of quirky photo-opportunities. But they all seem decidedly run-of-the-mill since Farage and rock star Bob Geldof battled it out on the ripples of the River Thames. In undoubtedly the most bizarre political showdown of the campaign, the Ukip leader's Fishing for Leave flotilla was met by rival boats backing a Remain vote, with Geldof shouting "You are no fisherman's friend" across the waters.

7. Obama had his say

A host of world leaders have made clear their preference for Britain staying in, most notably Barack Obama. The US president said the UK would be "in the back of the queue" for a trade deal if it left the EU. Johnson was branded "totally racist" when he responded to the leader of the free world's interventions by describing the president as "part-Kenyan".

8. Friendships frayed

Michael Gove

The campaign has tested friendships to the limit. Cameron said he was disappointed that close pal Michael Gove had chosen to back Brexit and admitted that his relationship with Johnson had been hit by the strains of the campaign. The PM's wife Samantha also reportedly had a bust-up with her long-time confidante Sarah Vine, who is married to the Justice Secretary.

9. Celebrity opinions

Celebrity endorsements have been brandished proudly by both sides. Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Patrick Stewart, Bill Nighy, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dame Kristin Scott Thomas were among more than 280 figures from the arts world who backed a vote to stay and the campaign was given a boost in its final days when footballing legend David Beckham also backed Stronger In. Their star power has been matched on the Out side by figures including Dame Joan Collins, comedian John Cleese, actor Sir Michael Caine and cricketer Sir Ian Botham.