5 things we know about the much-argued about EU referendum so far


Differences have emerged at the top of the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union, after Home Secretary Theresa May used her first major intervention in the referendum debate to argue that Britain should stay in the 28-nation bloc, but pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

May's comments appeared to put her at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron, who has previously said he is seeking to reform the Convention, but rules nothing out if this proves impossible.

Here's how it's looking at the moment.

1. The most recent addition to the armoury of the rival camps is a giant EU-shaped shoehorn.

Chris Grayling.
Chris Grayling (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

It can be a rather unwieldy implement but one with which the protagonists seem keen to grapple in a bid to associate their message with whatever story happens to be dominating the day's headlines.

Today's talk was all about the looming strike by junior doctors. The dispute has proved intractable for months but Commons leader Chris Grayling suddenly discovered there was a simple solution which no-one else had spotted.

You guessed it: Brexit. Just hand the young medics £1 billion of the cash handed to Brussels each year, the cabinet minister suggested, and everything would be back to normal on the wards.

Remain said it was nonsense and that the economic damage of leaving would see the NHS in an even deeper black hole than it is now. Expect the EU mantra to be attached to an increasingly unlikely set of issues as the weeks go on.

2. Staying in the EU could secure a revival of the sword and armour-making industry.

At least that's one literal conclusion to be drawn from a new video campaign launched by the Remain campaign.

The When I Grow Up clip features a series of children disclosing their ambitions to be a fireman, police officer, ballerina, football player, hairdresser, schoolteacher and doctor in an effort to highlight what it says are the extra 790,000 jobs that would be created in the UK by 2030 if we stay in.

The final child of the sequence declares a more archaic ambition however, declaring from her hobby horse that she wants to be a knight.

3. David Cameron's post-referendum fate has been the topic of much fevered speculation but no-one raised the issue of a public beheading.

David Cameron.
David Cameron (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Until now. Owen Paterson, sacked in the last reshuffle by the PM, drew parallels between the campaign and England's brutal civil war - with his erstwhile Cabinet colleague in the role of the beleaguered monarch.

"The further you go from London, the stronger the feeling is," the country pursuits-loving Shropshire MP declared.

"I do get the slight sense it's a bit like the Civil War when Charles I sadly completely lost touch with what was happening in the counties."

4. MPs are not giving up their fight to grill a civil servant who penned an award-winning vision of how the UK could look outside the EU.

Andrew Tyrie.
Andrew Tyrie (Laura Lean/PA)

Iain Mansfield won the £82,000 top prize in a 2014 contest to draw up a detailed Brexit blueprint - in which the senior trade official concluded it could boost the economy by £1.3 billion.

He has declined calls by the Commons Treasury Select Committee to give evidence on the paper as part of its ongoing probe of the issues - citing the Osmotherly Rules which say civil servants can only appear before such panels of parliamentarians "not in a personal capacity, but as representatives of their ministers".

TSC chairman Andrew Tyrie insists the rule should not apply as the paper itself was written - with permission - in a personal capacity and has fired off a fresh appeal to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood for the author to be brought before his committee, with a mandarin chaperone if required.

5. It's been one-way traffic at the bookies since Barack Obama threw his weight behind Remain.

Barack Obama.
Barack Obama (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

With the forecasts of opinion pollsters still shrouded in public doubt after the general election debacle, no little focus has switched to the betting markets for clues about the state of play.

According to William Hill, 84% of the money staked in the wake of the US president's visit has been placed on the UK voting to stay in - with Brexit drifting out to a 3/1 chance - the longest since the referendum was called - and Remain at 1/4.