Campaigning in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum

Campaigning in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum began unofficially on 20 February 2016 when Prime Minister David Cameron formally announced under the terms of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 that a referendum would be held on the issue of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union. The official campaign period for the 2016 referendum ran from 15 April 2016 until the day of the poll on 23 June 2016.

Britain Stronger in Europe campaigners, London, June 2016.
Referendum posters for both the Leave and Remain votes in Pimlico, London.

Position of political parties

Position Political parties

(Great Britain)

(England and Wales, and Scotland)

Remain Green Party of England and Wales [1]
Labour Party [2][3]
Liberal Democrats [4]
Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales [5]
Scottish Green Party [6]
Scottish National Party (SNP) [7][8]
UK Independence Party (UKIP) [9]
Neutral Conservative Party [10]
Position Political parties

(Northern Ireland)

Remain Alliance Party of Northern Ireland [11][12]
Green Party in Northern Ireland [13]
Sinn Féin [14]
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) [15]
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) [16]
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) [17][18]
People Before Profit Alliance (PBP) [19]
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) [20]
Position Political parties


Remain Gibraltar Social Democrats [21]
Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party [22]
Liberal Party of Gibraltar [22]

Designation of official campaign groups

At the close of applications on 31 March only Britain Stronger in Europe had applied to the Electoral Commission for the official "remain" designation. Three competing applications were submitted for the official "leave" designation.[23] The Electoral Commission announced the designated campaign groups for the leave and remain sides on 13 April 2016, two days before the official ten-week campaign period began.[24]

Remain groups

Remain campaign "I'm in" sticker

The Remain Campaign was led by Britain Stronger in Europe, a cross-party lobbying group that was declared as the official "Remain" campaign for the referendum by the Electoral Commission. However, there were a number of other groups that were involved in leading more specialist campaigns.

Leave groups

A "Vote Leave" poster in Omagh saying "We send the EU £50 million every day - Let's spend it on our NHS instead"

The London School of Economics Library has established a collection of referendum leaflets from the remain groups.[27]

Vote Leave

Vote Leave was the lead organisation campaigning for a leave vote in the referendum. On 13 April 2016, Vote Leave was designated by the Electoral Commission as the official campaign in favour of leaving the European Union for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Vote Leave was created in October 2015, and was a cross-party campaign, including members of Parliament from the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP.

Paul Marshall, a hedge fund manager, gave £100,000 to Vote Leave.[28]


Leave.EU campaigned for a Leave vote, and tried to become the lead campaigner. Founded in July 2015 as The Know, the campaign was relaunched in September 2015 with its present name to reflect altered wording in the referendum question. The campaign, along with rival organisation Vote Leave, aimed to be formally designated as the lead campaign for the Leave vote by the Electoral Commission. On 13 April 2016, Vote Leave was designated by the Electoral Commission as the official campaign.

Grassroots Out

Grassroots Out was formed in January 2016 as a result of infighting between Vote Leave and Leave.EU[citation needed] and officially launched on 23 January 2016 in Kettering. Despite its name, it was started by politicians from a mixture of political parties, including Peter Bone, Tom Pursglove and Liam Fox from the Conservatives, Kate Hoey from Labour, Nigel Farage from UKIP, Sammy Wilson from the DUP and George Galloway from Respect.

Labour Leave

Labour Leave campaigned within the Labour Party against the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union and was led by Labour MPs including Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer, Kelvin Hopkins, and Roger Godsiff.

Left Leave

Left Leave was a left-wing group campaigning for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union. It was made up of a coalition of left-wing political parties and organisations, such as the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Respect Party and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. The Left Leave campaign was chaired by Robert Griffiths, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition also applied to be the official "leave" campaign. It purported to represent anti-austerity campaigners who wished to leave the EU, rather than other leave groups who represent "pro-business" views.[29]

Green Leaves

Within the Green Party (which supported Remain), this was an organisation of Green Party members who campaigned to leave the EU. Baroness Jenny Jones, the Leader of the Green Party in the House of Lords, was a supporter.

Liberal Leave

Within the Liberal Democrats (who supported Remain), this was a campaign group of Liberal Democrat activists who wanted to leave the EU, including councillors and the former MP for Hereford, Paul Keetch. They were also supported by the Liberal Party.

Campaign anthems

Both the Remain and Leave campaigns have released songs to promote their messages. Gruff Rhys for the Remain team entitles his song I love EU.[30] For the Leave campaign, UKIP Parliamentary Candidate Mandy Boylett created a parody of the Three Lions anthem; David Baddiel, who penned the original Three Lions, described this version as "brilliantly naff".[31] Guido Fawkes used Mandy Boylett's song as the backing track to his end of referendum summary, Guido's referendum best bits.[32]

On 13 June 2016 Mandy Boylett launched a follow up Brexit song, penning new words to Pink's Get the Party Started.[33] The new song was immediately reported across the British Press including the Daily Express,[34] City AM[35]

Individual endorsements

A number of politicians, public figures, newspapers and magazines, businesses and other organisations endorsed an official position during the Referendum campaign. These are listed in the article above.

Campaigning in Gibraltar

Unlike all other British overseas territories, Gibraltar was a part of the UK's EU membership and, consequently, the territory participated in the referendum. All major parties within the Gibraltar Parliament supported a "remain" vote.[citation needed]

Official investigations into campaigns

On 9 May 2016, Leave.EU was fined £50,000 by the UK Information Commissioner's Office 'for failing to follow the rules about sending marketing messages': they sent people text messages without having first gained their permission to do so.[36][37]

On 4 March 2017, the Information Commissioner's Office also reported that it was 'conducting a wide assessment of the data-protection risks arising from the use of data analytics, including for political purposes' in relation to the Brexit campaign. It was specified that among the organisations to be investigated was Cambridge Analytica and its relationship with the Leave.EU campaign. The findings were expected to be published sometime in 2017.[38][39]

On 21 April 2017, the Electoral Commission announced that it was investigating 'whether one or more donations – including of services – accepted by Leave.EU was impermissible; and whether Leave.EU's spending return was complete', because 'there were reasonable grounds to suspect that potential offences under the law may have occurred'.[40][39]


  1. "Policy: Europe". Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  2. Wintour, Patrick (2 June 2015). "Andy Burnham pushes Labour to set up separate pro-European Union campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  3. Patrick Wintour. "Alan Johnson to head Labour Yes campaign for EU referendum". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  4. "Nick Clegg: Pro-Europeans are the real reformers now". 9 May 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  5. Staff. "Positions". Plaid Cymru. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  6. Greer, Ross (10 October 2015). "EU Referendum: Greens to Make Progressive Case for Membership". Scottish Green Party. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  7. Staff (2 June 2015). "Nicola Sturgeon warns of EU exit 'backlash'". BBC News. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  8. "Alex Salmond: I'll campaign with Tories to stay in EU". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  9. "Home page". Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  10. Hope, Christopher (21 September 2015). "Conservative Party to stay neutral during EU referendum". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  11. "Dickson – An EU referendum will threaten jobs and investment in Northern Ireland". Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. 14 May 2015. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  12. "Alliance expresses concerns over referendum idea". 29 April 2015. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  13. Staff (February 2014). Green Party in Northern Ireland: Manifesto 2015 (PDF). Green Party in Northern Ireland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  14. "Sinn Fein to protect EU membership". The Belfast Telegraph. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  15. SDLP. "International Affairs". Social Democratic and Labour Party. Archived from the original on 3 December 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  16. UUP. "Statement from the Ulster Unionist Party on EU Referendum". Ulster Unionist Party. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  17. Cromie, Claire (25 November 2015). "EU referendum: DUP gives backing to UKIP Brexit campaign, blasting David Cameron's 'pathetic demands'". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  18. "DUP to 'recommend vote to leave the EU'". The News Letter. Belfast. 20 February 2016.
  19. PBP. "Lexit: why we need a left exit from the eu". Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  20. "EU Membership is a Matter for UK Citizens, Not US President". Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  21. "Feetham urges joint strategies with Govt on key issues". Gibraltar Chronicle. 19 January 2016. Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  22. "Garcia flags constitutional reform and Brexit in New Year message". Gibraltar Chronicle. 5 January 2016. Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  23. Gavin Stamp (1 April 2016). "EU referendum: Leave campaigns face left-wing rival". BBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  24. Lead EU referendum campaigns named   BBC, 13 April 2016
  25. "The people hoping to persuade UK to vote to stay in the EU". BBC. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  27. "The Brexit Collection". LSE Digital Library. London School of Economics.
  28. Michael Savage (7 May 2017). "Biggest Brexit donor urges May to guarantee EU nationals' rights". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media.
  29. "EU referendum: Leave campaigns face left-wing rival". BBC News. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  30. Gruff Rhys. "Gruff Rhys: hear his song I Love EU – and find out why he wrote it". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  31. Michael Wilkinson (23 February 2016). "Ukip's anti-EU Three Lions parody song 'Britain's Coming Home' wins backing of David Baddiel for being 'brilliantly naff'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  32. "Guido's Referendum Best Bits". Euro Guido. Guido Fawkes. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  33. "A parody of Pink's "Get The Party Started" to support the campaign to Leave the EU". YouTube (Mandy Boylett). Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  34. "'Mr Juncker, you'll be kissin' my ass!' Ukip activist returns with ANOTHER Brexit song". Daily Express. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  35. "Brexiting Britpopper Mandy Boylett releases second single supporting Vote Leave" (Political Diary). City AM. Edith Hancock. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  37. 'EU campaign firm fined for sending spam texts Archived 5 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine' (11 May 2016).
  38. Jamie Doward, Carole Cadwalladr and Alice Gibbs, 'Watchdog to launch inquiry into misuse of data in politics', The Observer (4 March 2017).
  39. Carole Cadwalladr, 'The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked', The Observer (Sunday 7 May 2017).
  40. Electoral Commission statement on investigation into Leave.EU (21 April 2017).