Celebrities backing Brexit and who they're up against
David Beckham is the latest star name to enter the fray over Europe. Grant Woodward runs down those ranged on each side of the referendum debate.
THE accepted wisdom has it that David Beckham may be a footballing and fashion icon, but he isn’t exactly Mensa material.
That may be so, but his announcement that he will be voting to stay in the European Union tomorrow has troubled Leave figurehead Boris Johnson just as his teasing crosses and free kicks once sent panic coursing through defences the world over.
The former England captain has justified his decision by saying that he wants to live in a “vibrant and connected world”.
He added that he wants his children and grandchildren to be part of a world where problems are solved by nations working together.
Confronted with the crushing news during a radio phone-in programme, Mr Johnson was disappointed, but reeled off some footballers who are still on his side including Sol Campbell and John Barnes.
Challenged that neither was quite on the same level as Mr Posh Spice, the former London Mayor didn’t put up much of a fight.
So which household names can the Leavers count on to sway public opinion in the final frenzied hours of campaigning? And who are the big guns being wheeled out by Remain as opinion polls predict the vote is set to go down to the wire?
Well, if you want sporting icons the country’s greatest living cricketer isn’t a bad place to start.
Sir Ian Botham has come out as a Brexiteer, saying he’s concerned Britain’s countryside could be “concreted over” to cope with rising numbers of migrants.
“Concrete sprawl is just one of the ways the EU has hurt rural Britain,” he said. “As a country dweller I see this and hear it all the time in the farming community round where I live in North Yorkshire. Our dairy farmers are some of the best in the world but they are getting nailed by Brussels.”
Joining him is Sir Michael Caine, who railed against the “government-by-proxy” represented by Brussels, adding: “Unless there is some extremely significant change, we should get out.”
Actresses Liz Hurley and Dame Joan Collins are also in the Leave camp, Hurley quipping that “if it means we can go back to using decent lightbulbs and choose high-powered hairdryers and vacuum cleaners if we so wish, I’m joining Brexit for sure”.
For good measure, Boris and co can also count on Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who said it was a decision based on “democracy versus autocracy”. Oh, and Keith Chegwin.
It’s a pretty strong line-up, but then the Leave camp also has its fair share of A-list support. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch joined 250 celebrities including Jude Law and singer Paloma Faith in signing a letter calling for the UK to remain in the European Union.
Helena Bonham Carter has also made it clear which way she will be voting, insisting Britain can “be part of Europe without it impinging on our sense of identity”.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wants her fans to vote Remain, and compared Leave campaigners to Lord Voldemort in her plea. She said: “The research demonstrates that we don’t know what we’ve got. Ignorant of what it gives us, we take the benefits for EU membership for granted.”
Perhaps most suprising of all, however, was the spirited defence of British membership put up by Jeremy Clarkson, a man not exactly known for having a high regard of foreigners.
“Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage,” he said. “I think we are all agreed on that.” In a video message he confessed his stance was annoying him, as it meant agreeing with sparring partner James May.
So the celebrities on both sides have had their say, but on Thursday it will be up to the country as a whole to decide whether Britain is better in or out of Europe.