The Big Day

So finally, here we are. After a long and brutal campaign, the UK votes on whether it wants to remain a member of the European Union or not. Polling stations are open from 7 AM in the morning until 10 PM at night. Unfortunately for journalists like me, there won’t be any exit polls during the day, the BBC is prohibited from reporting on the potential outcome whilst polling booths are still open. “Otherwise, this could be seen as a means for trying to influence the outcome”, a BBC producer told me on Wednesday when I came in for a short live on World News.

For many journalists, referendum day itself will be quiet. I will finish two pieces for Friday just in case and set up some last minute interviews. And then, it’s just waiting, speaking to colleagues, and maybe saying a prayer. According to the weather forecast, Thursday will see a lot of rain, especially in the morning and early afternoon. That might keep some voters from making the move to the polling station, a fact that could potentially help the Leave-side, given that they are said to be much more enthusiastic about their course than the Remain-side.

It will take a while until we get a sense of direction. Markets are not expected to move too much (or sideways) on Thursday. That might change from around 1 AM onwards. According to the Independent, Newcastle and Sunderland will be amongst the first results to declare. Both are strong Labour areas so they could provide a clue as to whether Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in convincing his party to vote Remain. At 1:30 AM, Stirling, the first big Scottish city, is set to declare. In case there is no big win for Remain, the country might be heading for Brexit. At 2 AM, Oxford and Basildon are announced, followed by Hammersmith and Eurosceptic Torbay at 3 AM. An hour later, it’s Birmingham’s turn. Until 7 AM, there will be more and more results coming in. At 7 AM, the Electoral Commission expects the final four results.

By then, I should be able to observe how markets react to the outcome of the referendum. For many traders and money managers, it will be a long night. Banks have prepared by calling people in for different parts of the night, hedging risky investments and creating back stops. Some traders have already told me that they will  be doing an “all-nighter”, a phenomenon normally limited to the world of investment banking. “I will stay all night”, a senior trader said to me on Wednesday, “until noon, when I’ll go home to crash into bed.”

Whatever the outcome, it’s going be interesting. Let’s see what time I get to sleep on Friday.

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Britain and the Eurozone

We are now in the final strides in the run-up to the EU referendum. No surprise that the debate gets ever more heated, more vitriolic and more off-topic. I, of course, know that the British debate around the EU does not circle just around the British membership of the EU, but also around the overall state of the EU and the question where the confederation of states will head to in the future. Thus, it is not with great surprise there are things coming up that have something to do with Europe, yes, but not with the British membership of the EU. Nevertheless, they are mentioned as arguments against the continuation of the British EU membership.

One of these arguments is that it is just a matter of days, months or years until the Euro, the currency that 19 member states share, will collapse, no doubt about it. Europe, the Leave campaign argues, is about to go down in a sea of debts and deficits, taking the common currency with it. Should it survive a little longer, the costs for the upkeep of the EU will inevitably rise, the Leave-side claims, leading to higher financial obligations for the UK.

Prior to that, we were told that the UK would have to contribute to further bail-out programs, should Euro-countries such as Greece need some extra cash – although Prime Minister Cameron 2011 made sure that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) would not continue to provide funding for needy Euro-countries. According to that deal, only the 19 Euro-countries are expected to account for their currency partners’ debts and deficits.

This was again confirmed in the EU-UK agreeement that David Cameron negotiated in February. “Emergency and crisis measures designed to safeguard the financial stability of the Euro area will not entail budgetary responsibility for Member States whose currency is not the Euro, or, as the case may be, for those not participating in the banking union”, the the final document read. Still, the Leave-side claims that Britain will have to pay more, should it stay a member of the European Union, both into the budget but also in case of future financial crises in the Eurozone.

I do admit that the EU is currently not in its best possible shape. There are the structural challenges of the currency, the high levels of public debt, the need for structural reform and more competitiveness. The Euro-crisis, the Greek debt crisis and the refugee crisis are just three of the crises that have devastated trust in the EU and its institutions. And yes, I do acknowledge that it’s not going to be an easy ride for Britain, was it to remain a member of the European Union.

Due to the shared currency in the majority of EU states, there will inevitably be a move towards more, not less integration. In order for Europe to keep its currency working, there is a need for more fiscal alignment, more coordination and more oversight by European regulatory bodies. I am not sure whether this necessarily leads to a fiscal and political union, as Wolfgang Munchau commented in Monday’s Financial Times.

“My conclusion is that there is no way around a political and fiscal union in the long run, even if the idea is growing less fashionable. Without it, I see no counterweight to a rise in German power in the Eurozone and no end to the rise in intra-Eurozone imbalances”, Munchau wrote. But, to some degree, I agree – there is strong case for more fiscal and political integration, do we want to improve the functioning of the Euro.

Of course, this does not sound great to British ears. Many Brits still cherish the fact that their country did not join the Eurozone but instead kept the Pound Sterling. I sometimes hear comments like “Look at the Euro – it’s obvious that we are standing on the right side of history” and “Thank god, we did not introduce the Euro”. Much can be said about the structural problems of the EU. And yes, I understand that Britain has the fear of being minimised in a Euro-dominated EU. There is a legitimate point to be made here – what role can the UK play, was it to stay, in a European Union that becomes more, not less unified, a direction of travel that the UK has resisted before?  This needs careful thinking and an open debate.

Nevertheless, one should not forget that there are eight other countries that are part of the EU but that don’t use the Euro. Let’s not pretend as if the UK was the only country that had this issue. Often times, there is a second reason why Brexit supporters mention the Euro. They claim that in a short while, we will see the whole project implode. This is the only route that Leave-supporters see the Eurozone taking and with it the EU. To me, this argument stems from a lack of perspective and understanding.

Even if there are deficiences in the Euro, support for the common currency in Germany for example stays strong. This does not only refer to public support but also to political support. Giving away the Deutsche Mark was a long and painful process for Germany. Do Brexiteers really think that Germany and other Euro-countries would let the Euro fail, now that so much money, time and effort has been spent on trying to improve its functioning? The fact that it has its difficulties is a strong motivation to get it fixed, not to dismantle the whole project and get back to the Mark, the Franc and the Lira.

This to me is another example of the difference between what continental Europeans tend to think and what many British people think. Even though the commonly shared currency makes it impossible for weaker economies to just devalue their currencies and thus regain competitiveness, none of the existing Euro-countries wants to get rid of the currency. Even Greece, at the brink of bankruptcy, was desperate last year to remain a member of the currency block. Thus, I find it funny that one of the arguments that people bring forward when proposing Brexit is the state of the Eurozone. Britain is not part of the Eurozone and will probably never become one.

The point is similar to many of the other arguments we hear from Vote Leave – that for example Turkey would become a member of the European Union fairly soon and that 75 million turks would then be entitled to work in the Schengen area. This is, to put it midly, not the most realistic thing to happen. Germany, especially the CSU – the CDU’s sister party in Southern Germany – does have strong objections against a Turkish membership in the EU and has done so for the last 30 years.

The turn that the country has taken under Premier Erdogan during the last year makes it ever more unlikely that this was to change quickly. Thus, I know at least one strong voice – not the least influential one – against it. By the way, France, a second core member of the EU, also objects to a Turkish accession to the EU.

I am mentioning this to underline the fact that the British EU-debate has unfortunately moved away from the initial subject matter. Instead of debating the advantages and disadvantages of the membership of the European Union, politicians, advocates and journalists instead discuss all sorts of maybes, “could-bes” and “would-bes”, without any of them having a crystal ball. With June 23rd approaching fast, this will only get worse.

It would sometimes be good for Brits to ask fellow Europeans for insight when discussing core European topics. There is not just a British view on all things European.

The UK media on Bremain vs. Brexit

Just as a remark in the beginning: No, I will not use this blog post for bashing my British colleagues and their reporting of the upcoming EU referendum. Sorry, I know that’s a spoiler. Instead, I want to do is to take a closer look at the role of the British media in this referendum and how far it differs from their German counterparts.

The keyword here is impartiality. Already in 2015, in the run-up to the general election, I realised that impartiality has a different meaning for British journalists than for German journalists. Weeks and weeks before the big decision, newspapers decided to endorse a party and one of the candidates for prime minister. All the big names took part in this: The Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Evening Standard as well as the Daily Mirror, the Sun and the Observer all published an endorsement. A strong tradition in the US, endorsements are not that typical in the German media landscape.

The referendum coverage now seems to follow the same logic. Although there haven’t been many official recommendations and endorsements of either Remain or Leave in the editorials yet, the editors have already made up their minds. According to a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the national newspapers are “heavily” skewed in favour of Brexit. Advocates for Brexit include the Daily Mail (highest number of pro-Leave articles), the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the Sun and the Daily Telegraph. Amongst the supporters of Remain are the Daily Mirror (highest number of pro-Remain articles), the Guardian and the Financial Times. Articles in the Times were evenly balanced with a slight preference for leave, the study found.

This is quite an interesting insight for me. Whereas I was taught during my journalistic training that your personal opinion did not matter unless you were writing a commentary or an opinion piece, British journalists seem to have been taught differently.”We have an issue in this country around the definition of impartiality”, said Carolyn Fairbairn, the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)  and a former journalist, at a dinner at the British-German Association (BGA).

Although I am aware of the fact that objectivity and neutrality is more a great ideal in journalism than a depiction of reality, I still feel obliged to try to report in a balanced and even way. This approach has been helping my journalistic work a lot, especially in places like China where it’s easy to get things wrong because you only want to see certain parts of the truth whilst overlooking others.

The study had a second interesting finding. From the analysis of 928 articles between February and April, it concluded that although all papers published pieces that supported an opinion different to the one that the paper promoted, they did so to varying degrees. Out of the titles mentioned above, the proportion of pieces with a contrary opinion was the smallest in the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror. This is also something that I have been taught differently. Not only is it practice in German journalism not to take sides, but it is also not considered good conduct not to have the competing party have a say.

All that of course leaves the BBC in a toxic position. The public broadcaster is, different to the newspapers, obliged to strictly follow the principle of impartiality – a specification that sometimes makes the content a minor concern. “In broadcasting, this means if you have a Remain-voice for business, you also need a Leave-voice for business”, Carolyn Fairbairn explained.

During the last couple of months, the British Broadcasting Corporation has continuously come under fire from both sides for allegedly failing to provide balanced coverage of the referendum campaign.”The BBC is on tenterhooks”, Alex Spence commented, Politico’s media reporter. “Program editors are keeping track of interviews with In and Out supporters to make sure that they’re not giving one side more air time than the other”, he wrote. All BBC journalists underwent a one-hour online training course on the EU and its relationship to the UK.

I assume that the media war will increase, now that the referendum is only 18 days away and we have some high-profile TV debates in the pipeline. Will it matter? Probably yes, especially for those who are still undecided. For all the rest though, it might not make a difference. That’s at least the conclusion that I have drawn from the comments made earlier by Andre Spicer, Professor for Organizational Behaviour at Cass Business School.

According to him, people tend to make quick decisions about important issues on the basis of their past beliefs or the first pieces of information they are presented with. “We then search for information that justifies our decisions”, Spicer said. “Many members of the public have already made up their mind and now they are looking for information confirming their existing beliefs while ignoring any information that challenges them.”

So even if there is a surprise switch and a so far pro-Brexit paper supporting Remain now, it might not matter too much. That should teach us journalists a lesson.

 

 

German firms before the referendum

It’s a no-brainer. June 23rd will not only be an important date for British, but also for German firms. Over the years, these firms have invested billions of pounds in the UK and employ around 500.000 staff at their sites and plants. There are strong ties between Germany and the UK in machinery and plant construction, in the automotive sector and in the financial and insurance industry. German companies are among the biggest foreign investors in the UK, with 2.500 subsidiaries as stated by German Industry UK, a private organisation of around 100 chief executives of companies in Britain with a German majority shareholding.

According to the consulting firm h&z, the UK is the third-most important trading partner for German exports. With regard to imports, the country ranks sixth. Despite this, only 20 percent of German firms have already done their Brexit-planning, a recent survey by h&z found. About a fourth of all German companies will be affected by a potential vote for leave, the estimate goes.

A vote for Brexit will not remain without consequences. Earlier this year, a survey of 700 businesses by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that 29 percent of British and German companies, almost one in three, said they would either reduce capacities in the UK or relocate altogether in the event of a Brexit. Since then, many have declined to speak about their contingency planning in greater detail. This is understandable, given that their strategic decisions in the case of a Brexit will depend a lot on whether and what kind of agreement will exist be between the UK and the EU.

So what now, now that the referendum is only 20 days away? What should German firms in the UK be doing? Many of them, as I learned on Tuesday at the Annual Dinner of the British-German Association (BGA) in the House of Commons, are planning final rounds of meetings and talks with their employees before the vote on the 23rd of June.

One of the first firms to reach out to its staff in the UK was the car manufacturer BMW. At the beginning of March, the management sent out a letter to the employees of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Mini here in the UK, warning about the potential impact of a Brexit for the business in the UK. The firm’s “employment base could (…) be affected”, Rolls-Royce Motorcars chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos wrote. Trade tariffs would drive up costs and prices.

Widely reported at the time, the letter also caused some bitter criticism. This was an act of interference, some media outlets concluded. It seems that because of this incident, other German firms that operate in the UK have been more cautious recently. They have held, for example, as the heads of Bayer and BASF told me, a wide range of events and so called town hall meetings where the whole firm gathers and debates. These internal get-togethers appear to be the format of choice when talking Brexit.

“Yes, we need to speak out”, Bayer-CEO Alexander Moscho told me after the Annual Dinner in the House of Commons. “But we don’t want to be seen as interfering.” Instead of trying to win his 1.000 staff members over, Moscho seems keen to provide enough information for everybody to make up their minds. He now plans a social media campaign, maybe a YouTube video, for the remainder of the campaign. “I hope we will find the means for a balanced discussion”, Moscho said.

BASF, another German chemicals company that operates in the UK, has followed the same route. AS UK/Ireland-CEO Richard J. Carter explained to me on Tuesday, the company has conducted a so-called roadshow with 25 events across all of its ten manufacturing sites in the UK, trying to reach as many of their 1.300 employees as possible. About one third of the workforce took part, Carter said. “We are hoping for the multiplier effect”, he explained. For BASF, it’s more about informing people than about trying to influece them. “We said clearly that we are not talking about reductions at this stage”, CEO Carter pointed out.

Bosch too has been reaching out to its staff. “If we get high turn-out, the danger is that among blue-collar voters, many might be led by emotions”, said Carl Arntzen, Managing Director at Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd. He has spoken to all his 600 blue-collar workers on the shop floor. “Immigration is the topic that comes up first”, Arntzen found.

For all these German firms in the UK, it is now important to keep the momentum going. Twenty days is a long time for a decision that is – according to the most recent polls – so close. “We need to repeat and repeat our message”, said Caroline Fairbairn, the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Tuesday. “Many of our members think they have already done enough. That is not the case.” I guess she is right. “Say it again, say it agan and say it again. In simple language, talk to employees. Now is the time”, Fairbairn stated.

This might actually tip the balance: After friends and family, employers are the next most important source of information for people, she said.

 

Hedge funds and a potential Brexit

It was a catchy story that the FT reported on Tuesday. According to the piece, hedge funds are commissioning their own exit polls for the 23rd of June in order for them to place their bets accordingly. Ideally, a vote for Brexit will be a stunner for an industry that has seen its profits decline quite significantly since the start of the year. The “hedgies” are now expected to gamble on the pound and on pound-derivatives, amongst other financial products.

For their private polls, the hedge funds are making use of the framework set out by the Electoral Commission. It states that polling is allowed unless the results are published before the closure of the polling stations at 10 PM on the 23rd of June. Not only hedge funds but also banks will be interested in getting an early impression of the possible result of the referendum, as it is very likely that it might affect their business, both in the short and in the long run.

The market currently foresees a drop in sterling in the magnitude of around ten percent, should there be a vote for Brexit. Some experts go further than that, predicting an even sharper decline. Last week, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s made big headlines with a prognosis that a vote for leave could cost the pound its reserve currency status. “A decision by Britain in favour of leaving the EU in the June 23 referendum could jeopardize the British pound sterling’s position as a reserve currency and the associated benefits to the credit rating, in our view”, the analysts wrote in their report.

In case of a Brexit-vote, central bank reserve managers “might prefer to reallocate toward assets with less headline risk than the GBP”, they concluded. With sterling having lost more than seven percent against the euro during the last six months, the route of travel in case of a decision for Brexit is obvious. This became clear again on Tuesday when an ICM phone poll which saw the leave campaign in front led to a surprise fall in sterling, after a nearly month-long recovery in May.

Hedge funds, wealth managers and stock traders will try to benefit from swings in the pound before and after the election. Mike Amey for example, Managing Director and Portfolio Manager at Pimco, tries to prepare for all possible outcomes on June 23rd: “We believe that portfolios can be structured in a way so that they will benefit from a vote for remain and that they are hedged, should there be a different decision”, Amey commented. For that reason, Pimco is buying bank bonds and gilts with five- and ten year maturities and sells British pounds for US-dollars. You can be pretty sure that Mike Amey is not the only one preparing his portfolios for referendum day. But not many are as willing as he is to talk about it.

So far, the hedge fund industry is perceived as being in favour of Brexit, whereas the big banks are seen in favour of remaining in the EU. There are prominent bankers who have spoken out in favour of Bremain, e.g. Jes Staley (Barclays), Gary Cohn (Goldman Sachs) and John Cryan (Deutsche Bank). Equally, you have prominent fund managers that are publicly in favour of Brexit, e.g. Jon Moulton (Better Capital), Savvas Savouri (Toscafund) or Crispin Blunt (Crispin Odey). A letter in favour of Brexit signed by more than 100 City grandees seems to underline the thesis that “hedgies” and other financial service providers are for leaving.

However, according to the industry body AIMA, this is more perception than reality. I recently spoke to their deputy CEO Jiri Krol and asked him whether it was true that the hedge fund industry was primarily for Brexit. He disagreed. “I don’t think you can draw the picture in black and white – banks for remain, hedge funds for exit”, he said. In his opinion, the lines are much more blurred than they appear to be.

Interestingly, he addressed one of the core points that I had been thinking about that day. Is it true that a vote for Brexit could free the financial industry from existing regulation? Given that financial markets these days are becoming more, not less regulated, not just in the UK and the EU but also in the US and in China, I reacted quite sceptically when I first heard that argument.

Krol, as one of the leading representatives of the industry, seems to be thinking similarly. “For some reasons, people think regulation would change dramatically for hedge funds if the UK was to exit the EU”, he explained. That, according to him, is a false conclusion: “Nobody really thinks that the UK government will dismantle the existing framework”, Krol said. In some areas, for example the issue of dealing commissions for financial advice, the British Financial Conduct Authority actually made recommendations that went further than those of its European counterpart. “In this stance, the UK was at the more hawkish end of the spectrum, not at the more liberal”, Krol concluded.

In his opinion, arbitraging between different legal frameworks will not make a lot of sense. “The dream of sailing the seas in an independently designed and separate framework is not a serious possibility”, he said. In any heavily regulated industry, there would be continued heavy regulation. Not only the UK’s adoption of financial standards like Mifid 2 and the FSB´ stability mechanism but also events like the Anti-Corruption Summit that took place in London earlier this month should remind hedge fund managers who advocate for Brexit that it is very likely that we will see more, not less regulation of financial markets in the years to come.

And, by the way, if they want to continue advertising in the EU, they also need to follow the existing framework that applies to funds that do business in the EU. “There isn’t really a case for a freer, less regulated financial industry”, Jiri Krol stated.

 

 

 

 

Speak to a bookmaker!

There is a question that I get asked every time I travel outside the UK. In Shanghai, in Berlin, in Innsbruck, they all want to know: “So tell me Nina, how will the referendum go? Will they vote to leave? Or will they remain?” Interestingly enough, all the Germans that I speak to assume that there will be a clear Yes for Remain – simply because they cannot imagine the UK leaving the EU and secondly because they don’t understand why there is a referendum in the first place. Unfortunately, it is not that easy.

Taking into consideration that I am a foreigner in the UK who is not allowed to vote and who does not cover politics but business and finance, this is a pretty difficult question for me. For sure, I know that I am not the only one struggling with this question. I guess not only Prime Minister Cameron and Finance Minister Osborne but also thousands of bankers, entrepreneuers and other decision-makers will be racking their brains these days because of the upcoming EU-Referendum.

The reason for that is not just the magnitude of what is at stake – Finance Minister Osborne recently called the referendum a “once in a generation-decision” but also the fact that a lot of people do take the polls with more than a pinch of salt. Given that the pollsters were so bad at forecasting the outcome of the UK general election in 2015 (virtually no one predicted a sound Tory-majority), there is a lot of scepticism about the accuracy of their Brexit-forecasting.

That’s not only because the models or the methodology could be wrong. Many survey institutes and pollsters took a very close look at how they conducted their surveys after the 2015 election and vowed to improve the quality of their forecasts. But there is a second issue which makes the British EU-Referendum so hard to forecast. This is because many voters allegedly don’t tell the truth when they are asked whether they would vote for Brexit or not. Some of them state they will vote remain although they are actually in favour of leaving and plan to vote acccordingly.

The third issue with polling the referendum comes down to the methodology. Do you rely on landline calls? Do you focus on online surveys? Or do you do a mixture of both? Provided that many younger people in this country (like me) don’t have a landline anymore, this of course does affect the outcome. According to a recent Guardian/ICM survey, phone polls lead to significantly different results than online polls. Whereas the phone poll found a majority of eight percent for a Remain-vote (43 percent Remain, 39 percent Leave, 13 percent undecided), the online poll showed a four percent lead for Leave (47 percent Leave, 43 percent Remain, 10 percent undecided).

In addition to that, the survey discovered an overrepresentation of pro-Remain Labour-voters in phone polls and an overrepresentation of pro-Leave supporters of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). “There is no definitive way of adjudicating between the two polls, but as good a guess as any is that the right answer lies somewhere in between”, the Guardian quoted Martin Boon of ICM Unlimited.

So where does that leave me? What do I say to my friends next time they ask me about my predictions for the outcome of the referendum? Fortunately, I did not exhaust all of my options when I looked at the polls. There is second means for when you want to get a better understanding of probabilities and likelihoods. Speak to a bookmaker!

That’s what I did some days ago. I met with Matthew Shaddick, Head of Political Odds at Ladbrokes, one of the big bookies here in the UK. According to Shaddick, more than 90 percent of the money is placed on Remain. “There is more money on the Remain-side, but more bets on Leave”, Shaddick said. On Saturday, Ladbrokes put the probability of a Remain-vote even higher, at 79 percent and cut the odds for staying in the EU at 1/6. William Hill, one of their competitors, even went further with stating that the likelihood of a Remain-vote based on their bets was 85 percent – a significantly higher number than what the polls predict.

“You need to look at where people put their money”, Matthew Shaddick of Ladbrokes explained. Covering around ten percent of the British betting market, Ladbrokes is expecting most bets during the last two weeks before the referendum. “That’s when people will make up their mind”, said Shaddick. He expects some bigger bets closer to time. “We will take in some for 100.000 pounds and more.” Shaddick grinned.

According to him, the current closeness of the polls is actually benefitting Remain. “It will lead to a higher turnout which could be good for Remain”, he said. In contrast, a lower turnout is seen to be favouring the Leave-side. The assumption is that older voters are more in favour of leaving and have a higher likelihood of voting, whereas younger voters are more in favour of remaing but might not show up at the ballot box. So far, so good.

Up until that point, I had the feeling I knew a bit more about the potential outcome on June 23rd. But Shaddick destroyed all my confidence with a single sentence. “You know, we lost a million pounds last year after the general election”, he admitted. My heart sunk. Another deadend? Shaddick saw my dissappointment. “We don’t have as much data for our political analysis”, he said. “In Tennis or Football, you have matches every weekend, you have milions of datapoints.” As a result of which the accuracy of sport bets tends to be much higher than that of political bets. “That’s part of our business. This is not a superpredictor”, Shaddick quipped. I smiled. Maybe I should look into the betting industry instead of trying to understand the polls. And place a bet myself.

 

Reporting the Referendum

Tomorrow, it´s just one month to go before the big day. On June 23rd, the UK votes on whether it wants to remain a member of the European Union or not. It´s a historical decision, for sure. Finance Minister George Osborne called it a “once in a generation decision“, while Prime Minister David Cameron has warned peace in Europe could be at risk if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

For journalists like me, covering the referendum campaign proves to be a tough one. The debate is becoming more heated, more vitriolic and less rational, the closer we get to referendum day. Both sides are making claims that are hard to check and prefer to talk past each other instead of precisely addressing each others arguments. During the next month, I will use this blog as a means to share my views and experiences on reporting the referendum.