Three leading city dailies have today become the first major regional titles to take sides on the EU referendum by coming out in favour of Remain.
The Manchester Evening News, the Liverpool Echo and The Journal, Newcastle – all owned by Trinity Mirror – have today published editorials stating that their cities would be better off if Britain stayed in the EU.
All three titles argue that EU funding has been crucial to regenerating their cities after years of industrial decline.
Their decision to back Remain ahead of next Thursday’s vote move marks a departure from the traditionally neutral stance adopted by regional titles on major political issues.
The MEN devoted its front page and three inside pages to explaining why it thinks remaining in the EU will be good for Greater Manchester.
In its editorial, it stated: “In the sound and fury of the scaremongering and speculation, it has been difficult to navigate the referendum debate. But we believe a cool, clear-eyed assessment of what we do know means that despite the many flaws, EU membership has been good to our region.”
Wrote Alastair: “Twenty five years ago Liverpool and Merseyside were near basket-cases, down-at-heel and down on their luck. Two things changed that: An indomitable spirit and £2.3bn of European Investment in the shape of Objective One and Two Funding.”
The Journal also carried its decision on the front page, highlighting the number of North-East business leaders, MPs and academics who backed remain.
Political editor Jonathan Walker wrote: “The North East is an exporting region. We exported more than £12bn of goods last year, and we’re the only region with a positive balance of trade. How can it make sense to cut ourselves off from the EU?”
The MEN’s decision to come out in favour of Remain has already provoked a flurry of debate on its Facebook page.
Some readers accused the paper of ‘backing the losing side,’ others said it should stay impartial, and one even asked whether the government was paying it to back Remain.
The paper posted in response: “The decision to support remain is an independent one. No one is forcing us to, and no one has paid us to do it. And needless to say no one is after an MBE.
“Lots of people have pointed out we ‘are backing the losing side’. We don’t know that – but it wouldn’t change our views if we were.”
Until now, all major UK regional titles have remained neutral on the referendum.
The Express & Star, Wolverhampton, opted not to take a stance on the issue despite carrying out several polls showing up to 80pc of its readers favoured Brexit.