Cameron urges patriotic voters to keep Britain in EU

Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday urged patriotic Britons to vote to keep the country in the European Union and protect its economy in a June 23 referendum.

"I love this country with a passion," Cameron told a live television audience of around 200 in an ITV question-and-answer programme on the referendum.

"And I say that if you love your country, you don't damage its economy, you don’t restrict opportunities for young people, you don't isolate your country and reduce its influence in the world."

He cited leading global economists who "all say we would suffer a hit to our economy and potentially a recession" if Britain leaves the EU.

Cameron said he was also worried that a vote to leave the EU could spur a push for a second referendum on independence in Scotland, where voters rejected independence by a narrow margin in 2014.

He outlined his vision of "a bigger, greater Britain inside the European Union" during a 30-minute slot on the one-hour programme, following Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party.

Farage and Cameron were each asked about 10 questions from pre-selected audience members, but they did not appear on stage together or join any open debate.

Most questions focussed on the economy and immigration, with Farage promoting the creation of a points-based immigration system to replace the "open door" policy required by EU freedom of movement.

"In no other [free trade] system in the world do we have free movement of people along with free movement of goods," he said.

"If you had an Australian points system, rather than an open door to 500 million people, it would be better."

"I want us to get back our independence, but say we'll be good Europeans," Farage said, adding that a British EU exit, or Brexit, could prompt other nations to follow Britain's lead and create a Europe of "sovereign states" and "good neighbours."

Ahead of the event, the cross-party Vote Leave campaign - which does not include Farage - criticized Cameron for failing to agree to any live debate on the referendum.

"The prime minister says we need a proper debate about the facts, but he is too chicken to take on anyone from the Vote Leave campaign head-to-head," Douglas Carswell, UKIP's sole member of parliament, said earlier Tuesday.

Carswell said Cameron's comments showed that "the In campaign is in a blind panic" after recent opinion polls suggested that Leave has caught or even moved ahead of Remain.

An ORB-Daily Telegraph poll of 800 people who said they were committed to vote put Remain on 48 per cent and Leave on 47 per cent, with 5 per cent undecided.

A YouGov-GMB poll of some 3,500 people last week found 41 per cent support Remain and 45 per cent back Leave.

Vote Leave had earlier accused ITV of bias by hosting a show with just Cameron and Farage, who leads a separate Grassroots Out campaign.

Boris Johnson, the figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign, is expected take part in at least two live televised debates before the referendum, including a BBC event with an audience of 6,000 on June 21. Cameron reportedly declined to join the BBC debate.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

More from Europe

Ukraine moves to ban imports of Russian books

The import of Russian books into Ukraine would be sharply limited under new legislation passed in the Ukrainian...

Frankfurt airport test-runs new automatic immigration system

Frankfurt airport was testing out a new automatic immigration system on Thursday, the first time such a system has...

Italian president starts 48-hour round of talks on post-Renzi crisis

Italian President Sergio Mattarella was starting Thursday the hard slog of lifting his country from a political...

10 Italian school classes vote "Mein Kampf" among their top books

Ten classes of Italian high-school students included Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf" among their...

France's Le Pen says she opposes free schooling for migrant children

French politician and head of the far right National Front party Marine Le Pen said Thursday that free education...