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David Cameron invokes Churchill in 'we stay and fight' plea for Remain vote

Published 19/06/2016

George Osborne said he hoped the debate could be conducted in a
George Osborne said he hoped the debate could be conducted in a "less divisive tone" in the final days before polling

David Cameron has issued impassioned appeal to voters not to give up on the European Union but "stay and fight" Britain's corner in the way that had made the country great in the past.

As campaigning in the referendum resumed after being suspended following the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, the Prime Minister said it would be a "tragedy" if the country voted to leave the EU, wrecking future job prospects, on the basis of the false claims of the Out camp.

Appearing in front of a BBC Question Time audience in Milton Keynes, he said a vote for Brexit on Thursday would be "irreversible" as he urged people to "think very carefully" before casting their votes.

He was clearly stung by one man in the audience who likened him to a "21st century Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper in the air saying to the public 'I have this promise'" - a reference to the pre-war appeasement of Hitler.

Mr Cameron flatly rejected the comparison of the EU to a "dictatorship" and evoked the wartime spirit of Winston Churchill to urge voters to carry on the fight for British values within Europe.

"If we choose to leave, we can leave but let's be clear if we do leave we are walking out the door, we are quitting, we are giving up on this organisation which even if we leave will have a huge effect on our lives, our children, on our opportunities, on our businesses," he said .

"I don't think Britain at the end is a quitter. I think we stay and fight. That is what we should do. That is what made our country great and that's how it will be great in the future.

"At my office I sit two yards away from the Cabinet Room where Winston Churchill decided in May 1940 to fight on against Hitler - the best and greatest decision anyone has made in our country

"He didn't want to be alone, he wanted to be fighting with the French and with the Poles and with the others but he didn't quit. He didn't quit on Europe, he didn't quit on European democracy, he didn't quit on European freedom.

"We want to fight for those things today. You can't win, you can't fight, if you are not in the room. You can't win a football match if you are not on the pitch."

Mr Cameron rounded on the Vote Leave campaign, headed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, over their "untrue" claims about the prospects of Turkey joining the EU, the creation of a European army, the UK's £350 million-a-week contribution to Brussels.

"I don't want anyone to vote in this referendum on the basis of Turkey joining because it is not going to happen, just like the European army is not going to happen, just like the £350 million isn't true," he said.

"I would be a tragedy if we damaged our economy, wrecked job prospects in our country, on the basis of three things that are completely untrue."

During the at times heated 45 minute debate, the Prime Minister came under pressure over the Government's failure to bring down the immigration numbers with one woman warning public services would be "flooded" if Britain remained in the European Single Market.

An exasperated Mr Cameron admitted: "There is no silver bullet on this issue. There is no simple way of solving this issue."

Earlier, with immigration set to be one of the key issues in the remaining days of the campaign, Vote Leave seized on an admission by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that there could be no upper limit as long as Britain was in the EU.

"I don't think you can have one while you have the free movement of labour," he told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show.

Concerns about immigration have widely been blamed for driving traditional Labour voters to swing heavily towards Leave.

The pro-Brexit Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who chairs Vote Leave, said: "The In campaign have no answers on how we can control immigration if we stay in the EU."

The Remain campaign, meanwhile, continued to focus on the economy, with Chancellor George Osborne warning investors were already withdrawing funds from the UK due to uncertainty over the outcome on Thursday.

He said the hit to the economy could be significantly worse than the 5.6% loss to GDP the IMF predicted in its latest forecast.

"Personally, I think it's possible it could be quite a lot worse than that," he told ITV's Peston On Sunday.

In contrast Mr Gove insisted that Britain would be better placed to cope with the challenges of the global economy outside the EU.

"We will have control of the economic levers, we will have control over money we send to the European Union, we will have control over our own laws, and as a result we will be able to deal with whatever the world throws at us," he said.

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