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David Cameron makes 'patriotic' case against Brexit in TV grilling

Published 07/06/2016

David Cameron will face questions from members of the public in a live ITV broadcast
David Cameron will face questions from members of the public in a live ITV broadcast

David Cameron has insisted the UK should "fight" for its future inside the European Union rather than "quitting" as he claimed Leave campaigners were prepared to sacrifice people's jobs to secure their dream of Brexit.

The Prime Minister said "if you love Britain you don't damage its economy" as he made a "patriotic" case for a Remain vote.

He hit back at claims by Nigel Farage that the quality of life of voters was being ignored by a debate focused on the potential economic impact of leaving.

The Ukip leader and the Prime Minister were facing live television grillings on ITV ahead of the June 23 referendum on whether to break from Brussels.

Mr Farage - who was forced to defend his views on immigration in the face of a string of hostile questions from audience members - said GDP was not the only important measure.

But the PM hit back - after being confronted by a questioner who told him immigration meant he could not get a doctor, had three children in one room and had seen his home town become a "no-go zone".

Mr Cameron said: "I would say really frankly that if we want to build houses, if we want to invest in our health service, if we want good schools for our children, we have got to strengthen and safeguard our economy.

"Coming out of the single market, which is what the Leave campaign want to do, that would damage our economy.

"Nigel Farage kept on talking about 'GDP isn't all that matters'. GDP is the size of our economy. It is the combination of all the wealth our country creates.

"He is basically saying it doesn't really matter. He is so keen to get us out of Europe that he is prepared to sacrifice jobs and growth along the way.

"We mustn't do that."

Mr Cameron insisted that his measures aimed at curbing the benefits available to EU migrants would help reduce the number coming to Britain, but declined to say by how much.

He was challenged over issues of sovereignty, with one audience member saying it was a "disgrace" that laws were made by "unelected bureaucrats" in Brussels and the Supreme Court could be overruled by European judges.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that sometimes the EU "can drive me mad, it is a bureaucracy, it is frustrating" but "walking away, quitting, would reduce our national influence, would reduce our economy, would reduce our say in the world and as a result would damage our country".

He told the audience: "You hear a lot of talk about patriotism in this referendum. As far as I'm concerned I love this country with a passion, I think we are an amazing country and I say if you love your country then you don't damage its economy, you don't restrict opportunities for young people, you don't actually isolate your country and reduce its influence in the world."

Warning that Brexit could lead to Scotland separating from the UK he said: "Y ou don't strengthen your country by leading to its break-up.

"So I'm deeply patriotic, but I think this is a case for a bigger, greater Britain inside a European Union."

Urging voters to think of the next generation he said: "I hope that when people go to vote on June 23 they think about their children and grandchildren, they think about the jobs and the opportunities they want for them, the sort of country we want to build together and they vote to say 'we don't want the little England of Nigel Farage', we want to be Great Britain and we are great if we stay in these organisations and fight for the values we believe in."

He added: "Leaving is quitting and I don't think Britain, I don't think we are quitters, I think we are fighters. We fight in these organisations for what we think is right."

Mr Farage insisted that the cost of European Union membership outweighs any benefits as he dismissed warnings about the potential economic impact of Brexit.

Even with the "worst case scenario", with the French and Germans imposing tariffs on the UK, the barriers would be "significantly lower" than the amount paid into Brussels' coffers, he said.

Mr Farage added that "no deal" on trade "is better than the rotten deal we have got at the moment".

The Ukip leader faced hostile questions from some audience members, who accused him of "encouraging racism" and said his message had "gone against people who look non-white".

But he insisted that freedom of movement rules were "damaging all of our communities" and that there was "strong support" for his stance among ethnic minority voters.

Brexit would be "better for black people" seeking to come to Britain, Mr Farage said as he complained the Leave campaign was being falsely "demonised" as racist.

He played down reports suggesting migrant workers contribute more to the economy than they take out - and accused Remain supporters of focusing too much on economic impacts.

"The real truth is that the population of this country is rising at a number where we need to value people's quality of life and standard of living and not just national GDP figures.

"We need to build a new house every four minutes night and day just to cope with the current numbers, Let's have a balanced approach.

"It is wrong, wrong, wrong that for average, decent families in this country, living standards have fallen by 10% in the last few years and it's about time as a society we started thinking not just about GDP figures, not just about the rich getting richer, but about ordinary, decent Britons who have had a rotten time."

He roundly dismissed concerns raised by one audience member that the UK could struggle to get a good trade deal from the rest of the EU.

"I'm sorry. We're British, we're better than that. We are not going to be bullied by anybody, least of all the unelected, charming though he might be, Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Forget it," he said.

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