Cameron: Leavers are quitters

LONDON • Mr David Cameron argued on Tuesday that remaining as part of the European Union was the "British thing to do" as he faced senior eurosceptic Nigel Farage in a TV grilling two weeks before a knife-edge referendum.

Urgently seeking a breakthrough, the British Prime Minister spoke out against what he called Mr Farage's "little England" vision and played the patriotism card by saying a June 23 out vote would mean "quitting, and I don't think we're quitters".

Despite an assured performance, Mr Cameron faced repeated hostile questions from the audience on high immigration from the European Union to Britain, the "Leave" side's trump card during the campaign.

"I really fear if we leave that we're going to see the economy suffer," Mr Cameron said at London's Olympic Park in a programme for the broadcaster ITV. "I would say the right thing to do, the British thing to do is to fight for a Great Britain inside the EU and not take the Nigel Farage little England option."

A combative Mr Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, railed against European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and brandished his own passport to argue for stronger border controls.

"We're British, we're better than that, we're not going to be bullied by anybody, not least the unelected, charming though he may be, Jean-Claude Juncker," Mr Farage said.

With 15 days to go, Mr Cameron's "Remain" camp has 51 per cent support and "Leave" is on 49 per cent, according to a poll of polls by academics at What UK Thinks.

Mr Cameron and Mr Farage did not debate directly with each other during the show, instead facing half an hour each of questions from the audience. Commentators suggested the debate was likely to have changed few minds.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Cameron: Leavers are quitters'. Print Edition | Subscribe