David Cameron will draw on a pageant of historical episodes, from the Roman empire to the fall of the Berlin Wall to argue that Britain’s destiny is inextricably bound up with Europe’s, and voting to remain in the EU on 23 June is the patriotic choice.
As the referendum campaign steps up a gear this week, the prime minister will use a speech in London to switch the focus from highlighting the economic risks of leaving the EU, to winning over voters’ hearts and minds to staying.
“From Caesar’s legions to the wars of the Spanish succession, from the Napoleonic wars to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Proud as we are of our global reach and our global connections, Britain has also always been a European power, and we always will be,” he will say on Monday.
He will say that even Winston Churchill’s “lone stand” against Nazi Germany in 1940, “when Britain stood as a bulwark against a new dark age of tyranny and oppression”, was not by choice, and when the war was over, Churchill tried to bring Europe back together.
“In the postwar period he argued passionately for western Europe to come together, to promote free trade, and to build institutions which would endure so that our continent would never again see such bloodshed.”
Vote Leave campaigners frequently paint themselves as making a patriotic argument, for a buccaneering, free trading Britain to cut itself loose from the ties of the EU.
But Cameron will argue: “Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it. We have always had to go back in, and always at much higher cost.” The Stronger In campaign also released video testimony from second world war veterans.
The positive case for remaining in the EU will also be made by the Scottish National party’s foreign affairs spokesman, Alex Salmond on Monday, when he condemns the warnings about the risks of Brexit as, “at best puerile and at worst outlandish scaremongering”.
Salmond will also reiterate the argument made by Nicola Sturgeon, who won a renewed mandate in last week’s elections, that the SNP would regard a vote to leave in the referendum as a “material change” in circumstances, which would be sufficient reason to call a new independence referendum.
“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear that such a material change would bring about a groundswell of anger loud enough to trigger a second Scottish independence referendum. Politicians and parties seeking to deny that right would be swept away by the political winds that would then be blowing,” he will say.
While argument in the days ahead is expected to switch to security and Britain’s place in the world, George Osborne stuck firmly to the economic case against Brexit in an interview on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, warning that a vote to leave would cause a “significant” hit to house prices.
The chancellor is due to publish Treasury research about the short-term costs of Brexit in the coming days, and has revealed that one key finding will be that property prices could fall if voters decide to leave the EU on 23 June.
The chancellor said: “You will see the analysis we will do, but I’m pretty clear that there will be a significant hit to the value of people’s homes and to the costs of mortgages. That is one example of the kind of impact, economic impact, that we get from leaving the EU.”
Osborne also countered the argument of his colleague, the justice secretary, Michael Gove, who had said earlier on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, that he hoped Britain would leave the European single market.
“We’ve just had the leave campaign admit this morning that Britain would leave the single market – that is the largest free trade area in the world. That would be catastrophic for people’s jobs and their incomes and their livelihoods. Now, some people might think wrecking the economy is a price worth paying. I absolutely reject that,” the chancellor said.
Boris Johnson, one of Vote Leave’s key figureheads, will use his own speech on Monday to make what allies said would be the “liberal, cosmopolitan” case for leaving the EU.
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