David Cameron defends EU campaign in face of Nigel Farage attacks

David Cameron

David Cameron has insisted his campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union has been “hugely optimistic and positive”, after the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, said the remain camp’s “threats” could persuade the public to “put two fingers up to the political class”.

Speaking on the BBC1’s the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Farage said there had been a shift in the past fortnight as the public tired of dire warnings about the risks of voting to leave the EU on 23 June.

“People are fed up of being threatened by David Cameron. People are beginning to put two fingers up to the political class,” he said.

The prime minister, also appearing on the programme, defended the remain campaign’s approach of highlighting the economic risks of leaving. “If we vote to come out, we are putting ourselves deliberately in a less good economic position in our absolute key market,” he said.

Recent polls have suggested many voters have failed to grasp the central message of the remain campaign, that leaving would crash the economy, costing jobs and lowering living standards. Just a quarter surveyed by Ipsos Mori said they thought Brexit would make them personally worse off.

But asked whether the government had got the tone wrong by pounding the public with statistics, Cameron said: “I totally accept that people are confused by having so many statistics and there is a lot of frustration because of that; but I think it’s actually my job as prime minister, when you’ve got these warnings coming from the governor of the Bank of England, from the International Monetary Fund, it’s my responsibility to talk about them.”

He added: “I think it’s a hugely optimistic and positive campaign.”

Farage shrugged off the economic risks of leaving. Asked about the idea that the value of the pound could plunge on foreign exchange markets, he said: “So what? Even if sterling were to fall a few percentage points, so be it: we have a floating currency, and it would be good for exports.”

With the result on 23 June looking very close, senior figures in the remain campaign have turned to trying to discredit the leaders of the leave campaign, including Boris Johnson – with the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, describing him in a television debate last week as “the life and soul of the party but not the man you want to drive you home”.

However, Cameron stressed he had taken a “self-denying ordnance” not to talk about personalities. “I’m simply going to talk about the arguments, the facts, the case as I see i,” he added.

Many at Westminster believe the prime minister would immediately face a leadership challenge if Britain voted to leave the EU; but he said he would stay on to negotiate Britain’s exit.

“If we vote to leave, will we carry out that instruction, yes; will I continue as PM; yes; will I construct a government that includes all the talents of the Conservative party, yes I would.”

He also batted away the idea, repeatedly highlighted by Vote Leave, that Turkey will join the EU, opening up the possibility of mass migration. “There is no prospect of Turkey joining the EU for decades,” Cameron said. “At the current rate of progress, they’ll get there in the year 3000. It’s a complete red herring and the leave campaign knows that.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Sunday 12th June 2016 11.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010