David Cameron Warns Brexit Will Lead To The Breakup Of The United Kingdom
"You don't strengthen your country by leading to its breakup," said Cameron, who warned Scotland could push for independence after a Leave vote.
David Cameron has warned that a Leave vote in this month's referendum on European Union membership would lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.
Speaking in an ITV referendum programme, the prime minister voiced his fears that a vote to leave the EU on 23 June would diminish the UK's economy, reduce the country's global influence, and pave the way for another referendum on Scottish independence.
Cameron has previously ruled out allowing the Scottish government to hold another independence referendum, but Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has repeatedly warned that a Leave vote could fuel the desire for independence among a Scottish population that is likely to vote to stay in the EU.
"As far as I'm concerned, I love this country with a passion. I think we're an amazing country," said the prime minister. "But 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 isolate your country and reduce its influence in the world.
"Frankly, I do worry about a second Scottish referendum if we vote to leave, and you don't strengthen your country by leading to its breakup. So I'm deeply patriotic. I think this is a case for a bigger, greater Britain inside the European Union."
Cameron, who was facing the same audience as UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the ITV broadcast, said 90% of economists agreed with him that leaving the EU would damage the country's economy. He added that leaving would result in the country becoming "little England".
"I worry if we leave that we're going to see our economy suffer because we're going to lose access to the absolutely vital market that we have, and I would say the right thing to do, the British thing to do, is to fight for a Great Britain inside a European Union, and don't take the Nigel Farage 'little England' option," said the prime minister.
"That's not the country we want, it's not the country we want for our children, and I don't think it's right for our country."
Cameron was grilled by the audience about the pressures of immigration on the NHS and employment, and was jeered when he admitted he had not made a forecast as to how much his EU reform package would reduce net migration in the coming years.
"I honestly believe 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 said.
Farage, who appeared before Cameron in the programme, dismissed previous warnings from the prime minister and from economists who say that leaving the EU will damage the economy. The UKIP leader argued that there was "more to this country than just being competitive".
The UKIP leader also dismissed an allegation from the audience that he was guilty of "scaremongering" about what he claimed would be an increased risk of sexual assault in the UK if the country remains in the EU, accusing the media of twisting his words.
"A very large number of young, single males have settled in Germany and in Sweden, who come from cultures where attitudes towards women are different," he said. "I haven't scaremongered in any way, at all."
Farage concluded that he would "cooperate" with Europe after leaving the EU and that he believes the UK leaving would be the first step in the eventual disintegration of the European Union altogether.
"I want us to get back our independence, but to say we'll be good Europeans," said Farage. "We'll trade with Europe, cooperate with Europe, but govern ourselves, and I believe when we do that, the rest of Europe will do that too.
"A happy Europe will be a democratic Europe of sovereign states who are good neighbours in the same street. That's what I want to get us to."