Saturday

10th Dec 2022

Rivals trade harsh words in final Brexit debate

  • Pro-Brexit Johnson accused the Remain camp of running "project fear" (Photo: Parsons_Boris_whitehall-1069)

Rivals in Britain's vote on EU membership locked horns on Tuesday night (21 June) in a final push to win over voters in the neck-and-neck race.

Leading politicians from the Leave and Remain camps exchanged harsh words in a TV debate at the Wembley Arena in London, clashing over immigration, the economy and the UK's role in the wider world.

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  • Khan accused Leave side of creating "project hate" (Photo: DIUS Corporate)

Remain supporter and London mayor Sadiq Khan accused the Leave side of "scaring people" by saying Muslim-majority Turkey could join the EU any time soon.

"That's scaremongering, Boris, and you should be ashamed... ," Khan, from the opposition centre-left Labour party told the former London mayor, Boris Johnson, from the ruling centre-right Conservatives.

Johnson branded the pro-EU campaign as "project fear" over its warnings that leaving the EU would cause economic harm to Britain.

Khan hit back saying the Leave camp is guilty of a "project hate" on immigration.

On the economy, Johnson said it was "extraordinary" to suggest that the EU would impose tariffs on the UK, arguing that Germany would be "insane" to do so because it sells lots of cars to Britain.

"They [Remain] say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels. We say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do," Johnson said. He spoke of an "independence day" on Thursday if Britons voted to leave the 28-member club.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also accused the Leave side of "lying" on Turkish membership and for saying that 60 percent of UK laws and regulations are imposed by Brussels.

Davidson said the Remain side "refused to dismiss the experts" who all agreed that "Britain is better-off in."

In an earlier TV debate, UK justice minister and Brexit supporter Micheal Gove drew criticism for urging Britain not to rely on the opinions of experts that warned against Brexitl

He compared their interventions to how the Nazis forced scientists to denounce Albert Einstein in the 1930s.

The debate represented a last chance for the two camps to get their message across to voters who remain split ahead of Thursday's ballot, which could decide the fate of the 60 year-old European project.

The exchange also showed how detached the debate on EU membership had become from facts and the extent to which it is now dominated by emotional and combative rhetoric.

A snap YouGov poll for the Times found 39 percent thought Leave had won the debate, with 34 percent for Remain and 17 percent undecided.

Countdown

The referendum result will be very close, prime minister David Cameron admitted in an interview with the Financial Times.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen,” he said ahead of Thursday's vote.

He insisted he will stay on as prime minister even if he loses the referendum.

Italy's prime minister also came to help the Remain camp by arguing in the Guardian newspaper that British voters should not make the "wrong choice".

"Seen from Italy, a vote to leave Europe would not be a disaster, a tragedy or the end of the world for you in the UK. It would be worse, because it would be the wrong choice”, Matteo Renzi said.

“It would be a mistake for which you the voters primarily would pay the price. Because who really wants Britain to be small and isolated? … It would swap autonomy for solitude, pride for weakness, and identity for self-harm”.

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EU institutions have prepared a Brexit crisis agenda for the first hours and day after the vote in order to avoid a "messy" divorce if the UK opts to leave.

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'The Remain camp has been weak'

Pro-EU leaders failed to produce a positive message, but voters may choose to stay in the EU becaue they would not want to "live in Nigel Farage's Britain," EU expert Charles Grant said.

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