Friday

18th Jan 2019

Cameron warns of Brexit 'madness'

  • Cameron makes the case for EU membership three weeks before the 23 June referendum (Photo: Prime minister's office)

British prime minister David Cameron defended his pledge to curb migration to the UK, but said it could only be done if Britain remained a part of the European Union.

In a big test before the EU membership referendum on 23 June, Cameron was grilled for an hour on Thursday evening (2 June) by the Sky News TV broadcaster.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Cameron set his target at getting the annual net migration below 100,000. Last month it emerged that net migration to the UK hit 333,000 in 2015.

Cameron said he was "not going to put a date" on when his government would reach its target. He suggested that it depended on when economic growth picked up in continental Europe.

"There are good ways of controlling migration and there are bad ways," he added.

He said a "good way" was the deal he negotiated with fellow EU leaders in February - to ensure that new EU migrants do not claim unemployment benefit and leave after six months if they do not have a job. The deal also said people who have a job must pay into the system for four years before getting access to in-work welfare schemes.

'Madness'

Cameron rejected claims that he was scaremongering ahead of the vote. But he said it would be "madness" for the UK to leave the EU single market and warned that the move could drag down the UK economy.

"We do need to do things to control migration like restricting in-work welfare, but it would be madness to try to do that by trashing our economy and pulling out of the single market," he said.

"Leaving the single market would be an act of economic self-harm for Britain and we absolutely shouldn't do it".

The EU 'drives me crazy'

In the heated exchange with the audience and with Sky's interviewer, Cameron admitted his frustration with the EU, but said Britons are not "quitters".

"Sometimes this organisation [the EU] drives me crazy," he said. "But do I sit there and think Britain would be better off if we left? Are we quitters? Do we think we quit the EU, we quit the single market and somehow we will be better off? Absolutely not".

He warned that if the UK left the EU, it would be stuck outside the negotiating room, with "our nose pressed to the window, trying to find out what decision they were making,"

"That would be terrible," he said.

He said he wold never join the euro. But he added that if the UK was not already a member, he would join the EU under the "special status" he negotiated earlier this year.

Turkey will join in 3,000

Cameron tried to dissipate popular concern that Turkey might join the bloc, creating more immigration to the UK.

"At this rate, they'll join in the year 3000," he said.

"There is no prospect of Turkey joining the EU in decades. They applied in 1987, they have to complete 35 chapters, one has been completed so far," he said. "Turkey's not going to join the EU anytime soon, every country, every parliament has a veto".

Polls suggest the race is very close.

After Cameron's TV performance, aimed at breaking the deadlock, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage accused the prime minister of lying.

Farage said: "It [the single market] sounds lovely and cuddly and fluffy but actually this referendum is about political union and the single market is actually the embodiment of it," he said.

"Anything to get away from immigration, anything to get away from the fact he can't control his borders, and was he lying when he wrote the manifesto or is he lying now, because somewhere this doesn't add up?", Farage was quoted as saying by the BBC.

No EU plan for Brexit, Eurogroup chief says

Jeroen Dijsselbloem says EU leaders have no plan in case British voters choose to leave the union and says the pro-EU camp should address emotional as well as rational interests.

Cameron: No second chance after Brexit vote

David Cameron has set out the EU-UK deal in the House of Commons, taking aim at his Tory rival Boris Johnson who suggested that after a No vote the UK could get a better deal.

Interview

'Let’s be honest: the union does not exist'

Whether the UK votes to stay or go, Brexit is an opportunity to create a much deeper European Union, Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal leader in the EU parliament, has said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The Tories' last EU battle?

With eurosceptic MPs drawing knives on David Cameron, the EU membership vote has become a fight for the Conservative Party's soul on Europe.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us