19 Jun 2016

UK faces existential choice, says David Cameron

9:35 pm on 19 June 2016

The UK faces an "existential choice" in the EU referendum from which there would be "no turning back", UK Prime Minister David Cameron says.

Mr Cameron said choosing to leave the EU in Thursday's vote would be a "big mistake" and lead to "debilitating uncertainty" for up to a decade.

David Cameron

David Cameron Photo: AFP

However Michael Gove told the Sunday Telegraph the UK could become a "progressive beacon" by leaving the EU.

The Leave campaigner urged people to "vote for democracy".

The appeals come as the Remain and Leave sides resumed their campaigns after suspending them for three days as a mark of respect to Labour MP Jo Cox, who was killed after being shot and stabbed on Thursday in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Mr Cameron said Thursday's vote was the "ultimate democracy" and represented what Mrs Cox, 41, had stood for.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron, who is campaigning for Remain, said Mrs Cox had "embodied Britain at her best - a country that is decent and compassionate".

The "irreversible" referendum was a "watershed moment" for the UK and a question "about the kind of country we want to be", he said.

"Are we going to choose Nigel Farage's vision - one which takes Britain backwards; divides rather than unites; and questions the motives of anyone who takes a different view," Mr Cameron wrote.

"Or will we, instead, choose the tolerant, liberal Britain; a country that doesn't blame its problems on other groups of people; one that doesn't pine for the past, but looks to the future with hope, optimism and confidence? I think the answer will determine what our country feels like for a very long time."

Michael Gove

Michael Gove - a senior Tory who backs Brexit. Photo: AFP

The PM said the economy "hangs in the balance", with trade and investment set to suffer in the event of a vote for Leave and a "probable recession" that would leave Britain "permanently poorer".

"Debilitating uncertainty - perhaps for a decade until things were sorted. Higher prices, lower wages, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities for young people... How could we knowingly vote for that? I say: don't risk it," he wrote.

Leaving the EU would also be a "one-off and permanent diminution in [Britain's] standing in the world; an abject and self-imposed humiliation," he argued.

Writing in the Sunday Express, Mr Cameron also said he understood "concerns about immigration" but said leaving the EU would be the "wrong way" to deal with the issue.

Chancellor George Osborne also appealed for voters to back Remain, saying a vote to leave "would be the most terrible mistake for our country".

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he added: "And it would not be in keeping with who we are as a people. Not the British way.

"When something isn't perfect, like the EU, we get stuck in trying to improve it. We are not quitters."

However in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove appealed for confidence in a future country wholly run by elected MPs.

"People should vote for democracy and Britain should vote for hope," he said.

He also rejected the suggestion leaving the EU would cause a recession: "There are economic risks if we leave, economic risks if we remain," he told the paper.

"My argument is that whatever happens in the future, an independent Britain will be better able to cope with those strains."

Meanwhile in an interview with the Sun on Sunday, leading Leave campaigner Boris Johnson said the UK had a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and people had nothing to fear by "backing ourselves" and voting to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson Photo: AFP

"If we do this, we'll be speaking up for democracy not only in Britain but throughout Europe and it will be a fine thing that will echo through the ages," he said.

Mr Johnson suggested a loss of autonomy had prevented politicians from keeping promises on immigration.

You can only "spike the guns of extremists" and those who are anti-immigrant by "taking back control", he The UK's EU vote: said.

He also set out what he would be do in the event of Brexit, saying his first priorities would include withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and "seizing back control of our borders".

Thomas Mair, who has been charged with the murder of Mrs Cox, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday and was remanded in custody.

He is next due to appear for a bail application hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday.