Cameron Says U.K Remain Message Works as Doomsayers Escalate

  • Cameron says leaving EU would put state pensions at risk
  • Those backing exit from EU have focused on immigration

Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s confident about his campaign to keep Britain in the European Union and reiterated his core message that Brexit would damage the economy as polls suggested the referendum results remain too close to call.

Cameron, speaking on the BBC’s "Andrew Marr Show," rejected accusations reiterated by U.K. Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage that the campaign to keep Britain in the bloc has been based on scaremongering. Still, both Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne published warnings in Sunday newspapers that leaving the EU would threaten state pensions and the National Health Service.

David Cameron on June 12.
David Cameron on June 12.
Photographer: Jeff Overs/BBC

“If we vote out, there will be a decade of uncertainty,” Cameron said. "There’s no saving from leaving the EU, there’s a cost. I guess my message is very clear, which is, don’t risk it."

Gaining Momentum

The push for Brexit has gained momentum as campaigners focus on immigration, suggesting the government’s message on the economic consequences isn’t getting through to voters. Both sides have been accused of misrepresenting the facts, while campaigning continues to split the Conservative party.

“I don’t want us to take the risk with our economy," Cameron said. "I’m confident we have the strongest and the most positive case. Nobody knows what these polls are saying."

QuickTake Will Britain Leave the EU?

He acknowledged a vote to leave would have "consequences which will be very difficult for the government to deal with," though he said he would remain as prime minister.

Farage said Cameron’s claims on Sunday were further evidence of government scaremongering, as he brought the focus back to immigration and the failure in bringing migrant numbers down.

‘So What’

"It’s a daily provident doom as to what will happen to our pensioners," Farage said. "I don’t think the government has got it right on either end" on immigration. "It’s failed on the non-EU stuff and on the EU stuff we have absolutely no control at all."

The pound and equities could drop as much as 30 percent if Britons vote for Brexit, Ian Harnett, chief investment strategist and co-founder at Absolute Strategy Research, said in a note on Sunday. Farage dismissed the impact of Brexit on the currency.

"Even if sterling were to fall a few percentage points after Brexit, so what?" said Farage. "The point is we have a floating currency and it’ll be good for exports."

Still Undecided

Many voters are still undecided. An online survey by Opinium for the Observer newspaper showed 44 percent support Britain remaining in the 28-nation bloc, up from 43 percent a week ago. Some 42 percent of respondents backed leaving the EU, also up 1 point from the poll released on June 4. A YouGov online survey published in the Sunday Times showed 43 percent backed leaving, up 1 percentage point from a June 7 poll, and 42 percent favored remaining, unchanged from a week earlier.

In Saturday’s Opinium poll, 13 percent of the 2,009 U.K. adults surveyed said they didn’t know if the U.K. should stay or go. When pressed, though, about 38 percent of the undecideds were leaning toward “Remain” and 25 percent toward “Leave” -- suggesting that late deciders could tip the balance in favor of staying. In the YouGov poll, 11 percent of the 1,671 adults surveyed said they didn’t know how they would vote.

Young Voters

The government on Friday said 1.5 million people applied to vote in the final seven days of registration after the deadline was extended by two days. That’s because the official website crashed shortly before the original midnight limit on June 7, prompting “Remain” campaigners to raise concerns that the fault may have thwarted signups among young people, who are more likely to vote to stay in the EU.

BT Group Plc and workers’ trade unions will issue a joint statement this week backing the U.K. staying in the EU, Sky reported, without indicating how it obtained the information.

Opposition Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell said negative campaigning was acting as a deterrent to voting.

"I’m fed up with Project Fear on both sides," McDonnell told ITV Television’s "Peston on Sunday." “All these exaggerated claims are turning people off."

Farage rejected the possibility of a second referendum should the June 23 vote result in a narrow win to remain in the bloc.

"A vast majority of our political class want to stay part of the EU," Farage told Marr. "If the leave side was to narrowly lose, the chances of parliament giving us a referendum" in the future are "probably pretty slim."

Bookmakers William Hill put the odds of Brexit at 9 to 4, saying in a post on Twitter that 69.5 percent of all money staked is for “Remain” and 71.6 percent of all individual bets staked are for “Leave.”

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