Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday raised the spectre of war breaking out in Europe if Britain votes to leave the European Union, a forecast promptly dismissed as “nonsense” by the Brexit camp, historians and others.
In an unlikely alliance, Cameron was joined by former foreign secretary David Miliband of the Labour Party while making another case for Britain remaining in the EU during the June 23 referendum. Cameron also ridiculed pro-Brexit claims by his justice secretary, Michael Gove.
Cameron said: “Isolationism has never served this country well. Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it. We have always had to go back in, and always at a much higher cost.”
He added, “The serried rows of white headstones in lovingly tended Commonwealth war cemeteries stand as silent testament to the price that this country has paid to help restore peace and order in Europe.
“Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking?”
Freed from the office of London mayor, Boris Johnson got onto a bus that will traverse the country to enlist supporters for Brexit. Delivering a speech before setting off, he rubbished Cameron’s claim that Brexit could disrupt peace and stability.
As the EU referendum pits Tories versus Tories, Johnson accused Cameron of “corroding” public trust by promising to reduce immigration but failing to achieve it year after year.
Johnson said: “The biggest single threat that I can see is that people on the Remain camp will continue to run scare stories about world war three, or bubonic plague, or whatever it happens to be, and they may in the end inadvertently do material damage to people’s confidence about this country.”
He said he didn’t think Cameron could “seriously believe that leaving the EU would trigger war on the European continent given that he was prepared only a few months ago to urge that people should vote leave if they failed to get a substantially reformed European Union”.
The Vote Leave camp said Nato, not the EU, kept Britain safe and accused Downing Street of “losing the plot”. It pointed to analysis by the Historians for Britain group, which described the suggestion the EU had prevented wars as “groundless” and “historically illiterate”.
Cameron mentioned India three times in his speech, challenging the Brexit’s camp’s claim that India and Britain will have better relations outside Europe.
“(From) America to Asia, from Australasia and the Indian subcontinent, our friends and our biggest trading partners, or potential trading partners, are telling us very clearly: it’s your decision. But we hope you vote to stay in the European Union,” he said.