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Cameron on 'Brexit': 'Isolationism has never served this country well'

British PM has outlined his "big, bold, patriotic case" for the UK to stay in the European Union, saying that the country would be weaker and less-equipped to combat terrorism if it voted to leave

Tim Hume for CNN reports: In a speech Monday at the British Museum in London, Cameron argued that Britain's strength and security were inextricably linked to events in Europe -- and its ability to wield influence there.

"Britain has always been a European power, and we always will be," he said.

"Isolationism has never served this country well. Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it. We've always had to go back in and always at a much higher cost."

Cameron is campaigning for the public to vote to remain in the EU in a referendum on the issue June 23.

"This is a decision also about our place in the world, about how we keep our country safe, how Britain can get things done in Europe and across the world and not just accept a world dictated by others," he said.

In response to Cameron’s speech, British Conservative lawmaker Boris Johnson delivered a speech in London outlining his case for why Britons should vote for a "Brexit," or British exit from the EU. He said he spoke for "people who love Europe and who feel at home on the continent, but whose attitudes towards the project of European Union have been hardening over time," frustrated by what he called its "anti-democratic absurdities." He added the EU had "changed out of all recognition," that it eroded British democracy and was responsible for unnecessary regulation that stifled Britain.

During his speech, Cameron argued that "the dangerous international situation facing Britain today means that the closest possible cooperation with our European neighbors isn't an optional extra -- it's essential."

"We need to stand united. Now is a time for strength in numbers," he said.The threat posed by ISIS and international criminal groups meant "that we simply have to develop much closer means of security cooperation between countries within Europe," he argued.

EU membership "helps us achieve the things we want, whether it's fighting Ebola in Africa, tackling climate change, taking on the people smugglers," Cameron continued. He also added that in his opinion the end does not justify the means which, as has been calculated by the Treasury, will cost some £4,300 (about $6,200) by 2030 if it country voted to leave.

In February, Cameron negotiated a deal with European leaders that would give Britain improved terms of membership in the 28-member EU, including opting out of the standard commitment that members must work toward "ever closer union."

The government's official position is that remaining in the EU under the improved terms of membership is in Britain's best interests, but many leading politicians, including high-ranking members of Cameron's own party, have been campaigning for a Brexit.

Polls show the public closely split over the issue.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Anyone who knows a little bit of British history knows that the British always liked to keep a certain distance from Europe and to have things done their own way. Even Margaret Thatcher who went at length to privatize public commons spoke strongly against “an ever closer union” in her famous Bruges address.  As an empire and a sea-power the UK was always different and de Gaulle opposed Britain’s entry due to the fact that it was never part of continental Europe and had no interest in protecting its agriculture (as indeed it opposed the CAP).  Joining the EU has been a very un-English act, in fact. It is also unclear how leaving a union that nearly bankrupted Greece, Spain and Portugal is turning one’s back on Europe. In fact, leaving the EU is the best act of friendship towards these countries, which are undoubtedly Europe, one can engage in. However, the sad aspect is that eurosceptics in the UK may come to realize that just as no one heeded the miners call when they protested en mass against Thatcher and she pursued her neoliberal policies anyway, now it is the EU which is imposing its will against the UK and it’s too late to turn back the clock. The EU is essentially a prison-club that has only one entrance and no exit. But even if one cannot leave the EU, at least a prime minister of a given country should display some basic knowledge of his country’s history. 

Read more

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