The European Union referendum will be a “battle for Britain”, David Cameron announced yesterday as he launched the Conservative campaign for a vote to stay in.
The Prime Minister promised a “greater Britain” with benefits to trade, security and the UK’s influence on the world stage as he addressed supporters.
We can have a greater Britain inside a reformed European Union, or we can have a great leap in the darkDavid Cameron
But with the Tory party deeply divided on the issue, Mr Cameron warned a Brexit would be a “great leap in the dark”.
Addressing a Conservatives In rally in central London, the Prime Minister urged Tory activists to campaign with “as much force as you can” to sell his deal with Brussels on the doorstep.
Setting out what is at stake, he said the referendum was about more than simply the party politics of a general election.
He said: “This is going to be a battle for Britain, a battle for the future of our country, the sort of country that we want for our children and our grandchildren.
“No-one cares more than me about winning the next election in 2020 and the one after that.
“But you can elect in politicians, you can elect out politicians – we don’t like that bit, I know, when it happens.
“But this is about what sort of a country we are going to be – how wealthy we can be, successful in a single market, or how much uncertainty you can have outside.
“How safe we can be, working with our partners in the EU in combating crime and terrorism. Or how unsafe we can be outside it.
“How strong we can be with a country that has definitely got its momentum back, the economy is growing – others around the world are looking to us about how to sort out your economy, how to be stronger.
“The crucial point is this: we can be stronger inside that reformed EU.”
He added: “We can have a greater Britain inside a reformed European Union, or we can have a great leap in the dark.”
Mr Cameron was flanked by government ministers including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Europe minister David Lidington as he launched the campaign.
But the rally came at the end of a bruising day where divisions within the upper ranks of the Tory party had been laid bare as Justice Secretary Michael Gove cast doubt on key elements of the deal Mr Cameron had thrashed out in Brussels.
Mr Gove and justice minister Dominic Raab insisted that the European Court of Justice would not be bound by the agreement, which was being lodged with the United Nations yesterday.
But Downing Street said that registering the agreement with the UN “put beyond doubt the fact that it is legally binding and irreversible in international law”, while the government’s senior law officer, Attorney General Jeremy Wright, insisted that the ECJ “must take it into account”.
The row came as Number 10 was forced to apologise to special forces general Sir Michael Rose after incorrectly including his name in a letter from senior military commanders warning that Brexit posed a threat to security.
Sir Michael complained after finding his name on the letter to the Daily Telegraph, in which a group of former senior military commanders said leaving the EU could hamper the UK’s ability to tackle threats such as Islamic State or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Downing Street, which arranged the letter, blamed “an administrative error”.
Meanwhile, the head of the International Monetary Fund warned that British withdrawal would be bad for both the UK and the EU.
Christine Lagarde told CNN: “My hunch ... is that it is bound to be a negative on all fronts. For those that stay, because there are fewer of them, and for those who go, because they lose the benefit of [that] facilitation of exchange.”
Mr Cameron set out the economic risk of a Brexit in his rallying cry, warning Britain would face a two-year delay after a Leave vote before it could negotiate new trade agreements with the rest of the world.