Britain's Conservatives at each other's throats in EU debate

AP News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2016 9:16 AM
Britain's Conservatives at each other's throats in EU debate

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday accused "leave" campaigners in the country's European Union debate of peddling "fantasy politics" and endangering the economy, as the pound plunged against the dollar on uncertainty about the vote's outcome.

His former ally in the Conservative party and leading "leave" campaigner, Boris Johnson, countered that short-term economic pain would soon give way to "fantastic success" for Britain.

The Conservatives have been divided about the EU for decades, and the attacks have grown increasingly bitter as the campaign heats up ahead of the June 23 referendum on British membership in the 28-nation bloc.

Cameron appeared Monday alongside politicians from the rival Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties to urge citizens to vote to "remain" in the bloc.

He accused "leave" members of his own government of gambling with the country's future by wanting to leave the EU free-trade zone, which accounts for about half of U.K. trade.

Cameron accused them of playing "an economic con-trick on the British people."

"While they peddle fantasy politics, in the real world our economy is slowing because of the huge uncertainty hanging over Britain's economic future," Cameron said.

Cameron said leaving the EU would "put a bomb under our economy. And the worst thing is we'd have lit the fuse ourselves."

The possibility of a British exit, or Brexit, has already caused economic jitters. The pound fell by almost 1 percent Monday to $1.43 as several polls put the "leave" side ahead.

Johnson, the former mayor of London, acknowledged the uncertainty, saying "the pound will go where it will over the short term."

But he said that "in the long term you can look forward to fantastic success for this country."

Pro-Brexit campaigners say any short-term economic turmoil would be offset by freedom from EU red tape and ability to curb large-scale immigration from other EU countries, whose citizens currently have the right to live and work in Britain.

Johnson appeared at a beauty products warehouse to urge voters to "wash those unelected bureaucrats right out of our hair."

"The risks of remaining in this over-centralizing, over-regulating, job-destroying machine are becoming more and more obvious," he said.

On Sunday, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major accused the "leave" side of running a "fundamentally dishonest" and "squalid" campaign.

Anti-EU Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called Major's comments the "bitter ramblings of a vengeful man.