David Cameron has boiled down his entire EU referendum campaign into a single word: together. The Prime Minister made one of his final pitches to Britain on the Today programme just now. But despite doing his best to put forward the positive case for staying in, he still came unstuck on the age-old issue of migration. He was repeatedly quizzed on his net migration target to reduce numbers to the tens of thousands. We knew before that this is, to say the least, a tricky subject for Cameron. And he didn’t offer much in the way of substance to salve voters’ worries. Instead, when immigration came up, he flipped the discussion to being one about the economy. He said:
‘We shouldn’t leave the EU on the basis of it (migration) because we’d do untold damage to our economy, to businesses, to jobs and to family finances… As we meet the challenge of immigration, do we want to meet it by leaving the single market, taking our economy..or do we want to actually find smart ways of managing migration?’
It seems that the Prime Minister wants voters to trade off their fears about migration with worries about what might happen to the economy if Britain leaves the EU – and then side with the status quo. During the interview this morning, John Humphrys did a good job in holding the Prime Minister to task. In particular, he had Cameron on the ropes when the PM suggested that net migration could decrease because the ‘Eurozone economies are recovering’. Cameron went on to say: ‘You see Spain growing, you see France growing, Germany growing. We’ve had an unnatural period’. To which Humphrys replied by saying:
‘It’s a novel idea that we have to rely on growth in Spain to cut immigration to this country; it’s a little bizarre’
It was obvious that was a difficult one for the Prime Minister to come back on because he gave a detailed and rather unnecessary definition of what net migration meant. The Prime Minister also touched on Steve Hilton’s claim yesterday that the Government knew his net migration target could not be met whilst Britain remained in the EU. Cameron described it as ‘simply not true’. It’s clear that there is now no love lost between the pair. But whatever the result on Thursday, the Prime Minister must make sure he listens to his own campaign buzzword for the day about the need to stick together.