LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 22 – Rival sides in Britain’s referendum on European Union membership clashed in a passionate debate to the roars of an audience of six thousand in a London concert arena on Tuesday.
It was a final opportunity for the two camps to win over voters, with polls showing a razor-tight race less than 36 hours before a vote that will shape the future of Europe.
Panellists locked horns over immigration, as the pro-EU London Mayor Sadiq Khan tore into his predecessor Boris Johnson, a key campaigner on the “Leave” side.
“You’re telling lies and you’re scaring people,” Khan declared as he brandished a “Leave” leaflet warning that majority-Muslim Turkey could join the EU.
“That’s scaremongering, Boris, and you should be ashamed… you are using the ruse of Turkey to scare people to vote Leave,” Khan said to cheers from the audience.
Johnson threw the criticism back at Khan, saying the pro-EU side had run a “Project Fear” by warning that leaving the 28-member bloc would damage Britain’s economy.
“They say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels. We say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do,” Johnson said.
The Conservative lawmaker promised Britain an “independence day” on Thursday if it voted to leave, bringing sections of the audience to their feet in prolonged applause.
The prospect of Britain becoming the first state to defect from the EU in the bloc’s 60-year history has raised fears of a domino-effect collapse of the European project.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier warned Britain against “an act of self-harm” he said would endanger everything Europeans had worked together to achieve.