David Cameron has defended saying ‘Brexit’ would lead to renewed tensions in Europe as he dismissed critics of his remarks as “incredibly glib”.
In the first major TV event of the EU referendum campaign on Sky News, the Prime Minister was confronted by presenter Faisal Islam over the suggestion that leaving the EU would lead to a world war and recession - which prompted the audience to laugh.
In the most tense exchange during a rigorous half-hour of questioning from the journalist, Islam said: "What comes first? World War Three, or the global Brexit recession?"
Ahead of one Cameron speech, a Downing Street briefing that warned of "peace and stability" being undermined by 'Brexit' was interpreted as another war in Europe by Fleet Street.
But Cameron argued the words 'World War Three' "never left my lips", though Islam argued he had referred to "serried rows of white headstones".
The Prime Minister went on, making clear he believes being in the EU makes the UK safer: "Let me tell you exactly, on our continent, in the last century, twice we had an enormous bloodbath, between our nations.
"Can we be so confident that we have solved all of Europe's problems and all of Europe's tensions?"
When Islam said the UK is not going to invade France, and France is not going to invade the UK, Cameron responded bluntly: "Again you are being completely glib about this.
"You never forget that 70 years ago these countries were fighting each other."
He concluded: "Find me the bit of the speech that mentions World War Three, you won’t find it, come on."
The pair also squared up over immigration, with Islam challenging Cameron over failing to bring down immigration to the UK to tens of thousands.
Net migration to the UK was 333,000 in the year to December - the second highest ever. A record 184,000 of those came from the EU.
Cameron conceded immigration is a "challenge", a rare concession, but insisted he would not leaved the EU as a result to cause a “self-inflicted wound”.
“It would be madness to do it by trashing our economy and pulling out of the single market,” he said.
During the bouts, Cameron admitted the EU often drove him "crazy" and was "not perfect" but the British were not "quitters" and warned of a "decade of uncertainty" if the UK left the EU.
The full hour-long show is below - and the Cameron v Islam exchanges are well worth watching.
In the "spin room" at Sky HQ where journalists were confronted with Remain and Leave campaign advisers, former Cabinet minister and Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith seized on the laughter from the audience during the 'war' exchange.
"It's showing disrespect to those countries with strong democracies," he said of the idea the EU maintains peace. "The audience laughed and I thought that was a very telling moment."
Later on, Cameron faced a student accusing him of “waffling”.
Southampton student Soraya Bouazzaoui, one of the audience members to give the PM a rough ride, said she had been put off by the “scaremongering” in his pro-EU campaign.
“I’ve seen nothing but scaremongering, I’ve seen no valid facts,” she said before Cameron attempted to make the “positive” case for staying in the EU.
But the hammerblow came when he began to answer her fears over Turkey joining the EU in the future.
Cutting across him, she shouted: “That’s not answering my question. Let me finish now. I’ve seen you interrupt many people before hand. Let me finish. That is not answering the question. I’m an English literature student, I know waffling when I see it. I’m sorry.”
Brexit campaigner Michael Gove gets the same treatment from Sky News on Friday.
Also on HuffPost
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more