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Britain will pay high cost and risk conflict in Europe, says PM in Churchillian speech

By Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor

Daily Telegraph – 9 May 2016

A Brexit will increase the risk of Europe descending into war, David Cameron says today in a major speech that warns that Britain will pay a high cost if "we turn our back" on the European Union. The Prime Minister will invoke Sir Winston Churchill and say that the foundation of the EU has helped bring together countries that have been

"at each other’s throats for decades".

He will highlight the battles of Trafalgar, Blenheim, Waterloo and the two World Wars as evidence that Britain cannot pretend to be "immune from the consequences" of events in Europe.

“Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it,"

Mr Cameron will say.

"Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption."

His speech in central London today will mark a significant intensification of the referendum campaign in the wake of the local elections.

However, Julian Lewis, the Conservative head of the Defence Select Committee, today warns in the Daily Telegraph that the EU risks a

“war by miscalculation”

with Russia. He says that, while the US is obliged to support NATO, it is under no such obligation to support the EU, meaning the EU could

“blunder into military confrontations”.

Mr Lewis, a Eurosceptic MP, says:

“There is no risk of Western European states going to war with each other, as long as they remain free, democratic and constitutional. Constitutional democracies do not attack one another.

“By trying to build a supranational state in the absence of democratic structures or a popular mandate, the EU is sowing the seeds of precisely the sort of conflicts it claims to have abolished.”

Just three hours after the Prime Minister finishes speaking Boris Johnson, the Eurosceptic Conservative MP, is expected to attack Mr Cameron’s EU deal. In his first intervention since stepping down as Mayor of London Mr Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, is likely to challenge Mr Cameron's claims. He has also vowed to produce some "pretty nasty surprises" before embarking on a red bus tour across the UK to make the case for a Brexit.

The row within the Conservative Party deepened further yesterday as George Osborne, the Chancellor, yesterday warned that house prices will fall and the cost of mortgages will rise if Britain leaves the European Union. He seized on suggestions by Michael Gove, the Eurosceptic Justice Secretary – and one of his close friends – that Britain would leave the single market and establish new free trade relationships. Mr Osborne said that such a move would prove to be "absolutely catastrophic".

The Prime Minister will make the "patriotic" case for Britain to stay in the European Union at a speech in London on Monday, arguing that

"isolationism has never served this country well. The serried rows of white headstones in lovingly tended Commonwealth war cemeteries stand as silent testament to the price this country has paid to help restore peace and order in Europe”,

he will say. He will add that it has "barely been 20 years" since war in the Balkans and genocide in Srebrenica, and highlight the recent Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. Britain has a “fundamental national interest” in keeping a “common purpose” in Europe to avoid future conflict, he will tell the meeting, adding that

“either we influence Europe or it influences us”,

pointing out that for 2,000 years Britain’s history has been “intertwined” with Europe’s

“for good or ill. The moments of which we are rightly most proud in our national story include pivotal moments in European history: Blenheim, Trafalgar, Waterloo”,

he will say,

“our country’s heroism in the Great War".

Britain fares worst when it is isolated, he will argue, as it was when it was forced to take its "lone stand" against Nazi Germany in 1940.

The Stronger In campaign will today promote interviews with four Second World War veterans calling for Britain to stay in the EU. They include Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, who says that Britain would be “going backwards” if it leaves the EU. Harry Leslie Smith, an RAF veteran who features in the video, has previously said that today’s politicians

“wouldn’t have had the bottle to fight Nazism”.

Gordon Brown, the former Labour Prime Minister, will on Wednesday warn about the economic risk of leaving the European Union.