LONDON (AA) – British people are not “quitters” and should try to fix the European Union’s problems, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said in his first televised appearance of the Brexit referendum campaign.
Cameron said he was sometimes deeply frustrated by the EU’s institutional problems, but that these should not be a reason to leave.
British citizens will vote on their country’s EU membership on June 23.
In the hour-long program Thursday on Sky News, during which he took questions from undecided voters, Cameron said: "If you are saying to me, ‘Are there regulations in Europe that annoy you?’ Yes. ‘Are there things about Europe that frustrate you?’ Yes.
“I'm the prime minister who sits around the table with 27 other heads of government and state, and sometimes this organization drives me crazy.
“But do I sit there and think Britain would be better off if we left? Are we quitters? Do we think we quit the EU, we quit the single market and somehow we will be better off? Absolutely not.”
The topic of immigration dominated the question-and-answer session with the audience, with multiple voters raising concerns about alleged pressures on the U.K.’s public services as a result of rules allowing freedom of movement for EU citizens.
He accepted that more than 600,000 migrants had arrived in Britain since he became prime minister in 2010, but said leaving the EU would not reduce that figure.
“We are in a single market. It is a market of 500 million people. It is vital to the success of our businesses,” he said.
“Part of that single market is British people being able to work and live in other European countries, and Europeans being able to live and work in our country.”
He added: “I think we should welcome the fact that people want to come to our country, work hard, make a contribution, pay into our system, but they ought to pay in before they get out. And that's what I've secured through my negotiation. No more something for nothing.”