Mocked by colleagues, Cameron argues Britain is safer in EU

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Market Reaction to Cameron's Speech on Brexit

LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) - Britain needs the European Union to help fight Islamic State and rebuff a "newly belligerent" Russia, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday, making a "patriotic case" for membership that was immediately mocked by a one-time ally.

With just over six weeks to go before a referendum, both sides of the debate are sharpening their arguments, with Conservative former London mayor, Boris Johnson, attacking the prime minister for scaremongering by suggesting that Britain could trigger World War Three if it left the 28-member bloc.

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Cameron, setting out the security argument for Britain to vote to remain in the EU on June 23, drew on military history, invoking the memory of wartime leader Winston Churchill to bolster his case that "isolationism has never served this country well."

But it was his words that the EU had helped secure peace for 70 years that were seized upon by "Out" campaigners, who questioned whether he could seriously believe that a British exit, or Brexit, could see troops on the move in Europe again.

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Mocked by colleagues, Cameron argues Britain is safer in EU
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip welcome U.S President Barrack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on their arrival at Windsor Castle for a private lunch, in Windsor, Britain, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jack Hill/Pool
President Barack Obama and his wife first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip after landing by helicopter at Windsor Castle for a private lunch in Windsor, Britain, April, 22, 2016. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Pool
President Barack Obama, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, right, get into a car after after arriving at Windsor Castle for a private lunch in Windsor, Britain, Friday, April, 22, 2016. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Pool
The arrival of the President of the United States and First Lady with HRH the Queen driven by the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Sovereign's Entrance in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle, Britain April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Geoff Pugh/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh upon their arrival for lunch at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The arrival of the President of the United States and First Lady with HRH the Queen driven by the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Sovereign's Entrance in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle, Britain April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Geoff Pugh/Pool
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh stand with the President and First Lady of the United States Barack Obama and his wife Michelle (both centre), in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle ahead of a private lunch hosted by the Queen in Windsor, Britain, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart Winfield House in London to have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Prince Harry, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as they arrive for a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Chris Radburn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 22: The President of the United States Barack Obama (R) greeted by British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) prior to their meeting in Downing Street in London, England on April 22, 2016. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince Harry, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose as they attend a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Chris Radburn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: In this handout provided by The White House, President Barack Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Prince George at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: In this handout provided by The White House, President Barack Obama talks with the Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge plays with Prince George as First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Prince Henry at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union.(Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama in the Drawing Room of Apartment 1A Kensington Palace as they attend a dinner on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as they arrive for a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Chris Radburn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks with US President Barack Obama in the Drawing Room of Apartment 1A Kensington Palace as they attend a dinner on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: First Lady Michelle Obama and US President Barack Obama arrive for a dinner with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge pose as they attend a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks with US President Barack Obama in the Drawing Room of Apartment 1A Kensington Palace as they attend a dinner on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince Harry, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose as they attend a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: President Barack Obama greets British Prime Minister David Cameron as they meet at Downing Street on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they will have lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama will visit 10 Downing Street on Friday afternoon where he is to hold a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron and is expected to make his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
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"I want to show that if you love this country, if you want to keep it strong in the world and keep our people safe, our membership of the EU is one of the tools that helps us to do these things," Cameron told diplomats and campaigners.

"I'm not arguing that the EU alone has kept the peace in Europe these last 70 seventy years, of course not, NATO has played an absolutely key role ... (but) it's pretty extraordinary that countries that were fighting and killing each other are now finding a way to work together."

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He warned Britain that it could be exposed to greater threats if voters decided to leave the EU, underlining the role of security cooperation after dozens were killed in attacks by Islamic State in Brussels and Paris.

"We see a newly belligerent Russia, the rise of the Daesh (Islamic State) network to our east and to our south the migration crisis - dealing with these requires unity of purpose in the West," he said.

Brexit, he said, would "make cooperation more legally complex and make our access to vital information much slower."

JOHNSON ATTACKS

Johnson, whom the prime minister had once hoped to recruit to his "In" campaign, said the argument was "wholly bogus."

"I don't think the prime minister can seriously believe that leaving the EU would trigger war on the European continent, given that he was prepared only a few months ago to urge that people should vote leave if they failed to get a substantially reformed European Union," Johnson told campaigners and journalists.

He said Britain should pull out now to regain its sovereignty and democratic rights, leaving a failing organization.

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The former mayor, who is seen as a possible replacement for Cameron, called on Britons to demand answers from "In" campaigners, including over how high levels of immigration could be curbed when the country had no control of its borders.

Both campaigns are trying to find the arguments that resonate with British voters, who, according to opinion polls, are evenly split over which way to vote.

The "In" campaign, backed by Cameron, has so far mainly stuck to economic arguments, trying to deepen rifts in the "Out" campaign over what Britain would look like after Brexit.

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