London, June 22 (IANS) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made an emotional appeal to the British people not to make “the wrong choice” in the EU referendum, saying a decision to leave would exchange “autonomy for isolation, pride for weakness and identity for self-harm”.
As campaigning enters the final stretch, many European Union (EU) leaders are refraining from pleading publicly with Britain to vote to stay, fearful of making a counter-productive intervention in a bitterly fought contest that looks likely to go down to the wire.
In a piece to the Guardian published on Wednesday, Renzi urged Britain to be true to its character and reject an isolationism that could see the country become a “Britain less great”.
Britain, he said, is not a country that walks alone.
“(It) would not be a disaster, a tragedy or the end of the world for you if the UK chose to leave the EU. It would be worse, because it would be the wrong choice,” Renzi wrote, adding that to leave would not be in keeping with Britain’s tradition of refusing to shirk a challenge.
The centre-left coalition Italian prime minister invited Britain to use the strength of a mandate provided by a “remain” vote to demand a more effective EU, “one that works better, and better recognises the individual character of the markets of its constituent countries”.
He insisted that “the union is a tool — one that can be improved upon — to turn our individual weaknesses into a common strength.”
The British people will not be persuaded to make the choice to remain in the EU by curses, threats or hatred, Renzi said. Instead, he appealed to the British willingness to confront difficulties.
“If there’s one thing the British have never done when faced with a challenge that concerns their future, their very identity, it is to make the wrong choice,” he said.
A “less great Britain” would be the opposite of what those that want an EU exit desire, he suggested. Although Renzi has previously said there will be no chance of an EU return if Britain votes to leave, he stressed that the former must adapt and learn the lessons of the referendum.
Britons on Thursday will go to polls to vote in a second referendum since 1975 on whether Britain should remain or leave the EU.