London: UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned voters Tuesday against believing "total untruths" peddled by the Brexit campaign, seeking to regain momentum in the referendum race ahead of a crucial TV grilling.
As hundreds of thousands of people rushed to register for the 23 June referendum ahead of a midnight deadline, Cameron urged the public: "Don't make this choice on the basis of false information."
Opinion polls on Monday gave the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union a slender lead, sending the pound temporarily tumbling as concerns grow over the potential global market turmoil that could follow a Brexit.
The polls increased the pressure on Cameron ahead of a television grilling by a live studio audience at 2000 GMT Tuesday, when he will appear alongside — but not debate — UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage.
In a hastily-arranged press conference ahead of the prime time ITV show, Cameron said: "It's time the 'Leave' campaign was called out on the nonsense they are peddling."
He challenged claims that non-eurozone Britain could be forced to contribute to future eurozone bailouts, that its EU budget rebate was at risk, or that the economic benefits of leaving outweighed the potential costs.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo warned in a speech in London on Tuesday that British exporters could face an extra £5.6 billion ($8.2 billion, 7.2 billion euros) of annual customs duties if Britain left the EU.
His comments follow other warnings by the IMF and the governor of the Bank of England of the economic risks.
"Listen to the experts, don't stand on the sidelines – this matters for you," Cameron urged voters.
He accused his rivals of "resorting to total untruths to con people into taking a leap in the dark. It is irresponsible. It is wrong."
A close race
"Leave" moved into the lead in the WhatUKThinks polling average on Monday for the first time in weeks, with 51 percent against 49 percent for "Remain", excluding undecided voters.
The latest polls on Tuesday put "Remain" back in the lead with 51 percent to 49 percent, but this is uncomfortably close for Cameron with just over two weeks to go.
"Cameron panics over flagging 'In' campaign. The public doesn't believe his message of fear – they want to #VoteLeave," the Brexit camp wrote on Twitter.
In a potential boost to the prime minister's campaign, new figures from the Electoral Commission revealed a sharp rise in the number of young people registering to vote in the referendum.
Some 226,000 people applied on Monday alone, including 148,200 people under the age of 34 – a group which is overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU.
Following his first TV grilling of the campaign last week, Cameron was criticised in the press and he will be hoping for a better reaction from Tuesday's event with Farage.
The UKIP leader is not part of the official Vote Leave campaign but has been dictating the Brexit agenda with his relentless focus on cutting back on the hundreds of thousands of EU migrants who come to Britain each year.
In a new video released ahead of the debate, the "Remain" camp highlighted derisory comments Farage has made about gay people, Romanian migrants and ethnic minorities.
"Share this video if you don't want to live in Farage's Britain," it said.
Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi, who backs Brexit, also attacked Farage in a joint letter with senior female human rights advocates after he suggested that women in Britain may be at risk of mass sex attacks by migrants.
"Spreading fear in this way is an age-old racist tool," they wrote in the letter to The Guardian newspaper.
But Vote Leave maintained the focus on immigration by publishing details of 50 EU citizens convicted of serious crimes in Britain who cannot be deported because of the bloc's laws and court rulings.
"This puts British families at risk," said junior justice minister Dominic Raab.
Junior immigration minister James Brokenshire, for the "Remain" camp, countered that the European Arrest Warrant had allowed the deportation of 6,500 criminals since 2010.