LONDON, June 2 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron weighed in on his nation's forthcoming European Union referendum by making a direct appeal to voters Thursday -- saying leaving the organization isn't necessary to stem rising migration, but it would cause all kinds of harm.
Cameron made the remarks in a question and answer session with audience members, moderated by Sky News Thursday.
"Let's be frank about this thing we are a member of. This thing, the single market, enables us to drive trade deals that are good for British business," Cameron said. "Leaving the single market would be an act of economic self-harm for Britain."
"Stay in for the trade, jobs and livelihoods," he added, saying an exit would "trash" the British economy.
Cameron's remarks came three weeks before a British referendum vote will be held regarding the country's membership in the EU. Some opposed to Britain's continued membership have argued that exiting the union would help cut off the flow of migrants, which have been escaping conflict in the Middle East for Europe for more than a year.
Polling data has so far indicated that the referendum vote will be a close one. But Cameron, who pledged in his most recent reelection campaign to reduce the number of illegal migrants below 100,000, said the idea that ditching the EU to achieve that promise is "madness."
Video: Sky News
"The way to meet that challenge must not be to leave the single market, harm our economy, hurt jobs and damage our country," he said. "We have got to find the right way of dealing with the movement of people, not the wrong way."
During the interview, Cameron also said he has negotiated a deal with the EU that would send migrants home if they are unable to pay their own way in Britain.
The prime minister admitted that he is often frustrated by the complexities that come with being an EU member, but emphasized that orchestrating a British exit, colloquially called "Brexit," would certainly be a bad move.
"I'm the Prime Minister who sits around the table with 27 other heads of government and state and sometimes this organisation drives me crazy," he said. ""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."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Cameron's remarks Thursday, warning the United Kingdom would be in a far better position to negotiate politically as a member of the EU as opposed to going it alone.
"Obviously, it is up to the citizens of the UK themselves," she said. "I personally would hope and wish for the UK to stay part and parcel of the EU."