Infighting has broken out between the rival campaigns fighting for Britain to leave the EU after the Ukip-related group issued a statement telling the Tory-related camp to “shut up”.
Both the Leave.eu and Conservatives for Britain campaigns argue the opposite will alienate people from voting Out in the EU referendum.
The Leave.eu campaign, which Nigel Farage supports and is funded by the outspoken Ukip donor Arron Banks, has strongly criticised the appointment of former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson as the president of Conservatives for Britain.
It declared the 83-year-old peer, who was chancellor for five years under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, as a “has been” who would harm the effort to convince voters to leave the EU because he was too associated with the “Westminster bubble”.
Lord Lawson announced his new role in an article in Thursday’s Times newspaper, telling fellow Conservatives that they cannot wait until David Cameron has completed his EU renegotiation to start making the case for a Brexit.
Doing so would risk leaving the Out campaign to be dominated by “xenophobic voices”, he said in an indirect attack on Ukip.
That would lead to an inevitable defeat “once the government, major political parties, the CBI [Confederation of British Industry] and trade unions declare that they are backing the ‘in campaign’, Lord Lawson added.
However Leave.eu declared that Lord Lawson’s appointment was “wrong” and warned it would put people off voting Out in the referendum, which expected to be held next year.
“He’s leading ‘a’ campaign that is run by the ‘Westminster bubble’ from SW1,” the statement read. “When are these politicians going to learn that this campaign cannot we won from SW1. It has to appeal to the people, not the small clique of Eurosceptic Tories.
“It would be better if the Eurosceptic Tories just ‘shut-up’ as they are going to alienate the vast majority of people who will look at this campaign as a Tory stich-up.
“The Leave.eu campaign is about the people of Great Britain which includes Labour, Lib Dem UKIP Tories and anyone else who believes we should vote to leave the EU at the next referendum.
“If the Tories keep using has beens like Lord Lawson and the other Eurosceptic rabble then that will turn off supporters. So get back in your box Nigel and let the people support a peoples campaign not an SW1 bubble brigade.”
The rival Out groups are competing to be named as the official campaign, which would grant them higher spending limits and a public grant.
Lord Lawson said it was becoming “increasingly clear” that the Prime Minister would fail to secure meaningful reforms from the EU when he completes his renegotiation process ahead of the 2017 referendum campaign and has demanded that he and Chancellor George Osborne set out details of their reform demands.
He has demanded that they end the “automatic supremacy” of EU law over the UK, the ability of the UK to negotiate its own free trade deals with fast-growing economies, the ability to control immigration from EU countries and terminating the EU’s “absolute commitment” to ‘ever closer union.
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