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Michael Gove defends claiming the EU destroyed his father's business

The Justice Secretary was pulled up on the tail after his father appeared to contradict Mr Gove

Jon Stone,Charlie Cooper
Wednesday 15 June 2016 20:04 BST
'Obviously I did not mean to imply anything about the motives of those who have spoken out in favour of staying in the EU'
'Obviously I did not mean to imply anything about the motives of those who have spoken out in favour of staying in the EU' (BBC)

Michael Gove has defended his claim that his father’s business was destroyed by the European Union – after the man himself appeared to contradict him.

The Justice Secretary, who is campaigning to leave the EU, claimed earlier this month that his family had a “fishing business in Aberdeen destroyed by the European Union and the common fisheries policy.”

Ernest Gove however told the Guardian newspaper that the business was not closed because of “any hardship or things like that”.

“I just decided to call it a day and sold up my business and went on to work with someone else,” Mr Gove’s father told the paper.

“[I] couldn’t see any future in it, that type of thing, the business that I had, so I wasn’t going to go into all the trouble of having hardship. I just decided to sell up and get a job with someone else. That was all.”

Despite his father’s comments Mr Gove again invoked the tale on a BBC Question Time special discussing the European Union referendum on Wednesday evening. He was immediately pulled up on the comments by presenter David Dimblebly.

“Your dad [is] quoted in the newspapers today as saying it wasn’t like that – it wasn’t hardship or anything, it wasn’t the EU that made me close my business,” Mr Dimbleby said.

Michael Gove however said his father had had words “put into his mouth” during the interview and that he was “clear” about the Common Fisheries Policy’s role.

“My dad was rung up by a reporter from the Guardian who tried to put words into this mouth,” he said.

Brexit 2016: Roundup

“But my dad has been clear, he was clear to the BBC on Sunday night, he was clear to me as a boy: that the business that he had invested so much care and time in had to close as a result of the Commons Fisheries Policy.

“I remember when my dad ran his business. Two of his employees were lads in a care home. My dad took them in, gave them a job, and allowed them to work in his business and to sleep there in as pare room that he made for them.

“That business closed and those boys lost their home when that happened. I know what my dad went through when I was a schoolboy and I don’t think that the Guardian or anyone else should belittle his suffering or try to get a 79-year old-man to serve their agenda instead of agreeing and being proud of what his son does.”

Elsewhere in the wide-ranging question session Mr Gove refused to back his own party’s plan for a post-Brexit austerity budget.

George Osborne said last night he would expect to have to raise the basic rate of income tax by two per cent and also increase the higher rate of income tax and inheritance tax because of a black hole left by Brexit.

But Mr Gove said said he would not back the plan, effectively ruling himself out from a government job were the Chancellor to remain in post after Brexit. He said he did not believe the predictions of the many organisations who have said leaving the EU would hurt Britain’s public finances.

David Cameron will appear in a similar Question Time special on Sunday evening on BBC One.

Mr Gove’s confirmation came as Cabinet colleague Theresa May, who is supporting a vote to Remain, said that there was nevertheless a case for further reform of EU freedom of movement rules.

The Home Secretary, who has kept a low profile during the referendum debate, told the BBC that she understood voters’ concerns about immigration.

“There are some changes coming up in free movement rules, to make it easier for us to deal with illegal immigrants and I think again as I've said that we should look at further reform in the future,” she said.

“But when we look at the question of membership I understand people have concerns over immigration, but this is about our economy, our security it's about our future place in the world and I think it's important that people look at all these issues.”

The European Union referendum will take place on 23 June this year. The deadline to register to vote has already passed.

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