Michael Gove says vote to Remain would make British public 'hostages' to the EU

Justice Secretary faces accusations of hypocrisy over scaremongering claims

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Tuesday 19 April 2016 16:31 BST
Lord Chancellor Michael Gove
Lord Chancellor Michael Gove

Michael Gove has said it is "preposterous" to suggest EU leaders would block trading links between the UK and the European Union.

In a major speech in which he escalated the war of words between rival factions of the Tory Party, the Justice Secretary accused the Remain campaign headed by David Cameron and George Osborne of treating the British public “like children who can be frightened into obedience".

He said voting to leave the EU is the “safer choice for Britain”, and warned that a future in the union would see more power ceded to Brussels, and UK borders left open to migrants from Turkey, Albania and Serbia.

But Mr Gove left himself open to accusations of hypocrisy by criticising the Remain camp's insistence on "conjuring up bogeymen" before going to state a vote to stay in the EU would be like “voting to be hostages locked in the back of the car driven headlong toward deeper EU integration”.

Setting out his plan at Vote Leave's headquarters in London, Mr Gove said: "The core of our new arrangement with the EU is clear.

Michael Gove says vote to Remain would make British public 'hostages' to the EU

"There is a free trade zone stretching from Iceland to Turkey that all European nations have access to, regardless of whether they are in or out of the euro or EU.

"After we vote to leave we will remain in this zone."

It was not credible to suggest that Britain - alongside Belarus - would be kept out of the zone.

"Agreeing to maintain this continental free trade zone is the simple course and emphatically in everyone's interests."

He added: "The idea that the German government would damage its car manufacturers - and impoverish workers in those factories - to make a political point about Britain's choices; or the French government would ignore its farmers - and damage their welfare - to strike a pose; or the Italian government would undermine its struggling industries just to please Brussels... well, that is ridiculous."

Earlier, Mr Gove told the BBC the EU was seeking more power over taxes and the banking sector, and that the European Court of Justice could now control UK asylum rules, how we monitor terrorists and who we deport.

As the war of words between Cabinet ministers from the In and Out campaigns escalated, Mr Gove denied that there would be any significant economic cost to leaving the EU, the day after an analysis by Treasury officials predicted that households could be thousands of pounds worse off by 2030 if we vote to leave.

Setting out his vision for the UK’s trade status post-Brexit, Mr Gove said that we would remain inside the European Economic Area, but conceded we would not be part of the Single Market. However he said that Britain going it alone would be able to negotiate lower trade barriers with developing nations around the world, and could also “cut deals” with the USA, India and China, which he said the EU had “failed” to do.

The Treasury's analysis of a potential Brexit explained

He claimed that EU membership was costing the UK £350m a week in contributions, and £600m a week in losses from EU regulations, money he claimed could be spent on public services such as the NHS in the event of Brexit.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the £350m ignores the UK’s rebate in a way that “does not seem sensible”, estimating that our net contribution is more like £150m a week. The Treasury’s own analysis found that the economic benefits of EU membership outweigh the cost, and that the UK’s GDP could be six per cent smaller by 2030 if we vote to leave.

Dominic Grieve, the chair of the House of Commons Intelligence Committee and former Attorney General, said the arguments offered by Mr Gove of European Court of Justice interference in UK intelligence work were “unfounded” and “untenable”.

“The examples put forward by Michael are general in their nature, they are not sustained by clear evidence and in some cases they seems to me to be the result of a sort of single issue obsession. He’s no longer seeing the wood for the trees,” he told the Today programme.

He said that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had been able to exclude “a very large number” of EU nationals considered a risk to British people under existing EU laws.

Alan Johnson MP, Chair of the Labour In for Britain Campaign, accused Mr Gove of seeking to "wish away reality".

"The truth is every credible independent forecaster says Brexit will hurt our economy. The fact is Britain is better off remaining in the EU and no amount of false promises and bluster from the leave camp can change that.

"Reports from the IMF, the LSE, Oxford Economics the CBI and others all show how important it is to jobs and our economy to remain in the EU. But it's vital for workers’ rights, protecting our environment and keeping our social protections too - all issues that the Leave campaign have no credibility on and no interest in."

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