The campaign to stay in the EU is 'Project Fear', says Boris Johnson

Pro-EU politicians have however rubbished the description

Jon Stone
Monday 29 February 2016 14:19 GMT
Fluttering: The European flag flies in Brussels
Fluttering: The European flag flies in Brussels (AFP)

The Mayor of London has branded the campaign to stay in the EU as “project fear” – arguing that the Remain campaign wants to terrify voters about the consequences of Brexit.

Boris Johnson wrote in his regular newspaper column that “the agents of Project Fear” were trying to “spook” the British public.

He argued that the risks of staying in the EU were greater than the risks of leaving.

“In every case the message is that Brexit is simply too scary; and the reality is that these threats are so wildly exaggerated as to be nonsense,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

Boris Johnson is backing a Leave vote
Boris Johnson is backing a Leave vote (PA)

“Indeed I am ever more convinced that the real risk is to sit back and do nothing, to remain inertly and complacently in an unreformed EU that is hell-bent on a federal project over which we have no control.”

The phrase recalls the label given by pro-independence Scots to keep Scotland in the UK.

Mr Johnson’s comments were however pre-empted by pro-EU Labour politician Alistair Darling – who defended the use such a campaigning approach.

“Project Fear? In fact, it is a reality check. The kind anyone would take before making such an enormous decision in their lives,” Mr Darling wrote in an article for the Mail on Sunday newspaper yesterday.

“So when Iain Duncan Smith claimed if we stay in the EU terrorists would find it easier to get into the UK, we are right to call him out. He could not explain why they would find it harder if we left. He seems to forget the London bombings were perpetrated by terrorists who were British citizens.

Alistair Darling wants to remain in the EU
Alistair Darling wants to remain in the EU (Getty Images)

“We will hear much more about Project Fear. The Out campaign is trying to use that sense of insecurity and alienation which we see around the world and build on it for their own ends.”

The campaign on both sides of the referendum has so far has been marked with scare stories about the consequences of leaving or remaining in.

Yesterday’s Labour’s shadow business secretary Angela Eagle warns that some eurosceptics wanted to leave the EU in order to strip away workers’ rights guaranteed in treaties.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith later contributed to the debate by noting that one of the EU’s 11 founding fathers had been a member of the Italian Communist Party in the 1920s.

He had earlier said that remaining in the EU would make Britain more vulnerable to a Paris-style terrorist attack.

Over the weekend the Chancellor George Osborne said leaving the EU would cause a “profound economic shock” while David Cameron warned it would be a “leap in the dark”.

The EU referendum is scheduled for 23 June this year.

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