After the grilling of Prime Minister David Cameron on live television, it was the turn of leading “Vote Leave” campaigner, justice secretary Michael Gove, who was hard put to give details of his economy-related claims in the event of Britain voting to leave the EU.
Gove harped on the need “to take back control” from Brussels, but was put on the backfoot by questions from Sky News’ interviewer Faisal Islam and the audience on Friday night. Commentators said Gove performed better than Cameron, but details on a post-Brexit Britain after the June 23 referendum remained sketchy.
Pinned down on Vote Leave’s claim that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels, an amount it says can be invested within the country by exiting the European Union, Gove remained on shaky ground since the reality is slightly different.
Official accounts say the £350 million is a notional figure and most of it is anyway returned to Britain in the form of a rebate. The amount doesn’t really leave Britain, experts say.
Told bluntly by audience members the figure is part of the camp’s “Project Lies”, Gove said: “We can’t count on that rebate. That rebate is decided by other countries, it’s not up to us. That rebate can be whittled away. I fear that if we vote to remain, that rebate will be reduced further.”
Responding to claims that leaving the EU will enable ploughing £100 million more a week in the National Health Service, Cameron retorted the Vote Leave camp was “writing cheques they know will bounce. Nine out of 10 economists say there’ll be a profound shock if we leave the EU. That means there will be less money – not more. It’s also why so many doctors and nurses support remaining in the EU.”
Meanwhile, six former Labour leaders urged the party’s supporters to vote to remain in the EU. In a statement, Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and former acting leaders Harriet Harman and Margaret Beckett said: “If Labour stays at home, Britain leaves.”