Brexiteers on backfoot after defection

world Updated: Jun 10, 2016 11:03 IST

LONDON: A prominent Conservative MP in Britain defected from the Vote Leave camp as two former prime ministers – John Major and Tony Blair – jointly appealed on Thursday for the country to remain in the European Union in a show of cross-party support, putting Brexiteers on the back foot.

Uneasy with the Vote Leave camp’s claim that Britain sends 350 million pounds a week to Brussels and leaving the EU would free the money for the National Health Service, Sarah Wollaston, a former doctor, announced that she was switching to the Remain camp.

Wollaston said: “For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue”, signalling the first major defection between the two camps as the acrimonious campaign reached new levels ahead of the referendum on June 23.

Making another passionate case for Britain to remain in the EU, Major and Blair repeated their known arguments in the University of Ulster in Londonderry, and alleged that the Vote Leave camp was not providing details on key issues such as economy and immigration.

Boris Johnson, one of the leading lights of the Vote Leave camp, was scheduled to appear in a live telecast on Thursday night with Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. There are fears that a Brexit vote will trigger another referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK. Leaving the EU, Major said, would ensure that the UK “would be broken apart for good”.

Taking on arguments of the Vote Leave camp, Blair said “casually waving away” key issues was “unforgivably irresponsible.”

First Published: Jun 10, 2016 11:03 IST