Senior Tories have launched a furious attack on David Cameron over immigration from the EU, demanding that he admits Britain will never get control of numbers while it is a member of the bloc.
In one of the most pointed personal rebukes of the referendum campaign so far, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove warned that the Prime Minister’s failure to keep his promise to bring migration levels down was ‘corrosive’.
The volley came in an open letter to Mr Cameron with just 25 days to go until the crucial ballot on June 23.
David Cameron described the 333,000 annual net migration figure as ‘disappointing’ at a press conference at the G7 summit on Friday
As Conservative infighting gathered pace today:
- Cabinet minister Priti Patel delivered a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Cameron by saying politicians with ‘luxury’ lifestyles cannot understand concerns about migration.
- Tory MP Nadine Dorries branded Mr Cameron and George Osborne ‘liars’ and said she had written to the powerful 1922 committee demanding a leadership contest
- A poll of 600 economists found nearly nine in 10 thought the economy will suffer if we leave the EU
In their open letter, Tory MP Mr Johnson and Justice Secretary Mr Gove took aim at Mr Cameron’s pledge that net migration would be brought down to the ‘tens of thousands’.
Official figures released last week showed that numbers have been running at more than 330,000 – over triple the target.
Some 184,000 of those came from the EU in the year to December, including 77,000 who did not have a specific job lined up.
Mr Gove and Mr Johnson wrote: ‘There is also the basic lack of democratic consent for what is taking place.
‘Voters were promised repeatedly at elections that net migration could be cut to tens of thousands.
‘This promise is plainly not achievable as long as the UK is a member of the EU and the failure to keep it is corrosive of public trust in politics.’
They demanded that Mr Cameron concede five ‘facts’ about immigration, including that voting to stay will mean keeping free movement rules and the UK will have to ‘admit economic migrants from the EU, whether or not they have a job offer’.
A Vote Leave source told the Sunday Times: ‘You can read this as a direct challenge to Cameron’s authority.’
Fellow Brexit supporter Liam Fox told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme: ‘I do not have a problem with migration, I have a problem with uncontrolled migration.’
But former PM Tony Blair said the Leave campaign were focusing on immigration because they had ‘lost’ on the economy.
‘The fact is one of the biggest problems we have is non-EU migration,’ he said,
‘The reason why the Leave people have really focused on immigration day after day after day is because they’ve lost comprehensively the debate on the economy.
‘And what is now clear – and I don’t think they can really dispute – is that if we did vote to leave the economic aftershock would be severe and directly measurable in jobs and living standards and business confidence.’
Mr Gove fuelled tensions further by telling The Sun on Sunday the Prime Minister’s ‘apocalyptic warnings’ on Brexit would test his credibility if they turned out to be false.
In another dig at the Prime Minister, the Justice Secretary ridiculed Mr Cameron’s insistence that Turkey was not set to join the EU, by saying: ‘You’re having us on.’
Mr Gove indicated this was the latest in a series of ‘lies’ regarding EU membership.
He told The Sun on Sunday: ‘People are fed up with being told, don’t worry, this thing isn’t going to happen and then they wake up a year or two later and it has.
‘They were told in 1975 when we joined the Common Market that it wasn’t going to mean anything for our democracy and our Parliament and for all of us. That was a lie. Now we’re being told don’t worry, Turkey won’t join.’
The Justice Secretary also hit back at claims the Leave campaign is fuelled by prejudice.
‘When people fling the charge of racism, what they are actually doing is attacking working-class people for wanting to maintain a decent standard of living. I think that’s wrong.’
In an article for the Telegraph, Ms Patel wrote: ‘It’s shameful that those leading the pro-EU campaign fail to care for those who do not have their advantages. Their narrow self-interest fails to pay due regard to the interests of the wider public.’
Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Michael Gove said the failure to hit Mr Cameron’s target for net migration being in the ‘tens of thousands’ was ‘corrosive of public trust’
The remark appeared to be a clear reference to Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, even though she did not directly name them.
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said that Mr Cameron is ‘finished’ as Tory leader because of the way his ‘Operation Fear’ tactics have divided the party.
Mr Cameron was cheered by a survey of more than 600 economists which found the overwhelming majority agreed with him that Brexit would damage the UK economy.
Nearly nine in 10 of the economists surveyed by Ipsos Mori for The Observer believed withdrawal would have a negative impact on household incomes, and 61 per cent thought it would fuel unemployment.
Labour former prime minister Tony Blair told wavering voters considering Brexit: ‘If you’re not sure, don’t do it,’ as he wrote in The Sunday Times that withdrawal would be a ‘betrayal of British interest’.
As the war of words heightened, Tory former PM Sir John Major accused the Leave side of telling deliberate untruths.
‘They have – knowingly – told untruths about the cost of Europe. They have promised negotiating gains that cannot – and will not – be delivered.
‘They have raised phantom fears that cannot be justified, puffing up their case with false statistics, unlikely scenarios and downright untruths. To mislead the British nation in this fashion – when its very future is at stake – is unforgivable,’ Mr Major wrote in The Mail on Sunday.
I never said we should join the euro, says former Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair has been ridiculed after claiming that he did not want Britain to join the euro.
The former Prime Minister denied that he had been pushing for the UK to sign up to the currency project when he was in Downing Street.
It is widely believed that the opposition of then-chancellor Gordon Brown was the only thing that stopped Mr Blair taking the country into the currency.
But speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today Mr Blair said he had ‘been back and checked’ after jibes by Leave campaigners.
‘By the way we never put the issue to the British people on the euro, because the economic case was not clear and unambiguous,’ he said.
‘When these people say, which they often do, ‘you guys said all this about the euro’, I went back and checked and no we didn’t.
Tony Blair denied having wanted to take Britain into the euro despite claims that it was only Gordon brown who blocked him from signing up to the currency project
‘We said “unless there is a clear case economically for joining the euro we won’t put it before you” and we didn’t.’
‘Politically I think it’s important that Britain’s at the heart of Europe. Economically if you can’t make the case for joining the single currency you shouldn’t do it, and economically we couldn’t.’
Mr Brown and Treasury ally Ed Balls have long been said to have frustrated Mr Blair by insisting on the ‘economic tests’ for joining the euro.
Mr Blair insisted the case for a Remain vote in the referendum now was very different to the issue of the euro.
‘The case for leaving Europe is a completely different case, because even if you disagree with the euro surely you don’t disagree with Britain being part of the single market,’ he said.
‘Because the single market which by the way was a British achievement under Margaret Thatcher, the single market is essential for British jobs and British industry.
‘There’s no reason for us to take a position for the next 100 years, but there’s no remote possibility of Britain joining the euro for the foreseeable future.’
But Ukip MP Douglas Carswell told MailOnline: ‘Tony Blair used to be new Labour. Now he’s trying his hand at new history, rewriting the past. Blair was wrong about joining the euro then, and wrong about remaining in the EU now.
‘The high risk things is to remain in an ever closer political union with the EU. If we do vote Leave, we will prosper and avoid the looming euro disaster.
‘No doubt Mr Blair will then try and convince us he was part of Vote Leave all along.’
John Major savages ‘boorish Brexit’ and warns of £40billion black hole in UK finances
Sir John Major has launched a powerful attack on ‘shameless and distorted’ attempts by Brexit leaders to persuade voters that Britain should leave the EU.
And he warned that cutting ties with Brussels would ‘blow a £40 billion hole’ in the UK’s economy.
The former Prime Minister said the way the Leave campaigners had behaved was ‘a fraud on the British people’ and accused its leaders of ‘boorish and sneering’ attacks on David Cameron.
They had ‘peddled falsehoods’ about the cost of Britain’s membership of the EU and fanned immigration fears with ‘the worst type of dog-whistle politics’.
The ferocity of the former Tory leader’s attack in an exclusive article for The Mail on Sunday will send shockwaves through his party
The ferocity of the former Tory leader’s attack in an exclusive article for The Mail on Sunday will send shockwaves through his party. Normally renowned for his restraint, he spoke out after becoming enraged by tactics used by Vote Leave, which is spearheaded by Boris Johnson.
His article follows fury in Downing Street at personal attacks on Mr Cameron by Vote Leave. The former London Mayor has called the Prime Minister’s pro-EU comments ‘demented’. And last week, he effectively accused Mr Cameron of lying for failing to deliver on his promise to curb immigration.
‘We are not, as they [Vote Leave] warn, facing the risk of 88 million migrants from Turkey and the Western Balkans: this fear-mongering is the worst sort of ‘dog-whistle’ politics. Boris Johnson himself said [Turkish entry to the EU] is not remotely on the cards. Yet Vote Leave persist in raising more scare stories.’
Sir John added: ‘Let’s keep people out’ is an easy slogan with a murky history.’
He said Vote Leave had resorted to ‘irresponsible and provocative oratory’ on immigration and ‘phantom fears with puffed-up false statistics and downright untruths’.
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