Justice Secretary Michael Gove accuses the Remain campaign of treating voters like children and trying to scare them into voting to stay in the EU in June’s referendum.
Mr Gove, who is supporting the Leave campaign, said in a speech: “The ‘In’ campaign want us to believe that Britain is beaten and broken … (It) imagines that the people of this country are mere children, capable of being frightened into obedience by conjuring up new bogeymen every night.”
He said Britain would be held “hostage” by Brussels if it voted to stay in the EU, while leaving would unleash a “contagion” of democracy across the continent.
The Remain campaign argues that EU membership is vital for free trade between European countries, but the cabinet minister said this could be achieved without being part of the bloc.
He said that under Vote Leave’s plans, the UK would secure a “unique” deal after Brexit, enjoying a tariff-free trade agreement, but without accepting free movement of EU citizens, paying into the Brussels budget or being bound by the European Court of Justice.
“The core of our new arrangement with the EU is clear.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.
“If we vote to stay we are not settling for the status quo – we are voting to be a hostage, locked in the boot of a car driven by others to a place and at a pace that we have no control over.”
Vote Leave’s ‘squeamishness about pressing the immigration button’. Read Gary Gibbon’s blog.
Mr Gove was speaking the day after the Treasury published a document which said leaving the EU could result in a 6 per cent fall in national output by 2030, costing households £4,300 a year.
He said there would be “long-term benefits” if Britain left, but this was dismissed by Alan Johnson, chairman of the Labour In for Britain campaign.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “Michael Gove wants to wish away reality, but the truth is every credible independent forecaster says Brexit will hurt our economy.
“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.”
In a speech to the London Stock Exchange, pro-Remain minister Anna Soubry urged businesses to speak out ahead of the referendum.
The business minister said: “It’s right for us to belong to a group of countries with whom we have so much in common, whether it’s the values of human rights, democracy or how we do business.
“That’s why it’s imperative we hear loud and clear the voices of all businesses so that the British people have all the facts and hear all the arguments before they cast their vote on June 23.”