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Michael Gove vows to oppose emergency austerity budget

Published 15/06/2016

Michael Gove has become the most senior Tory to announce he will oppose the emergency austerity budget the Chancellor intends to hold if Britain backs Brexit.

The move would mean the Leave campaigner would be forced to quit his Cabinet post as Justice Secretary.

George Osborne is facing open revolt from Eurosceptic Tories, with Mr Gove becoming the 66th MP vowing to rebel against a new financial statement.

Asked if he would support the Chancellor's "punishment" budget, Mr Gove told a special edition of BBC One's Question Time: "No, because I think that what we have heard from the Remain campaign throughout this whole referendum have been dire warnings of the terrible consequences of the British people just taking control of our own destiny.

"And, the truth is, if we vote to Leave we will be in an economically stronger position. We will be able to take back some of the money that we currently give to the European Union and we can invest it in our priorities."

The Chancellor joined his Labour predecessor Lord (Alistair) Darling to warn that a Leave vote in the June 23 referendum would create a "black hole" in public finances which would require £30 billion of tax rises or spending cuts to prevent the country plunging into an "economic tailspin".

An emergency budget within a couple of months of a Brexit vote could involve £15 million of tax rises, including a 2p hike to 22% in the basic rate of income tax, as well as a 3p increase in the higher rate to 43%, as well as similar-sized cuts in public services spending.

These could include a £2.5 billion a year cut in the NHS, £1.2 billion from defence and £1.15 billion from education, as each of these departments lost 2% of their budgets, while pensions spending could be cut by £2 billion a year, he said. Spending in other areas, including policing, transport and local government, could take a 5% cut, saving £5.8 billion.

Mr Gove told Question Time EU Special: The Case for Leave: "There is no need for an emergency budget. The guy who leads the In campaign, Stuart Rose, was asked by the House of Commons Treasury committee what would happen if we left the European Union and he said the day after there would be no difference, no cost economically."

In a joint statement issued by Vote Leave, furious Tories, including former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Cheryl Gillan, David Jones and Owen Paterson, said it was "incredible" that the Chancellor was "threatening to renege on so many manifesto pledges".

"If the Chancellor is serious then we cannot possibly allow this to go ahead," they said. "It would be unnecessary, wrong and a rejection of the platform on which we all stood.

"If he were to proceed with these proposals, the Chancellor's position would become untenable. This is a blatant attempt to talk down the market and the country. The Chancellor risks doing damage to the British economy in his bid to win this political campaign."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made clear that his party would not support any post-referendum budget which slashes public services or increases austerity.

David Cameron insisted he is "confident we'll get the right result" but said he will "accept the judgment of the British people".

The Prime Minister told Channel 4 News: "I 'm confident we'll get the right result which is Britain staying in a reformed European Union. But the people are sovereign not the politicians and its right to have this discussion and decision."

Mr Cameron insisted the Conservative party will "come back together" despite the bitter divisions that have erupted during the campaign.

"It's a passionate campaign and that is inevitable when you've got such an enormous issue and such deep differences of opinion about whether Britain is better off remaining or Britain's better off cutting itself off from Europe," he said.

" Well, I don't agree with that. We all supported a referendum. We'll accept the judgment of the British people and we'll have to come back together afterwards. And there's a huge government programme of life chances, reforming prisons, reforming schools, investing in childcare, creating a seven-day NHS.

"There's huge challenges to overcome and I think you'll be surprised how politicians can have an argument, have that decided and then get on with the other things about which they by and large agree."

Mr Gove conceded there would be "bumps in the road" if voters back Brexit.

"If we leave the European Union, yes there will be bumps in the road, inevitably, but we will be in a better position to deal with them," he told the programme.

Pressed on what the issues might be, Mr Gove said that there would be "bumps" whether Britain stayed or remained but the country would be "liberated to deal with whatever risks" it faced if voters "take back control".

Mr Gove was accused of being "off his rocker" by one sceptical audience member, while another said he was a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

In an apparent slip of the tongue, Mr Gove said the Leave campaign had ramped up the fear.

Asked if Mr Osborne would have to go if voters backed Brexit, he said: "One of the things we have seen from the Leave campaign as we have got closer and closer to the vote is ramping up the fear, turning it up to 11. One of the things I say, is instead of listening to the scare stories and instead of thinking about individuals and personalities, think about the potential for this country."

Mr Gove said the referendum was a choice between being governed by people voters could kick out or people they could not name or get rid of.

He called for a " vote of confidence in our democracy and our people".

The Justice Secretary insisted Vote Leave was "absolutely not" scaremongering over Turkey's future in the European Union.

The Government has "no intention" of using its veto to block the country's membership of the bloc, he insisted.

"It will inevitably happen in our lifetimes unless we vote Leave on June 23," he said.

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