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Boris 'only interested in No 10', says Tory Amber Rudd

Published 09/06/2016

Boris Johnson lined up with five female politicians in a live TV debate on the referendum
Boris Johnson lined up with five female politicians in a live TV debate on the referendum
Amber Rudd accused the Leave camp of peddling misinformation
The Government website to register to vote in the EU referendum hit technical problems just before the deadline

Boris Johnson has come under fierce attack from a Conservative colleague for putting himself at the head of the Leave campaign in order to further his ambition to be the next prime minister.

In the latest setpiece television debate on ITV1, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd launched a series of attacks on the former London mayor of accusing him of peddling "misinformation".

In heated exchanges, Mr Johnson argued that a vote to leave the EU would enable Britain to take back £10 billion a year which could help ease the pressures on the NHS caused by "uncontrolled immigration".

Right from the outset, Ms Amber - who was arguing for Remain alongside Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour's Angela Eagle - was determined to take the offensive accusing the Leave campaign of talking "nonsense".

In the opening clash on immigration numbers, she turned on Mr Johnson, saying: "I fear that the only number that Boris is interested in is the one that says No 10."

Mr Johnson retorted that he was backing Leave because David Cameron had failed to secure the changes which would have enabled him to meet his commitment to cut net migration to below 100,000 in his EU re-negotiation.

"That did not happen in the re-negotiation. We didn't get anything of the kind," he said. " There has got to be democratic consent for the scale of the flows that we are seeing." he said.

Mr Johnson came under attack again over Vote Leave's controversial campaign claim - emblazoned across his battle bus - that withdrawal from the EU would release £350 million-a-week which the UK sends to Brussels.

Ms Sturgeon declared: "It is a scandal that is still emblazoned across the campaign bus because it's an absolute whopper."

Ms Rudd added: "What is so misleading about this is the fact that being in the European Union makes us money.

"We're going to repaint that bus and put a leprechaun on one end, a great big rainbow on one side and a pot of gold at the end. Because that's all it is - pure fantasy."

Ms Rudd and Mr Johnson clashed again after he claimed that Britain could be drawn into further eurozone bailouts, even it is not a member of the single currency bloc.

"We have no protection at all, as part of the EU from paying into this," he said. "They will take us further and further into a united states of Europe."

Ms Rudd accused him of "misleading the public" by ignoring the exemptions secured by Mr Cameron in his re-negotiation.

"We have vetoes, we can use them. Don't undermine this country's position," she told him.

She also hit out at her Conservative Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom - who was arguing for Leave alongside Mr Johnson and Labour MP Gislea Stuart - after she cited a former head of Interpol who said EU membership was like "hanging out a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe".

"We in the UK are not even in control of our borders. We cannot ask people if they have a criminal record," Ms Leadsom said.

Ms Rudd retorted: "This is what I call scaremongering when people talk about immigration in that tone. It is completely unacceptable."

The bitter exchanges underline the difficulties Mr Cameron - who has said he wanted to avoid such "blue-on-blue" attacks - will face in bringing his deeply divided party together after June 23.

In her closing statement, Ms Rudd took another shot at Mr Johnson, saying: "He is the life and soul of the party but he is not the man you want driving you home at the end of evening."

Mr Johnson however used his statement to present the referendum as a contest between hope and fear.

"They say that we can't do it on our own, they say that we can't leave the EU. We say that we can. We say that we're a great country. We say that we can take back control," he said.

Ms Eagle appealed to Labour supporters not to use the referendum to give the Conservatives a "bloody nose".

"I have fought the Tories all my life but this not a referendum on the Government. It is about the future of our country and the Labour Party believes passionately that our future lies in Europe," she said.

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