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Minister lashes out at pro-Europeans as Boris flies in to garner support

By Joe Churcher

Published 29/02/2016

Visit: Boris Johnson
Visit: Boris Johnson

A Eurosceptic Cabinet minister has accused David Cameron and pro-EU campaigners of displaying "a low opinion of the British people" by downplaying the UK's prospects outside the EU.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith launched a blistering attack on those campaigning for a vote to Remain in June's referendum as he called for an end to personal attacks amid increasingly bitter Conservative infighting.

The Prime Minister had led a fresh assault on pro-Brexit campaigners, using a newspaper article to accuse them of wanting to take "the gamble of the century" with the UK's future on the basis of only "extremely vague" proposals.

Among those who have been criticised by the PM is Boris Johnson, who will speak to businesses in Northern Ireland today on his first trip here since coming out in favour of leaving the European Union.

The Mayor of London is touring several firms during his visit, before addressing industry leaders at a reception outside Belfast.

"I will be advocating vote leave ... because I want a better deal for the people of this country to save them money and to take back control," he said.

And Mr Duncan Smith - one of five Cabinet ministers who broke ranks to join the Leave campaign - insisted a post-exit favourable trade deal with the rest of the EU is "very doable".

He dismissed the potential impact of the emergency brake curb on migrant workers' benefits secured by the PM as part of the renegotiation deal with the other 27 member states, and he vowed to fight a ban on anti-EU ministers seeing official papers relating to Brussels.

"I have never heard such a lot of pessimistic downsizing of Britain's aspect," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show after Mr Cameron began a tour of the UK urging voters not to take a "leap in the dark".

Mr Duncan Smith added: "Britain is a phenomenal country. It has stood alone and fought for freedom, it has been a global trader, it can yet again be a global trader.

"Why would we have such a low opinion of the British people that we go out and talk about leaping into the dark, we talk about them not being capable, we're too small.

"My view is that Britain is a great country, the people here are innovative and will find a way with us to actually have a deal that gives Britain access to the world and access to Europe."

Mr Duncan Smith - who said he has "deja vu" as a veteran of the rebellion against then premier John Major over the Maastricht Treaty - complained that ministers were undermining party unity by "briefing off" about the fate of colleagues.

And Tory backbencher Rehman Chishti, who is yet to decide how to vote, told Sky News that Mr Cameron's strident criticism of Mr Johnson in the Commons was "undignified".

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