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Osborne blasted by Eurosceptics over exchange rate comments

Published 26/02/2016

George Osborne has been criticised by Tory Eurosceptics
George Osborne has been criticised by Tory Eurosceptics

George Osborne has been criticised by Tory Eurosceptics for breaking convention by commenting on the future direction of the exchange rate of the pound when warning against Britain leaving the EU.

Philip Hollobone derided the Chancellor's "spin" as he accused the Government of being afraid of commissioning an independent assessment of the costs and benefits of EU membership.

The Kettering MP said that in any case a decrease in the value of the pound would be "extremely good news" for British exporters.

He spoke as MPs debated prominent Leave campaigner Peter Bone's EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill, which would appoint an independent commission to analyse the pros and cons of remaining in the union.

Mr H ollobone said: "Isn't it the case that Her Majesty's Government has always been frightened of an independent objective analysis of the costs and benefits of our membership because they are extremely worried about what the answer would be?

"And only today we've had the latest spin from Her Majesty's Government that were we to leave the European Union, the pound would fall and holidays would be more expensive for those going to Europe.

"I always thought it was the convention of Her Majesty's Government, and in particular the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not to comment on the future direction of exchange rates.

"And doesn't this demonstrate that we're now in an era of spin because they are frightened of independent objective assessment."

He added: "If the Government is now going to start commenting on the future direction of exchange rates, shouldn't they at least do it in a balanced way and point out that were the pound to decrease in value that would be extremely good news for hard pressed British exporters seeking to sell more of our products abroad."

Tory Christopher Chope (Christchurch), who opened the debate as Mr Bone could not attend, said Britain should negotiate its own trade deal with the United States because the current agreement being negotiated with the EU could put the NHS at risk.

At the Bill's second reading, he said: "I think there's been a legal opinion which has been circulated to a number of us over the last 24 hours saying that if TTIP goes ahead as proposed at the moment., the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, being negotiated between the European Union and the Untied States then it would be disastrous potentially for our NHS.

"I don't know whether that's correct or not, but there's an opinion saying that that could be the impact - and so why are we relying on the European Union to negotiate a trade deal with the United States?

"Why don't we as fifth largest economy in the world, English-speaking, committed to free trade, why don't we make our own trade deal with the United States?"

Sir Greg Knight, the Tory MP for East Yorkshire, warned that a vote to remain in the EU would be followed by an increase in the UK's financial contribution to Brussels.

He said: "If this country is misguided enough to vote to remain in the European Union I believe within a few months our contribution to the European Union will go up because they are totally incapable of keeping within existing programmes and budgets."

Meanwhile, Philip Davies backed calls for an independent cost benefit analysis of Britain's EU membership to be carried out as he suggested the Government will not paint a fair picture of the relationship in the run up to June 23.

The Tory MP for Shipley said: "I'm afraid I have absolutely no confidence at all in the Government producing an objective cost benefit analysis.

"They will resort to all kinds of dodgy figures, spin, presumptions and all the rest of it and we will no doubt end up with a situation whereby we are told that the benefits of being in the EU are enormous and the costs of being in the EU are negligible and that it would be vice versa if we were to leave."

Mr Davies also poked fun at suggestions the UK would struggle to strike a free trade agreement with the EU in the event of a vote to leave.

He said: "I used to work for Asda and I do fear that if some of my honourable friends had been our buyers for Asda we'd have gone bust with their negotiating skills.

"It seems to me that what lots of my colleagues are saying and certainly members opposite are saying is that actually we have got a £62 billion trade deficit but we don't think that we could negotiate a free trade agreement without handing over a huge membership fee every single year.

"These people couldn't negotiate anything. That's the easiest negotiation that is known to mankind."

David Morris, Tory MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said that many problems the UK faces regarding EU legislation relate to how effectively it is scrutinised when it comes here.

"A lot of the problems that we have are lost in actual translation," he said.

He said there had been a "proposition to stop women wearing high heels in hair dressing salons" which could have also applied to town halls and even parliament.

"But when you drilled down into the detail it was a mistranslation that eventually got the whole thing thrown out," he said.

Mr Davies claimed EU criminals were taking short haul flights to the UK, committing crimes, and flying back to their home countries before the police have a chance to investigate properly.

He said: "I t might seem fanciful, it seemed fanciful to me when I first heard it, but when I was out with West Yorkshire Police a few years ago they told me that they had a problem now in the UK where people get a short haul flight from other EU countries over Leeds Bradford Airport and they go out into Leeds city centre and commit high value crimes and robberies.

"And they are back on the plane back out to their country of origin before the police have even finished investigating the crime."

Meanwhile, Tory Sir Edward Leigh slammed the Government for banning civil servants from helping ministers who have joined the Leave campaign.

The Gainsborough MP said it would leave those like fisheries minister George Eustice "put in the corner like a naughty boy with a dunce's hat" on and unable to counter "wild claims" from ministers in the Remain camp.

"The Government are not going to have any other independent analysis apparently at all over the next four months of what leaving the EU would be about fishing," he said.

"Presumably, at some stage or another, a minister will make a claim, perhaps a fairly wild claim, but there will be no comeback on it because the fishing minister has been put into the corner like a naughty boy with a dunce's hat on his head and told to keep silent."

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