Belfast Telegraph

Rival EU referendum camps clash over economy

The rival EU referendum camps have clashed over the economy, after David Cameron said Brexit would "put a bomb" under the UK's prospects.

The Prime Minister accused the Leave campaign of an "undemocratic and reckless" failure to explain to voters how they see Britain's economic future in the case of a Brexit vote in the June 23 referendum.

But Boris Johnson said it was a "delusion" to think Britain could boost its prosperity by "bartering away our freedom and democracy".

He warned of a "triple whammy" of economic woe if the UK remains in the EU, claiming that Brussels was waiting until the referendum is out of the way to seek an increase in budget contributions as well as extra cash to fill a £20 billion black hole in unpaid bills.

Mr Cameron joined senior figures from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens to launch a dossier detailing 23 alternative trade models which they claimed had been espoused at various times by Leave campaigners - each of which they said would have "a profound and damaging effect on our economy".

They said Leave spokesmen had made unfunded spending commitments that would create a £153.6 billion black hole in the public finances, along with floating plans to scrap workers' rights and environmental protections.

Mr Cameron said he was "proud" to stand alongside Labour's Harriet Harman, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Green leader Natalie Bennett at The Oval in south London in "an unprecedented show of cross-party unity" in support of continued UK membership of the EU.

He warned that Brexit would plunge the UK into recession, with businesses going bust, unemployment rising and sterling falling - followed by a "decade of uncertainty" as Britain attempts to negotiate new trade arrangements with the rest of the world.

"Add those things together - the shock impact, the uncertainty impact, the trade impact - and you put a bomb under our economy," he said. " And the worst thing is we'd have lit the fuse ourselves."

Mr Cameron was speaking as the pound hit a three-week low against the dollar amid City jitters sparked by an apparent swing to Leave in opinion polls.

Ms Harman accused the Leave camp of "speaking in code" about wanting to scrap EU regulations, which she said would mean cuts to parental leave and protections for part-time and temporary staff.

Mr Farron accused Leave of running "a campaign based on lies" and joked that they had floated enough different countries as post-Brexit models to fill a Euro 2016 football sticker book.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage dismissed Mr Cameron's "bomb" comment as "hysterical", adding: "The Prime Minister is clearly convinced he is losing the argument."

And Mr Johnson said pro-EU campaigners were rattled and losing the debate. Voters can expect "fantastic success for this country" in the long term if Britain leaves the EU, he insisted.

Visiting a beauty product distribution centre in Stratford-upon-Avon, the former London mayor said that the Remain campaign had effectively accepted that the Brexit camp were winning the argument on democracy, and were hoping to convince voters that the sacrifice of sovereignty was justified by the economic gain.

But he insisted: "That argument is morally and practically and completely wrong, and that democracy is in fact the vital ingredient of economic success.

"It is irreplaceable and we need to restore it because it is the absence of democratic control that is having all sorts of disastrous consequences for Britain and for the whole of the EU."