Belfast Telegraph

Sacrificing sovereignty in hope of economic gain 'completely wrong': Johnson

Sacrificing sovereignty in the hope of economic gain is "morally and practically and completely wrong", Boris Johnson said, as he claimed pro-EU campaigners were rattled and losing the debate.

The former Mayor of London, who was visiting a health and beauty product distribution centre, said it was time to "wash those unelected bureaucrats right out of our hair".

Mr Johnson was speaking on the latest leg of the Vote Leave bus tour, appearing alongside Michael Gove, Gisela Stuart and John Longworth at DCS in Stratford-upon-Avon.

"People are trying to sell it in terms of sales of two rival products," Mr Johnson told the audience.

"They want to say that we are selling democracy - because that's what we believe in - and they say that they are selling economics, because they think they have the stronger hand there.

"That is basically because on the Remain side of the argument, they totally get that we are winning all the democratic points."

He went on: "What they say is that that sacrifice of democracy is worth it for the economic gain.

"What I want to say to you today is that 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.

"The risks of remaining in this over-centralising, over-regulating, job-destroying machine are becoming more and more obvious, and that's why I think that we are winning the arguments today and that is why we are hearing quite so much rattling from the other side."

The benefits of the single market were "wildly overstated", he said, and the UK could not be insulated from the cost of bailing out the failings of the eurozone and other hikes in costs.

It could also "do nothing to protect this country from the biggest economic change we have seen for a century or more" - fast-rising immigration caused in part by the euro crisis.

"It is a delusion that we can somehow gain ... greater prosperity by bartering away our freedom and democracy," he said.

As recriminations flew between the rival camps, Mr Johnson pointed to the products he had been shown, and quipped: "No-one can say that we are not running the clean campaign."

Asked about the fall of the pound following success for Leave in the opinion polls, Mr Johnson said: "The pound will go where it will over the short term. But, believe me, in the long term you can look forward to fantastic success for this country.

"I think the pound's value will depend entirely on the strength of the UK economy."

Mr Johnson said it was essential that the UK took back control of immigration levels.

"We have absolutely no control over the people coming from the whole 27 other EU countries, some of them with criminal records.

"So what we need is a system that is balanced, fair, but, of course, remains open to talent. We are talking about taking back control of our immigration policy," he said.

The former London mayor insisted Prime Minister David Cameron "does not have the tools" to keep his promise to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands.

Saying economic malaise in the eurozone was driving immigration to the UK, Mr Johnson challenged the Remain side to set out how they intend to pay for the extra NHS and education capacity needed to deal with migration rates which, he said, were adding the equivalent of the population of Newcastle to Britain every year.