Conservatives at war: Gove accuses pro-EU ministers of treating public like 'children' as he warns Brussels is holding Britain 'hostage'

  • Gove says UK’s rebate could be ‘whittled away’ if Remain campaign wins referendum vote 
  • Dismisses EU’s representative on world trade organisation as ‘sociology lecturer from Sweden’ 
  • Will accuse PM of effectively giving up on Tory manifesto promise 
  • William Hague lashes out at Boris Johnson for criticising Barack Obama’s expected pro-EU intervention 
  • Education Secretary calls for Conservative colleagues to ‘step back from the brink’ of civil war 

James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline

Michael Gove is accusing David Cameron of effectively abandoning a pledge to cut net migration

Michael Gove is accusing David Cameron of effectively abandoning a pledge to cut net migration

Michael Gove has warned that Britain is being held ‘hostage’ by Brussels while David Cameron treats the public like ‘children’ as Tory infighting over the referendum escalated.

The Cabinet Minister insisted the UK would be better off outside the European single market, arguing that major players like Germany and France would ensure we could still trade freely. 

He also dismissed the EU’s current representative on the World Trade Organisation as a ‘sociology lecturer from Sweden’. 

The intervention came as: 

  • Former foreign secretary Lord Hague lashed out at Boris Johnson for criticising Barack Obama’s expected pro-EU intervention.
  • Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby said the government’s controversial £9million ‘propaganda’ mailshot appeared to be swinging the campaign in the Prime Minister’s favour. 
  • Education Secretary Nicky Morgan appealed for colleagues to ‘step back from the brink’ of civil war over the EU.

Mr Gove’s coments, in an interview on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and a speech later today, come only days after his fellow Out supporter, Boris Johnson, labelled David Cameron and his allies the ‘Gerald Ratners’ of British politics – trying to push an EU project that they know is ‘c**p’.

Mr Gove said: ‘I want us to vote to leave the EU before it is too late.’

The Justice Secretary was unusually given three minutes of uninterrupted airtime on the flagship programme to make his case for Brexit.

He used it to accuse the Remain campaign, led by Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, of portraying the public as ‘hapless and feckless’. 

‘Britain’s a great country. It’s the world’s fifth largest economy with the world’s best armed forces, best health service and best broadcaster,’ he said.

‘We’re first in the world for soft power, thanks to our language, culture and creativity. And yet the In camp try to suggest that we’re too small and too weak, and our people are too hapless and feckless to succeed without Jean-Claude Juncker looking after us.

‘That’s a deeply pessimistic and negative vision. Britain could do better. We’re a uniquely inventive nation and our greatest invention is representative democracy – the principle that the people who run our county should be chosen by us and can be kicked out by us. That’s why it’s time to take back control.’

Mr Gove also made a pointed reference to the controversial dossier published by the Treasury yesterday, which included an assumption the government will fail to hit its target for cutting immigration.

‘Inside the EU we could have a points-based system like Australia. We could welcome talented people from across the world but block those whose presence here isn’t in our interests,’ he said.

Mr Gove said post-Brexit we could have a ‘relationship of free trade and friendly co-operation’ with the rest of Europe.

‘We’d be part of a European free trade area. It’s already the case there’s a European free trade area that extends from Iceland to the Russian border. The only country in the European land mass outside that is Belarus,’ he said.

‘We would be part of that and we would be able to benefit also by being able to take back control of our seat on the World Trade Organization. At the moment Britain is represented on the WTO by the EU single representative, an ex-sociology lecturer from Sweden.

‘I’d like to see a Britain on the WTO determining trade policy. More than that I would like to see trade barriers that we’ve erected in the EU against developing nations come down.’

Later Mr Gove will argue that – for all the dire warnings – a vote to remain inside the Brussels club is ‘the real danger’.

The Treasury's Brexit dossier assumed net migration to Britain will  fall 'towards' 185,000 by 2021 - still well above David Cameron's target of 100,000. But officials also argued that leaving the EU would not cut numbers

The Treasury’s Brexit dossier assumed net migration to Britain will fall ‘towards’ 185,000 by 2021 – still well above David Cameron’s target of 100,000. But officials also argued that leaving the EU would not cut numbers

Mr Gove will say: ‘If we vote to remain, the EU’s bosses and bureaucrats will take that as carte blanche to continue taking more power and money away from Britain.

‘We’ll be told by Brussels to shut up and suck it up. We’ll have no influence and will be outvoted. The eurozone countries have a permanent and unstoppable majority allowing them to set the agenda and overrule British interests.’

The Justice Secretary is also expected to warn that, if Britain remains inside the EU, the European Court of Justice could ultimately force Britain to give prisoners the vote.

Ministers have spent a decade resisting a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU institution, that inmates should vote. 

Mr Gove will say the European Court of Justice is now threatening to make a toxic intervention on the issue, which could leave us with no option but to comply.

Mr Gove will go on to say: ‘The Remain campaign want us to believe that Britain is beaten and broken. It treats people like mere children, capable of being frightened into obedience by conjuring up new bogeymen every night.’

His intervention comes only days after his fellow Out supporter, Boris Johnson, labelled David Cameron and his allies the ‘Gerald Ratners’ of British politics – trying to push an EU project that they know is ‘c**p’

His intervention comes only days after his fellow Out supporter, Boris Johnson, labelled David Cameron and his allies the ‘Gerald Ratners’ of British politics – trying to push an EU project that they know is ‘c**p’

He will also mock the Prime Minister’s renegotiation with Brussels, saying it has made ‘no difference and will not stop the next EU power grab’.

And he will warn that a Remain vote will lead to ‘transfer of powers over tax and the financial system, so we are less able to guard against a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis, and the transfer of powers over the heart of our legal system’.

‘If we vote Remain, British taxpayers will be paying ever-higher bills for years to come as the EU uses its growing power,’ Mr Gove will claim.

Eurosceptic MPs have conceded that it is hard to see how the Tory party will heal following the referendum on June 23. 

There is speculation that Mr Cameron could offer Mr Gove the post of Deputy Prime Minister as an act of conciliation.

Last night business minister Anna Soubry attacked Mr Gove’s speech before it was delivered, saying: ‘Leaving the EU is a leap into the dark that would leave families worse off to the tune of £4,300 a year.’

Chancellor George Osborne launches the Treasury's dossier on Brexit in Bristol yesterday flanked by Environment Secretary Liz Truss, left, and Energy Secretary Amber Rudd

Chancellor George Osborne launches the Treasury’s dossier on Brexit in Bristol yesterday flanked by Environment Secretary Liz Truss, left, and Energy Secretary Amber Rudd

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