Chancellor George Osborne has accused the Leave camp in the EU referendum of indulging in conspiracy theories, as he insisted there was an “overwhelming consensus” among economists and world leaders that Brexit would be bad for the UK.
Mr Osborne was speaking alongside Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who warned that withdrawal from the EU would force up the price of flights and holidays and put his company’s latest £1 billion investment in the UK at risk.
But Vote Leave campaigners dismissed Mr Osborne’s comments as “lurid scare stories” which would not be seen as credible by voters taking part in the 23 June referendum.
Meanwhile, more than 300 business leaders signed a letter urging Britain to vote to leave the EU, warning the UK’s competitiveness is being undermined by its membership.
And the pro-Brexit ex-mayor of London Boris Johnson hit the road again in his battlebus, visiting Alfreton in Derbyshire amid controversy over his comparison between the EU and the dreams of pan-European government pursued by Napoleon and Hitler.
Second World War veteran and former chief of the defence staff Lord Bramall dismissed the comparison as “absurd”, while Labour’s former cabinet minister Ed Balls said the comments were “ill-judged and irresponsible”.
But Mr Johnson brushed off the criticism, insisting the EU was “fundamentally anti-democratic” and was “operating by stealth and taking away the powers and prerogatives of the people of this country”. He was defended by Ukip MEP Gerard Batten, who said the European Economic Community established in 1957 was “very similar” to a proposal drawn up by officials in Hitler’s Germany.
Mr Osborne was joined by Mr Balls and Liberal Democrat former business secretary Sir Vince Cable at Stansted Airport to make the case for a Remain vote in front of a Ryanair Boeing 737 emblazoned with the slogan “stronger, safer and better off in Europe”.
The Chancellor said Treasury analysis showed that if the UK was forced to rely on World Trade Organisation rules following Brexit, it could expect to lose trade worth £200 billion a year and overseas investment worth £200 billion within 15 years.
“Credible” observers ranging from the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund to the OECD and US president Barack Obama had judged that “Britain will be poorer and British people will be poorer” if the UK votes to leave the EU, said the Chancellor.