David Cameron has accused Brexit campaigners of promoting a vision of life outside the EU that was “too good to be true”, and warned that a vote for withdrawal would instead endanger trade and jobs.
The Prime Minister’s warning came as Boris Johnson appealed to voters to ignore the “pessimists” and “gloomadon-poppers” and opt to quit the EU in the referendum on 23 June.
Making his first speech on a Vote Leave platform since declaring for Brexit, the London Mayor said withdrawal from the EU could usher in a new era of prosperity for the UK.
“I think it is time to ignore the pessimists and merchants of gloom and to do a new deal that would be good for Britain and good for Europe too,” he told workers at a transport depot in Dartford, Kent.
“It is time to burst loose of all those regulations and get out into a world that is changing and growing and becoming more exciting the whole time.
“If we hold our nerve and we are not timid and we are not cowed by the gloomadon-poppers on the Remain campaign and we vote for freedom and for the restoration of democracy, then I believe that this country will continue to grow and prosper and thrive as never before.”
His comments appeared to be a direct rebuff to Mr Cameron, who warned on Thursday of potential large-scale job losses if Britain left the EU and accused the Out campaign of treating it as a “price worth paying”.
But the Prime Minister stuck to his guns in a speech just hours later to the Welsh Conservative conference in Llangollen, telling delegates that the Leave camp were behaving as if EU withdrawal was an “abstract question” rather than something with direct and concrete consequences for ordinary families.
“They are asking us to trust that leaving would somehow be worth the profound economic shock and the years of uncertainty that would follow,” said Mr Cameron.
“They say we would have more control. How exactly? Leaving the EU but remaining in the single market doesn’t give us more control, it just stops us from having any say over the rules of trade.”
Meanwhile Tony Blair waded into the debate, calling for campaigners for Britain to stay in the European Union to make the case with “passion, vigour and determination,” adding the UK’s destiny was to “lead in Europe”.