THE UK economy could thrive outside the European Union - but may not form part of the single market, Brexit campaign leader Michael Gove has said.
The Justice Secretary insisted that after Brexit the UK would be part of a European “free trade zone” and played down the prospect of barriers being erected by the remaining EU members.
He warned that it was vital to leave the EU “before it’s too late”, warning that the UK could face losing more power and being forced to hand over more money to Brussels if there was a victory for Remain in the June 23 referendum.
Mr Gove, co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign committee, warned that continued membership of the EU could put the UK’s security at risk by restricting the activities of the country’s spies.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I want us to vote to leave the EU before it’s too late because that’s the safer choice for Britain. If we vote to stay we are not settling for a secure status quo, we are voting to be hostages locked in the back of the car driven headlong towards deeper EU integration.”
The Treasury published analysis on Monday indicating that the UK economy would be 6% smaller by 2030 if a Canadian-style trade deal was negotiated with the EU after Brexit.
But Mr Gove insisted the country would be able to trade more freely, not just with Europe but around the world, including striking deals with India, China and the USA.
He said: “Outside the EU we would still benefit from the free trade zone which currently stretches from Iceland to the Russian border, but we wouldn’t have all of the EU regulations which cost our economy £600 million every week.”
Pressed on what model the UK would adopt after Brexit, he said: “We would have a relationship of free trade and friendly co-operation.
“We would be able to demonstrate that democratic self-government, the model of government that we have had in the past and that other countries like Australia and Canada use to their advantage, can be deployed by us in order to spend money on our priorities and in order to negotiate new trade deals with other countries.”
But the UK would “absolutely not” replicate Canada’s trade deal with the EU, he insisted.
“One of the things about the different models that different countries have is it proves there is no single model that Britain has to accept which is a currently existing alternative.”
Pressed on whether the UK would form part of the single market - and therefore adopt the same rules and regulations as the remaining EU members - Mr Gove said: “We would be part of a free trade zone. We would have access to the countries of the single market by being in a free trade zone.”
Asked whether that meant not being part of the single market, he said: “We would have the capacity to trade freely with all of the countries in the European Union and it would not be in their interest to erect barriers.”
Mr Gove warned that remaining in the EU would leave the UK “on the hook” to pay more into Brussels’ coffers and “there is a real risk that our rebate could be whittled away”.
He said the European Court of Justice “can now control how we apply asylum rules, how our intelligence services monitor suspected terrorists, even who we can deport” and claimed that Brussels was envious of the UK’s intelligence-sharing arrangements with the “Five Eyes” alliance.
“The fact that we share intelligence not just with the US but also with Canada, New Zealand and Australia is an object of suspicion and indeed in some cases jealousy on the part of other EU nations,” he said.
“It has already been the case that we have seen the European Court of Justice has thought it was appropriate to interfere in our own security rules.
“There is no reason why it shouldn’t seek to do so because it has been clear on the part of a number of European Union leaders that, far from wanting to see greater Western solidarity and greater co-operation with America in the fight against terrorism, they want to go their own way.”
After Brexit the UK would be represented by a Briton at the World Trade Organisation, rather than “an ex-sociology lecturer from Sweden”, and would also be free to adopt a points-based system to control immigration.
The Justice Secretary added: “The In camp try to suggest that we are too small and too weak and our people are too hapless and too feckless to succeed without Jean-Claude Juncker looking after us. That’s a deeply pessimistic and negative vision.”
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said that Mr Gove’s arguments appeared to be the result of “a sort of single-issue obsession, so he is no longer seeing the wood for the trees”.
Mr Grieve, who chairs Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, said the Justice Secretary’s warnings about the possible impact of the ECJ on Britain’s security were “unfounded and indeed untenable”.
The Beaconsfield MP, who is backing the Remain side, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The problem I have with what Michael says is that he has had a fairly consistent pattern since the start of this referendum campaign of coming out with statements which simply don’t bear proper scrutiny.
“He alleged that the Prime Minister’s Brussels agreement wasn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and no international lawyer has agreed with him. Indeed, I don’t think his own department would agree with him on that.”
There had “never” been any suggestion of concern from the Five Eyes countries over the ECJ hampering intelligence co-operation and Mr Gove appeared to be “labouring under a very serious misunderstanding” about the Court’s powers, said Mr Grieve.
The referendum debate was not helped by “simplistic statements which are not backed by any credible evidence”, said Mr Grieve.
And he added: “The examples put forward by Michael are general in their nature, they are not sustained by clear evidence and in some cases they seem to me to be the result of a sort of single-issue obsession, so he is no longer seeing the wood for the trees.”