Dozens of Conservatives have threatened the Prime Minister David Cameron with a vote of no-confidence following his claim that voting to leave the European Union (EU) is immoral. This morning he upped the ante, suggesting that a vote to leave is unpatriotic.
Senior Conservative figures have called on Cameron to name the date of his departure as leader or face civil war within the party, but have warned that even doing so may not save him from a vote of no confidence following the referendum, such is the level of anger within Conservative ranks over his handling of the referendum debate.
Their warning follows the third Treasury report on the consequences of leaving the EU, which Leave campaigners slammed as “propaganda” and a “hoax” as it failed to consider any possible benefits of a Brexit.
It predicts that a Brexit could lead to the loss of 820,000 jobs and for wages to be six percent lower than they would have been by 2018.
Presenting the report, Mr Cameron stood alongside his Chancellor George Osborne to make that case that voting to leave the EU is an immoral choice which would hurt the poorest the most.
“The economic case is the moral case,” Mr Cameron insisted.
Describing Brexit as “the self-destruct option,” he claimed: “The moral case for keeping parents in work, firms in business, the pound in health, Britain in credit, the moral case for providing economic opportunity rather than unemployment for the next generation.
“Where is the morality in putting any of that at risk for some unknown end?”
Mr Osborne added: “To those fellow politicians who say we should vote to leave I’d say this: you
“But it’s not your wages that will be hit, it’s not your livelihoods that will go, it’s not you who’ll struggle to pay the bills. It’s the working people of Britain who will pay the price if we leave the EU.”
This morning warning Britons that their holidays could be £260 more expensive if they leave the EU, he went further, suggesting that leaving the EU is the unpatriotic option. Instead he wanted to make the “big, bold, patriotic case” for remaining within it, he told assembled EasyJet staff.
But senior Conservatives slammed their comments as “deeply irresponsible”, and suggested that talking down the economy in this way may itself lead to recession.
“I can’t think of a time when a Chancellor and a Prime Minister have actively talked down the economy,” one ministerial aide told the Telegraph.
“It is deeply irresponsible to talk down the British economy in this way and it is incredible to me what these people will do to save their careers.”
Another added: “The problem going forward is how on earth can these people be believed ever again?
Tory MP and Leave campaigner Bernard Jenkin said: “Does not the Government’s entire campaign just reinforce the unfortunate impression that today’s political leaders will say anything they think will help them get what they want, whether it is true or not?
“Do you not realise that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are contributing to cynicism about politics, in the sense that voters should not trust their rulers but should make their own choice and their own judgment?”
Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson agreed, calling the report “propaganda” and commenting that the duo’s “scaremongering” could plunge Britain into recession. The Treasury figures, he said, were “totally made up,” and he insisted that there was “no evidence whatsoever” that a Brexit would spark a recession.
“I am worried that they are starting to talk Britain down quite significantly. I don’t think it’s necessary,” he added.
Even Remain campaigners seemed alarmed by the pair’s outlandish claims. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, made it clear during an interview with the BBC that she was deeply sceptical of the claims laid out in the Treasury document.
“I would much rather we were campaigning positively, that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said. “In Scotland, certainly, we’ve got lots of experience of Treasury reports during referendum campaigns and I think people have got savvy to see through some of the overblown claims.”
She added: “I think the Treasury, like they did in the Scottish referendum, are likely to be overstating their case.”
Cameron’s Project Fear is a tried and tested formula first put to great effect in the campaign for Scottish Independence in 2014. Despite polls suggesting the two camps were neck and neck on ballot day, the No camp, which argued for Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom, won by 55.3 percent to the Yes campaigners’ 44.7 percent.
Under Conservative Party rules, 50 MPs have to write to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence in their leader. But some have said their letters are already written, and dated 24 June.
One senior backbencher told the Daily Mail: “If there is a narrow win for Remain, and he is still in office after June 23, the only way he is going to avoid a vote of no-confidence is to name the date when he is going to go.
“If he says that, while he still has much work that he wants to do, he will be gone by the end of 2018 then that might head off some of the opposition.
“People want a date when they know that he will be gone. There is real anger.”