Brexit battle: Boris Johnson savages David Cameron over immigration

Leave campaigners hit out at British PM as Tory civil war becomes personal

Brexit battle: Boris Johnson savages David Cameron over immigration

Conservative MP Boris Johnson | Image: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Pro-Brexit campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have launched their most savage attack yet on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s personal authority in the increasingly bitter EU referendum campaign.

In a blistering letter, the former London mayor and Tory Justice Secretary claim the Prime Minister’s failure on his pledge to curb immigration is "corrosive of public trust".

The attack marks a dramatic escalation of the "blue-on-blue" Tory civil war triggered by the referendum campaign and confirms the Leave campaign plans to fight almost entirely on immigration between now and June 23rd.

The move also coincides with a furious attack on Mr Cameron's opponents by former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, who accuses the Leave campaign of deliberately telling voters "untruths" they know to be false.

In their letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Gove and Mr Johnson appear to ridicule his immigration pledge, declaring:

"Voters were promised repeatedly at elections that net immigration could be cut to the tens of thousands.

"This promise is plainly not achievable as long as the UK is a member of the EU and the failure to keep it is corrosive of public trust in politics.

"It's government policy that 'EU migrants should have a job offer before they come here.' But the EU did not agree to letting the UK implement that policy during the renegotiation of our membership."

In another attack on Mr Cameron, pro-Leave Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has publicly predicted a leadership challenge against the Prime Minister even if he wins the referendum by a narrow margin.

Asked if MPs would demand a leadership contest,  Mr Bridgen said in a radio interview: "I think that's probably highly likely. Given the exaggerated claims that the Prime Minister has made, there probably would be 50 colleagues who would be very dissatisfied with the Prime Minister's performance."

'Shameless distortion'

In his attack on the Leave campaign, Sir John accuses its leading figures of "inaccuracies and falsehoods", "shameless distortion of the truth" and "a fraud on the British people" with claims such as £350m (€460m) a week paid to the European Union.

"They have - knowingly - told untruths about the cost of Europe," he writes in the Mail on Sunday. "They have promised negotiating gains that cannot - and will not - be delivered.

"They have raised phantom fears that cannot be justified, puffing up their case with false statistics, unlikely scenarios and downright untruths. To mislead the British nation in this fashion - when its very future is at stake - is unforgivable."

Another former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has told voters agonising over whether to back Brexit: "If you're not sure, don't do it!"

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Blair says Brexit would be a "betrayal of the British interest" that would lead to "a long agonising process of disengagement" with "heavy financial costs".

And in a boost for the Remain campaign, a poll of more than 600 economists by Ipsos MORI for the Observer suggests 88% believe an exit from the EU and the single market would most likely damage Britain's growth prospects over the next five years