Brexit Campaign’s Gove Denies ‘Project Lies’ Claim in TV Special

  • Justice secretary says public fed up with advice from experts
  • Osborne joined by Dimon at JPMorgan office for pro-EU event

Michael Gove.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Justice Secretary Michael Gove, one of the leaders of the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, defended its assertions about the costs of membership as he was accused of running “Project Lies.”

Appearing on a Sky News television special the night after Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for staying in the EU on the same channel, Gove was interviewed and then faced a studio audience Friday. He was challenged repeatedly about Vote Leave’s statement that the U.K. sends 350 million pounds ($500 million) a week to the EU, with the first questioner from the audience using the phrase “Project Lies” repeatedly. The figure has been called “misleading” by the U.K. Statistics Authority and “absurd” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“We give more than 350 million pounds to Brussels,” the justice secretary said. “Now we do get some of that money back. It’s important to acknowledge that. But the truth is that we cannot count on that rebate. I fear that if we vote to remain, that rebate will only be reduced further.”

Polls have suggested the battle is tightening ahead of the June 23 referendum on a so-called Brexit, and that Cameron’s warnings about the threat to the economy aren’t cutting through. While the Remain side has concentrated on saying jobs will be lost if Britain leave the EU, the Leave side has fought on immigration. Gove repeated Vote Leave’s assertion that Turkey is on course to join the EU, something Cameron the night before said will only by the year 3000 at the current rate of progress.

‘Had Enough’

Asked to name an international body that supports his position, Gove said that “the people of this country have had enough of experts and organizations with acronyms saying they know better.”

Earlier Friday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne roped in JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon to back up his warnings about the costs of leaving the EU.

Osborne told workers at a JPMorgan office in Bournemouth on the south coast of England that a so-called Brexit could force service companies, Britain’s biggest employers, to cut as many as 400,000 staff over the next two years. Dimon told his own staff as many as a quarter of the bank’s 16,000 employees in the country would be at risk as a result of the problems of operating businesses outside the EU.

‘Amplified Voices’

“It is deceiving people to pretend we can leave the EU and jobs wouldn’t be at risk,” Osborne said. “This is about who we are as a country; it’s not just about our economy. We are stronger because we are part of a club of nations whose voices are amplified on the world stage.”

Dimon, who flew into Britain from New York and has publicly criticized so-called banker bashing after the financial crisis in the past, may be viewed as an odd choice of ally in the chancellor’s push to convince the British public to stay in the bloc. JPMorgan and other international lenders with U.K. operations like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have used previous losses and other measures to pay little or no tax in recent years, despite making billions of pounds of profits from their British units.

“The British people will not be bullied into voting to hand more money and more power to Brussels by someone whose bonus would make even some eurocrat’s eyes water and whose bank helped crash the economy,” Steve Baker, a pro-Brexit lawmaker from the ruling Conservative Party, said in an e-mailed statement. Dimon earned $27 million last year.

The choice of setting for the chancellor’s latest intervention in the campaign was an attempt to show the benefits of the financial-services industry extend far beyond the City of London. Osborne warned that most service industries rely on cross-border trade and supply chains, making them particularly vulnerable to an exit from the EU. The services industry accounts for almost half of Britain’s exports to the EU and 25 million jobs.

The intervention from Dimon follows a donation of 500,000 pounds by his firm to the “Remain” campaign earlier this year and marks one of the starkest warnings about Brexit from a business leader in the debate so far.

“It’s a terrible deal for the British economy and jobs,” Dimon told staff and reporters. “I don’t want you to worry about it but when you vote you should think about something like that. Please think really carefully about this decision.”

The lender employs 4,000 staff in Bournemouth to handle trading settlement and processing operations, with the rest of the bank’s 16,000 U.K. employees located in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Basingstoke and Swindon.

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