Sturgeon and Johnson clash in live TV EU debate

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has clashed with former London mayor Boris Johnson in the first major live televised debate of the referendum campaign.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 10:10 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2016, 11:25 am
Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson take part in tonight's debate. Picture: Getty

Mr Johnson claimed Britain would “prosper as never before” if it votes to leave the European Union on June 23.

The former London mayor urged voters to use the upcoming referendum to “take back control” from “an unelected elite frankly indifferent to the suffering that their policies are causing”.

Ms Sturgeon made clear that her support for an independent Scotland did not mean she also wanted out of the EU.

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Gisela Stuart and Boris Johnson during The ITV Referendum Debate. Picture: Getty

“I believe that nations should be independent,” said the SNP leader. “But I also want the UK and Scotland to stay part of the EU.

“The reason is simple - in the modern world, independent countries must work together and that is what the EU is all about. Independent countries choosing to co-operate for the benefit of all.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “A vote for Leave is not a vote for independence. The UK, like France and Germany, is already independent. But a vote for Leave would cost jobs, it would damage workers’ rights and it would narrow all of our horizons.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Eagle and Amber Rudd during The ITV Referendum debate.

Remain-backing shadow business secretary Angela Eagle warned viewers not to be taken in by what she said was “nonsense and even misinformation” which they would hear from the Leave camp.

She warned that Brexit would mean a “bonfire of workers’ rights” and made a point of stressing - after surveys suggesting that voters were unsure of her party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the referendum - that the Labour Party was firmly in favour of continued EU membership.

Both Mr Johnson and Vote Leave chair Gisela Stuart repeated the campaign’s core economic claim that Britain sends £350 million to the EU each week, even though it has twice been ruled “misleading” by the official statistician and was branded “untrue” by Tory backbencher Sarah Wollaston as she defected to the Remain camp earlier in the day.

Ms Stuart - one of a handful of Labour MPs backing Brexit - said that voters should ask themselves one question: ‘Would you join the European Union today?’ The answer, in terms of control over money, borders, security, taxes and trade, would be No, she said.

Gisela Stuart and Boris Johnson during The ITV Referendum Debate. Picture: Getty

“The EU just isn’t working any more,” said Ms Stuart. “The noble idea dreamt up in the last century is turning into a nightmare.”

Conservative Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said she was backing Remain for the good of her children.

“We know what we get if we vote Remain,” said Ms Rudd. “But if you ask what you get if you vote to leave, they say they just don’t know.

“I say `Just don’t know’ isn’t good enough. As a mother, I won’t take that risk with my children’s future.

Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Eagle and Amber Rudd during The ITV Referendum debate.

“The stakes are too high. You either vote to take a leap in the dark or vote to remain and build on that prosperity.”

Responding to her departmental boss, Brexit-backing energy minister Andrea Leadsom said that, as a mother, she saw risks for her children in staying in the EU.

“There are grave risks ahead if we stay in the EU,” said former City financier Ms Leadsom. “That project is failing. It has failed a generation of young people and we can’t escape from the risks that it is to us.”

The EU was “yesterday’s game”, she said, insisting Britain had a “superb future ahead” trading with countries outside the 28-nation bloc.