Former minister launches Vote Leave campaign in East Anglia
PUBLISHED: 19:51 15 April 2016 | UPDATED: 19:51 15 April 2016
Supporters of the bid to leave the European Union have gathered near Ipswich for the region launch of their campaign in June’s referendum.
Former minister and Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was the keynote speaker at the event at Kesgrave Hall – and was joined by business leaders and politicians from other parties.
Among those at the rally was UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn, a key backer of the Vote Leave campaign.
The official campaign has now started for both sides – and Mr Duncan Smith told supporters at the rally that leaving the EU would save money and boost the health service in the region.
He said: “EU membership costs the East of England £2bn a year – that’s enough money to build a brand new Papworth hospital every single month.”
Mr Duncan Smith said that if Britain was no longer a member of the EU it would be able to negotiate better deals with countries around the world – and said EU trade negotiators had been in talks with India for nine years about a new deal, but had failed to reach agreement.
He dismissed claims that a withdrawal from the EU would harm industry – pointing out that 95% of British businesses did not trade with Europe: “Only one business in 20 trades with Europe, but they all have to abide by European regulations.”
There were claims that if Britain withdrew from the EU, it would have to accept open borders if it wanted a free trade deal – like Norway or Switzerland.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now, Britain is not Norway or Switzerland!”
He said the UK was the fifth largest economy in the world and was a major market for EU products – Britain imports £68bn a year more from the EU than it exports and he said European governments would not want to put this trade at risk.
And he poured his scorn on those urging people to stay in the EU: “They said we should stay in the Exchange Rate Mechanism or it would hurt the economy. They said we should join the Euro or the economy would fail. Now they say we have to stay in the EU or we face economic dangers.
“In the words of a certain lady (referring to Lady Thatcher), No, No, absolutely no.”
A protester in a wheelchair was removed from the meeting after heckling Mr Duncan Smith over his policies when he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Before Mr Duncan Smith spoke, the 200-strong audience heard warm-up speeches from Mr O’Flynn and businesswoman Emma Pullen.
And Vote Leave regional director James Moyes invited them to take the campaign to the streets to try to attract more votes in the referendum on June 23.