Michael Gove attempted to 'fact bomb' the British electorate into backing a 'leave' vote at the EU referendum, as he outlined his joke-filled case for breaking away from Brussels on 19 April. The justice secretary mention the f-word at least seventeen times, while branding pro-EU arguments as a bunch of "ghost stories".

"The 'In' campaign want us to believe that Britain is beaten and broken, that it can't survive without the help of Jean-Claude Juncker and his commission looking after us and if we dare to assert ourselves then all the terrors of the earth will be unleashed upon our head. It treats people like children, unfit to be trusted and easily scared by ghost stories," he declared.

The former journalist also made fun of Britain Stronger In Europe's threat that professional football – the sport loved by millions of Britons – would be detrimentally impacted by a Brexit because of new visa restrictions on star European players.

"According to some In campaigners, independence also means the devastation of large areas of our national life. Our football teams would be denuded of foreign players, so Premier league matches would have to become – at best – five-a-side contests," Gove quipped.

"And we'd better not schedule those fixtures for dark evenings because there'd be no electricity left for the floodlights after our energy supplies would had suffered a shock akin to the meltdown of a nuclear power plant."

But the cabinet minister also outlined a serious case for a 'leave' vote at the 23 June ballot. Gove argued the move would enable the UK to "take control" of its borders and introduce an Australian-style immigration points system.

"Instead of a European open-door migration policy we could – if a future Government wanted it – have an Australian points-based migration policy," he claimed.

"We could emulate that country's admirable record of taking in genuine refugees, giving a welcome to hard-working new citizens and building a successful multi-racial society without giving into people-smugglers, illegal migration or subversion of our borders."

'Brexit would trigger reform'

This is what you really need to know about the Brexit voteIBTimes UK

Elsewhere, addressing concerns that a 'leave' vote could trigger the break-up of the EU, the top Conservative argued a Brexit would be the catalyst for reform within the political and economic union.

"The UK's success will send a very different message to the EU's peoples. They will see that a different Europe is possible. It is possible to regain democratic control of your own country and currency, to trade and co-operate with other EU nations without surrendering fundamental sovereignty to a remote and unelected bureaucracy.

"And, by following that path, your people are richer, your influence for good greater, your future brighter... Our vote to Leave will liberate and strengthen those voices across the EU calling for a different future - those demanding the devolution of powers back from Brussels and desperate for a progressive alternative."

However, Stronger In countered Gove's claims by saying he had failed to set out a detailed vision of what a Brexit would look like. Business Minister Anna Soubry pointed to the Treasury's economic analysis of the UK's membership of the EU and its alternatives, which warned that a breakaway from Brussels would cost British households £4,300 ($6,182) a year.

"Once again Vote Leave have failed to set out a detailed vision for what being out on our own looks like. Leaving the EU is a leap into the dark that would leave Britain's families worse off to the tune of £4,300 a year," Soubry said.

"Independent experts including the London School of Economics, the IMF, the OECD, the Bank of England and others have all made clear that the economy would be damaged if we leave the EU. That means there will be less money for our public services like the NHS or higher taxes for working people."

The latest online opinion poll from ICM, of more than 2,000 people between 15 and 17 April, put 'leave' one point ahead of 'remain' (44% versus 43%), with 13% of respondents undecided.

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