Brexit campaigners are in denial over the risks of the UK breaking away from Brussels, according to a former Conservative minister. Nick Herbert, who leads the pro-EU Conservatives for Reform in Europe campaign, made the argument during a speech in London on Tuesday (9 February).
The Arundel and South Downs MP also said that Eurosceptic politicians have failed to make a convincing, consistent case for splitting from the 28-nation bloc ahead of the EU referendum, which is expected to be held on 23 June. Herbert concluded that a Brexit would be tantamount to being "led in the dark" for the UK electorate.
"The problem with the Brexit campaigners, and why I believe their case makes many of us so uneasy, is that they refuse to acknowledge any of the risks," the Tory MP declared.
"Too often they believe a furious assertion that we would be regaining sovereignty is enough, the final word. As Sir Bill Cash told the Commons last week: 'We have to say no – we have to leave. That is the position. I do not need to say any more.'
"But actually, Brexit campaigners do need to say more. If the argument that we would regain sovereignty were enough, we would be tearing up many more international agreements than our membership of the EU.
"We give up sovereignty through our membership of Nato, because we are now treaty bound under Article 5 to go to the defence of a fellow member under armed attack."
He added: "We enter international agreements of our own volition because we judge that they are in our national interest. These arrangements may require us to accept rules. We can either choose to try and change those rules or abandon the gains [that] the agreements give us."
The former police minister also defended David Cameron's renegotiation efforts with Brussels after the prime minister was criticised over the proposed reforms. He argued that the draft EU deal would give the UK a "special status", where it is protected from deeper integration but remains inside the political and economic union.
However, Cameron faces criticism over his reform achievements after Brussels only granted him an 'emergency brake' on benefit payments to EU migrants in the UK.
The proposal would see member states apply to the EU in a bid to stop handing out in-work welfare payments for up to four years. The prime minister had originally requested a four-year ban without the 'emergency break'.
Herbert's Westminster speech comes after former Europe minister David Davis outlined probably the first detailed case for a Brexit during the referendum campaign. The senior Conservative MP pointed to Switzerland as a case study for how Britain could secure strong trade deals outside of the EU.
"The negotiation between the EU and Switzerland in the 1990s was marked by some hostility after it rejected EU membership, and yet it struck a decent deal. The optimum aim for us would be similar, but without the free movement of peoples. That would not be on the table. Essentially, we would be looking for a full-scale free-trade agreement," he said.
Meanwhile, Eurosceptic right-wing employment minister Priti Patel has been tipped to become the face of the Brexit campaign. However, Leave EU, one of the two groups vying for the Electoral Commission's official Brexit campaign nomination, told IBTimes UK that the 'leave' campaign does not need a leader.
The latest opinion poll from YouGov for The Times, of more than 1,600 people between 3 and 4 February, put the 'leave' vote nine points ahead of 'remain', at 45% versus 36%, respectively.