Former Downing Street media chief Alastair Campbell has accused Brexit campaigners of "borderline racism" after a row erupted over Turkey's attempted accession to the EU. The debate was sparked when Armed Forces minister Penny Mordaunt claimed Britain did not have a veto over new member states joining the political and economic bloc.

David Cameron, a long-time supporter of Turkey joining the EU, later hit back at the Vote Leave spokeswoman for "plain and simple lying". Brexit supporters have used Turkey's attempts to join the 28-nation bloc in the EU referendum, warning that such a move would increase the UK's net immigration levels.

Campbell has now intervened in the debate, writing exclusively for IBTimes UK. "It was particularly disappointing to see that it was Michael Gove, one of the more intelligent members of the Leave team, leading the charge on this," the former New Labour communications director said.

"There has been in recent days a hint of, at best, borderline racism in the way Leave have sought to use this issue. The bad news is its unpleasantness and irresponsibility.

"The good news is it suggests Leave are reading the same polls as I am, which show they are losing the economic argument, and need to shift the goalposts."

Vote Leave had not responded to a request for comment, but the group's chief executive Matthew Elliott pointed to the prime minister's record on the issue over the weekend.

"David Cameron has said he wants to pave the road to Ankara and has repeatedly confirmed it is government policy for Turkey to join the EU," he said.

"The EU is speeding up the process of Turkey joining and we are paying nearly £2bn to help make it happen. If it isn't on the cards why are taxpayers footing the bill for it already? As with so much in the referendum the Remain campaign are saying one thing now before the vote, but are planning for the exact opposite after 23 June."

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove