Tories clash in Brexit debate, as energy secretary attacks "fantasy" politics of Boris Johnson and Leave campaigners

Mark Sands
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Boris Johnson And Nicola Sturgeon Debate The EU Referendum On ITV
Boris Johnson was the focus of the most embittered clashes in the latest round of EU debates (Source: Getty)

Tory infighting reached fevered new peaks during last night's televised referendum debate, with energy secretary Amber Rudd repeatedly claiming that former London mayor Boris Johnson was misleading the public.

“Boris is the life and soul of the party, but he's not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening," Rudd said.

Johnson hit back, blasting his opponents as "prophets of doom". The west London MP said that his side was “offering hope” while the Remain campaign was “offering nothing but fear about life outside”

Johnson added: "They said that we can't do it on our own, we say that we can."

Speaking as part of a six person panel debate on ITV last night, Rudd repeatedly accused Johnson of “absolute fantasy” in particular referencing the Brexit campaign's claims of £350m a week sent to the EU.

Johnson was in the crosshairs for much of the debate, with both shadow business minister Angela Eagle and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon accusing him of focusing on his own leadership ambitions over the future of the country.

However, it was Rudd's attacks that most stung Johnson, coming as they did from a sitting government minister.

And Rudd also attacked her own minister, Andrea Leadsom, after Leadsom claimed that a vote to leave would generate a £10bn “independence dividend” that could be spent on public services.

“There is no Brexit bonus to put in to the NHS or anywhere else, there is only a loss,” Rudd said.

The debate saw both camps playing to their core strengths, with Leave campaigners repeatedly focusing on immigration, while the Remain team stressed the stability and strength of Britain within the EU.

However, Johnson also took the chance to repeat Sturgeon's own criticism of the Remain campaign. The Scottish First Minister has previously described the campaign as "miserable, negative and fear-based”.

“I agree with Nicola,” Johnson said.