Friday 13 May 2016 9:26 am

EU referendum: Former Prime Minister Sir John Major attacks some fellow Conservatives for “morphing into Ukip” with immigration arguments


I am a reporter at City A.M. looking at the stories, people and data behind political events from the UK, Europe and further afield. I also write about infrastructure and transport, as well as broader issues around global business.

I am a reporter at City A.M. looking at the stories, people and data behind political events from the UK, Europe and further afield. I also write about infrastructure and transport, as well as broader issues around global business.

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Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has jumped back into the EU debate, attacking pro-Leave Conservatives that he says are "morphing into Ukip".

In a speech later today, Major will say that some Tories are fanning the flames of prejudice on hot topics such as immigration.

While accepting the level of immigration is cause for debate, he will attack hte Leave campaign's argument that within the EU the UK has no power to control the number of people entering the country, and urge a more honest and balanced debate.

"As the “Leave” arguments implode one by one, some of the Brexit leaders morph into Ukip, and turn to their default position: immigration. This is their trump card. I urge them to take care: this is dangerous territory that – if handled carelessly – can open up long-term divisions in our society," he will say.

Read more: New survey reveals people in Europe want to work in Britain

Major's intervention comes a day after the Office for National Statistics released data that showed the level of immigration as depicted by National Insurance number registrations is far higher than official statistics. However, the ONS put this down to short-term migration.

While not shying away from confrontation, Major will put a positive spin on the speech by adding that immigration can mean a net gain for the UK, importing talent from doctors to plumbers.

In what looks to be a hard-hitting speech, Major will point the finger at the pro-Brexit camp for telling untruths about the dilution of sovereignty from the EU.

Read more: Why are EU citizens coming to the UK?


"Many people – not least in my own party – wish to leave. Their motives are many and variable: pride in our country, concern over sovereignty and immigration, and fear that we have no influence in Europe and are heading towards a federal structure," Major will add.

"We must address these instincts, these emotions, and debunk myths that are wrong but sunk in our national consciousness. If we fail to do so, we may end up leaving Europe because absurd falsehoods are widely believed to be true."

His speech comes after fellow former Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke this week, calling on Britain to take a more active role in working across the continent to combat the abuse of tax havens.

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