Michael Gove has attacked David Cameron for making a "depressing" case for the European Union and trying to "scare" the public into voting for Remain in this month's referendum.
The justice secretary was subjected to a grilling on Sky News on Friday evening, one night after the prime minister was ridiculed for his "scaremongering" approach to the EU debate by interviewer Faisal Islam.
Gove was accused by an audience member of being part of "project lies" in the Leave side, and asked the Tory MP why anyone should trust a campaign which is just "a bunch of politicians wanting to further their own political careers".
"This debate is far bigger than the fate of any individual politician; it's about all of us in this room and all of us at home," replied Gove. "It's about the sort of country we want to see and what I believe in is hope.
"I believe, last night, I'm afraid what we heard was depressing and it was an exercise in trying to scare you into not following through with what you know in your heart to be right which is that Britain is a great country."
Cameron came under specific criticism on Thursday night for warning that choosing to leave the EU on 23 June could lead to a recession or an increased risk of war between European countries, which Gove went on to mock during his appearance on Friday.
"I think the depressing litany of projections about World War Three and a global Brexit recession that we hear from the Remain side is not the sort of approach we should take into the future," said Gove.
"In the Leave campaign, what we believe in is unlocking the potential of the British people and I think that there are all sorts of reasons to believe that our country – the fifth largest economy in the world with the most impressive armed forces, with the best publicly funded health service, with so much to offer: that is project hope."
Gove came under fire for failing to name an international ally or the UK which supports the UK leaving the EU, or a pro-Brexit economic body, and he said that he "could not guarantee" there would be no job losses if the UK left.
The justice secretary was also repeatedly questioned by Islam and the audience for standing by the Vote Leave's campaign dubious claim that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU.
"The fact is that we send more than £350 million to the European Union," said Gove. "We send £20 billion gross a year. We get some money back but the money that we get back, the rebate, we cannot count on.
"The rebate is decided at a European level, it's not in the treaties, it's not a guarantee, and as the chancellor of the exchequer has pointed out, that rebate can be altered to our disadvantage."
At the end of the evening, Gove made an appeal to voters to ignore the "pessimistic" Remain campaign and have faith in the next generation of British people.
He said: "If we have faith in their talent, in their generosity, in their hard work – we can, if we leave the European Union, ensure the next generation make this country, once more, truly great."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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