POLITICS

Andrew Neil Fillets Conservative Matthew Hancock's Pro-EU Argument

03/03/2016 11:37 GMT | Updated 03/03/2016 11:59 GMT

Matthew Hancock hit an Andrew Neil shaped wall on Wednesday, as he attempted to explain why Britain should remain a member of the European Union.

The BBC presenter grilled the Conservative Cabinet Office minister over why, if leaving the EU would be "Sodom and Gomorrah" for Britain, Cameron had ever publicly entertained the idea of campaigning for Brexit.

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The prime minister had always been expected to argue in favour of continued membership once he secured his new deal, however he repeatedly said he "ruled nothing out" when it came to choosing which side to pick.

Neil said: "The government says we would be weaker, we'd be less safe, we'd be worse off if we left the EU. Presumably that's true whether or not we'd negotiated a new deal? So even if the prime minister hadn't achieved a renegotiation that would still be true.

"The prime minister told us if he didn't get a deal 'I rule nothing out'. Are you telling us if he didn't have a deal, he would have plumped for a future in which we would have been 'weaker, less safe and worse off'?" Neil asked.

Hancock dodged the "hypothetical" situation and insisted the choice facing the British people was now between a renegotiated membership or Brexit. "The economics are unambiguous, that the deal that we've got is better than the alternatives of leaving," he said.

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Neil also filleted the government's argument that if Britain left the EU and adopted the Norwegian model, it would still have to implement a vast number of EU laws. A Foreign Office analysis claimed 75% of EU law has to be adopted by Norway.

"What's that figure based on?" Neil asked. Hancock replied: "That's based on this Foreign Office analysis."

Neil hit back: "But what's that figure based on?" The minister told him: "Well, it's based on what happens in Norway."

The BBC interviewer told Hancock independent statistics showed just 9% of EU law had been adopted by Norway. "Where does 75% come from?" he asked.

And when pressed as to how Switzerland, which is outside the EU, was able to export more per capita than the UK despite being outside the union, Hancock offered up the explanation that Switzerland was "physically much closer".

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