Claims by Brexit campaigners 76 million Turks could come to the UK unless it left the EU were false, home secretary Sajid Javid has said.
Javid condemned Vote Leave’s warning during the 2016 referendum campaign that Turkey was set to join the bloc if Britain remained a member, distributing controversial adverts which highlighted its total 76m population.
Environment secretary Michael Gove, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, has since admitted it was wrong to stoke fears about Turkish immigration, admitting the message would have had a “slightly different feel” if it was left to him.
The claim was one of the campaign’s most divisive, alongside the suggestion that Brexit would allow Britain to repatriate £350m a week to spend on the NHS if it quit the EU.
Opening the latest day of debate on May’s Brexit deal, Javid hit out at the leaflets.
Asked by Labour’s Mike Gapes to condemn advert, Javid replied: “That particular information was completely incorrect and there are members of Vote Leave at the time that have also spoken against that particular leaflet.
“We don’t want to re-run the debate but that information was wrong and I am happy to say myself that of course it was.”
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, meanwhile said Labour was “committed to honouring” the referendum vote as she outlined outlined her Brexiteer credentials.
Abbott highlighted her “immaculate record” of voting against measures which enabled further European integration as she hit back at Javid’s characterisation of Labour’s Brexit position.
The frontbencher said: “We are committed to a jobs-first Brexit which will not harm our economy. But I repeat, we want to honour the referendum vote.
“I would remind the House that I won’t take lectures from the home secretary on the inequities of the EU.
“I have an immaculate record of voting against all measures of further EU integration.”
Abbott reminisced about voting against the “vital clauses in the Maastricht treaty” in the early 1990s.
She added: “Don’t lecture this side on what is problematic about the EU. We campaigned in the referendum on remain and reform and we do not resile from the point that there are aspects of the EU that needed reform.”