EU Referendum

EU referendum: Leavers 'want to have cake and eat it', Elizabeth Truss claims

Elizabeth Truss
Image caption Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said there would be "very serious consequences" if Britain left the EU

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has accused those campaigning to leave the European Union of "wanting to have their cake and eat it".

Ms Truss, who wants to remain in the EU, said leaving would be "very damaging" to the East of England.

She was speaking in Norwich at a BBC debate about the EU referendum.

But pro-Leave MEP David Campbell Bannerman said the UK did not need freedom of movement in order to negotiate its own trade agreements.

Also on the panel for the debate, to be aired on Sunday, were two more East of England MEPs, Labour's pro-Remain Richard Howitt and UKIP's pro-Leave Patrick O'Flynn.

Subjects covered included immigration, employment, farming and scientific research grants.

Image caption In the debate, hosted by Stewart White, the panellists were, from left, Elizabeth Truss, Richard Howitt, David Campbell Bannerman and Patrick O'Flynn

Ms Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said there would be "very serious consequences" for trade and investment if the UK left the EU, adding: "What people in the Leave campaign are saying is 'We can have our cake and eat it'. We can't."

'Fool's paradise'

Some of the liveliest exchanges concerned fishing, after Paul Lines, chairman of the Anglia Fishermen's Association, asked why the industry had "suffered so badly at the hands of Europe".

Ms Truss conceded that the Common Fisheries Policy was "not perfect" but said: "If we didn't have quotas there would be overfishing and we would have no fish left."

Image caption Paul Lines, chairman of the Anglia Fishermen's Association, clashed with the Environment Secretary over EU fishing policy

She added: "I would rather be at the table making decisions with other countries than walking away and not having a say."

But Mr Lines said perfectly good fish were having to be put into landfill due to EU policies, telling her: "You live in a fool's paradise, my dear."

Mr Howitt said quotas had replenished fish stocks and that EU directives had improved air and water quality.

Mr Campbell Bannerman said the Common Fisheries Policy was a "dreadful regime" and that by leaving the EU "we could have a complete renaissance of our fishing industry".

Mr O'Flynn said Edward Heath, the Conservative prime minister who took Britain into the Common Market, had "betrayed the fishermen".

In response to Prof Jonathan Jones of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, who asked about the loss of EU funding for scientific research, he said: "There is no such thing in Britain as EU money.

"If someone... opens your wallet, takes £20 out, gives you a tenner back and tells you what to spend it on and tells you 'say thank you' for it, you wouldn't think you had got a pretty good deal... but that's what the EU does to us."

EU referendum issues guide: Explore the arguments

A referendum on 23 June will decide where Britain should leave or remain.

  • Better In or Out? A BBC Look East Referendum Special will be shown at 22:35 on BBC One in the East of England.