Tory rising stars Johnny Mercer and Rishi Sunak pick their sides for Brexit

Written by David Singleton on 6 June 2016 in Diary

It's honours even as Mercer plumps for Remain while Sunak is batting for Brexit.

Two newly-elected MPs who are being closely watched by Downing Street have taken opposite sides in the Brexit debate.

Johnny Mercer, who picked up The Spectator’s speech of the year award for his maiden speech in 2015, recently polled his constituents in a bid to find out whether they wanted the UK to remain in the European Union.

He has now said he will be voting remain – and laid into the campaign conducted by Nigel Farage and co.

Writing on the ConservativeHome website, Mercer states: “There’s something deeply pathetic about Nigel Farage appearing on a beach the morning after some poor migrants have been rescued, and then running through a market in Kent shouting ‘let’s take back control!’  From whom, Nigel? What am I missing?

“I get the sovereignty stuff. I get the fact that we get over-ruled from Brussels every now and then, and I don’t like it. But we are in control. We are a controlling member in a team. We have specific exemptions around things we don’t like.”

Defending his stance, the former Army man adds: “Please don’t give me this rubbish about being a true patriot and ‘believing in Britain’, just because you want to leave the EU. Am I not because I don’t? I’m proud of our country. We have huge challenges, but the truth is stronger than the rhetoric. More people lifted out of poverty; social mobility increased; more funding for public services; greater life expectancy and public health; better security services; better at looking after people; better at anti-discrimination; fairer society.

“Fast enough? No. Agree with everything? No. Want to chuck it all away on an unsubstantiated and unproven course of action? No, thanks.”

Number 10 will welcome Mercer’s intervention - while lamenting the fact that another rising star has joined the Brexiteers.

Rishi Sunak is a former Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University who went on to run two major investment businesses before taking William Hague’s old seat last year.

Senior figures in Number 10 are said to be big fans of the Richmond MP. But they are not so enamoured with his recent claim that the EU’s ‘dismal’ record of international trade destroys the economic argument for Remain.

He wrote: “Dig around in the figures and what becomes swiftly apparent is that if you look at trade deals in terms of the size of the economies they’re signed with (rather than just counting them, as the EU seem to prefer) Europe’s numbers stop looking quite so rosy,” Sunak stated in his first mayor intervention in the debate. For instance, while the EU has yet to ratify a single free trade agreement with a top 10 economy, Australia has wasted no time in signing deals with all three of the world’s largest economies: China, Japan and the US.”

In his article last week, Sunak added: “People often ask me what an independent Britain would look like. It’s not a hard question to answer. It looks like the other 170 nations around the world that manage their own trade policy, and in many cases do a much better job than the EU.”

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