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David Gauke says 'wishful thinking' of pro-Brexit colleagues has fuelled voter anger

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

David Gauke has blamed the “wishful thinking” of his pro-Brexit colleagues during the EU referendum for fuelling voter anger across the country.

In a major speech, the Justice Secretary said their claims that leaving the bloc would be easy and not cause any problems "has not survived the collision with reality".

He also warned his fellow Tories that “over-simplifying and failing to deliver will only encourage further disenchantment” among the public.

And he urged the Conservative Party not to descend into a populist movement in a bid to appeal to voters who have shunned the political establishment.

His comments will likely seen as a thinly-veiled swipe at Boris Johnson, who led the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 and has insisted the UK has nothing to fear from a no-deal Brexit.

The former Foreign Secretary is touted by his backers as a populist figure similar to Donald Trump who could revive Tory fortunes.

Speaking at the Onward think tank in central London, Mr Gauke, who backed Remain in the referendum, attacked colleagues who were more gung-ho about quitting the EU.

He said: “Reluctance by some participants in this debate to accept that some choices have costs has meant that the debate on our future relationship has been, too often, characterised by wishful thinking.

"This wishful thinking – that, for example, we could have the exact same benefits as membership of the EU but with none of the obligations – has not survived the collision with reality. 

“But it has left some voters bemused and angry that the simple Brexit they were promised by some has not been delivered.

"But over-promising, over-simplifying and failing to deliver will only encourage further disenchantment.”

Mr Gauke said there was an “opportunity” for the Conservatives to scoop up voters who feel ignored, but said taking a populist approach like that adopted by the US president would involve “shredding our economic credibility”.

He warned that such an agenda would “make us a poorer and more divided nation” and will fail to satisfy the most disillusioned voters.

But he also advised colleagues against “sneering” at people who are concerned by changes in culture and economics.

With mounting speculation about Theresa May's future, Mr Gauke insisted his speech was not a “leadership campaign speech,” adding that when the PM does finally quit, “my position is to resist the clamour to stand”.

His comments come after police chiefs revealed threats and abuse leveled by MPs in the wake of the Brexit vote have reached record levels

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