Lord Sugar: Johnson and Gove should be in prison for Brexit referendum lies

PUBLISHED: 14:48 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:48 25 October 2018

Johnson and Gove - you're fired

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Apprentice star Lord Sugar has said Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove should be locked up for the "lies" they told during the EU referendum.

And the business tycoon said there was a "good argument" for voiding the result of the 2016 poll because people had been misled.

The independent crossbench peer made his sensational remarks amid calls during a House of Lords debate for a second Brexit referendum, dubbed a "People's Vote".

Lord Sugar initially indicated that he was against another vote, saying: "It would be a complete farce if you could have another crack of the whip."

But he then added: "However, there is a very good argument to void that vote if it can be concluded that the public were totally misled and it is my belief that a large section of the British public were misled, informing their decision to vote to leave."

Drawing on his own business experience, Lord Sugar highlighted the strict rules under which public companies operated "where all comments and forecasts... had to be scrutinised line by line by auditors and lawyers in a very tough due diligence and verification process."

He said: "No such process exists for claims politicians make.

"In some cases misleading shareholders had resulted in prosecution, imprisonment.

"Applying the public company principle, it should follow that those people who will be responsible for putting this country into five to 10 years of post-Brexit turmoil based on lies should be in prison or at least prosecuted."

To supportive cheers, Lord Sugar said: "Such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for the £350m lie they put on the red bus."

Lord Sugar also revealed that he had been invited by then prime minister David Cameron to take the lead for the Remain side in the televised BBC debate and that he continues to "kick" himself for turning it down.

He knew that, in his "forceful manner", he could have got Johnson to admit he was lying "and, who knows, that could have swung the vote", he said.

Lord Sugar also took a swipe at prominent Labour Leave campaigner Gisela Stuart, who, as a "German immigrant", had come to the UK and "flourished and contributed" and yet had been critical of immigration and the pressure it put on services.

"I would say pot, kettle," he added.

Despite his earlier comments, Lord Sugar said people should be entitled to a vote on the final Brexit deal.

Arguing for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, former Liberal Democrat Lord [Menzies] Campbell of Pittenweem said: "The people were assured that the vote to leave would be followed by a trouble-free and successful exit and the economy would prosper.

"The people were given to believe that their government would conduct the necessary negotiations in an effective and unified way.

"In all of these expectations they have been failed. They have been failed by incoherence and incompetence.

"The people of Britain have a right to be able to pass judgment on any deal forged in such circumstances."

Former ambassador Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who wrote Article 50 which triggered the formal withdrawal process, agreed that a second referendum would be "socially divisive".

"But not nearly as divisive as a Brexit without one," he added.

Former head of the diplomatic service and independent crossbencher Lord Ricketts said it was clear that Brexit would harm the economy and diminish Britain's standing in the world, and it was "entirely reasonable" that people should be asked if they were prepared to accept this.

Lord Ricketts said a people's vote would be more democratic than the 2016 referendum "because people would have a real choice between an outcome, whatever it is, and retaining our membership of the EU".

Hundreds of thousands of young people would have come on to the electoral register over the last two years and it was "profoundly just" to give them a vote, he added.

Tory Baroness Wheatcroft, also backing the case for a people's vote, warned that the rich would be insulated from the impact of Brexit by moving their money offshore, while it would be those who had fared worst over recent years who would suffer most.

"This is looking increasingly like a posh boy's Brexit," Lady Wheatcroft added.

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