EU Referendum

Gove 'did not brief' Sun's 'Queen backs Brexit' story

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Media captionGove: "I don't know how The Sun got all of its information"

Michael Gove has declined to deny having been the source of the claim, reported by the Sun this week, that the Queen backed Britain leaving the EU.

"Michael did not brief this story," a source close to Mr Gove told the BBC.

The Sun said it had "multiple sources" and was confident its report was true.

Earlier, Mr Gove had said: "I don't know how the Sun got all its information and I don't think it's really worth my adding anything to what's already been said."

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins says Mr Gove's comments were notable for not including a specific denial that he had leaked the Queen's views.

Our correspondent says the source's remarks appear to reject the idea that Mr Gove actively sought to get the story reported, but do not rule out the possibility he was an inadvertent source.

'Venom and emotion'

On Wednesday, under the headline "Queen backs Brexit", the Sun's front page reported a conversation with MPs at Buckingham Palace "a few years ago" in which the Queen allegedly said: "I don't understand Europe."

The source said the Queen spoke the words with "venom and emotion".

The paper also reported an exchange between the monarch and pro-EU former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2011, which it called a "bust-up" that left no doubt about the Queen's "passionate feelings over Europe".

Mr Clegg has said he could not remember any such incident and called the story "nonsense".

The UK will hold an referendum on its membership of the EU on 23 June.

All you need to know about the EU referendum

UK and the EU - better off out or in?

Buckingham Palace has complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) about the Sun's report, insisting the Queen is "politically neutral".

Asked about the press watchdog's investigation, Mr Gove, himself a former journalist, said it was a "matter for them".

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Image caption Buckingham Palace insists that the Queen remains politically neutral

In other comments, Mr Gove, who was in Southampton to give a speech supporting the Leave campaign, reiterated his view that the UK would be "stronger and safer outside" the EU.

"We'd have £350m a week extra to spend on our priorities, we'd be able to set our own laws, vary our own taxes [and] cut our own trade deals," he said.

Campaigners for Britain to stay in the EU have said leaving would increase national security and economic risks.

Mr Gove said this was "nonsense".

He also insisted he wanted David Cameron, who is leading the Remain campaign, to stay on as prime minister if voters backed Brexit.

"I want him to lead a strong team to negotiate a better deal," Mr Gove said.

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