THE Prime Minister has warned that the continued success of Sussex wine is in doubt if we vote to leave the European Union in June.

Writing exclusively for The Argus, David Cameron said sparkling wine could become synonymous with Sussex as whisky is with Scotland - but only if we remain in the EU.

He said to leave would be a "a leap in the dark" with a threat to jobs across our vineyards.

But one of the county's leading winemakers has hit back at the Prime Minister's comments.

Peter Hall, owner of Breaky Bottom vineyard, just outside Lewes, said: "I don't believe for one moment whether if we are in or out it would affect sales of really good quality wine further abroad or in Europe.

"If anybody produces something that is really good it creates a natural demand."

Mr Hall, who said he had not decided which way he would vote, added: "I've been here 42 years, I'm one of the old timers. Wine made in Sussex is unique and special and we would not invest millions into it if we did not think it would be successful. If we [Britain] left the EU and made toothbrushes that France wanted, they would still buy them."

In his opinion piece, Mr Cameron heaped praise of Sussex winemakers but said they needed "barriers to trade to be minimal and tariffs to be nil" so they can compete with the world’s established names.

He warned that if we were out of the EU winemakers could face a 19p tariff on every bottle sold to the continent. He also warned that we would be unable to shape the rules that affect the industry.

Commenting on his opponents from the Brexit camp, he added: "They can’t tell you if people’s jobs in the industry and its supply chain would be safe, and how much prices would rise by. All they’re offering is risk at a time of uncertainty – a leap in the dark.

"I say: that’s not good enough for the wine industry; and it’s not good enough for the people of Brighton and Sussex."

Labour Brexit supporter, councillor Tom Bewick, of Brighton and Hove City Council, dismissed the Prime Minister's comments as another "desperate scaremongering story".

He added: "He is holding an economic gun to the head of the British people. We have a massive trade deficit with the EU. The French are still going to want to sell us their cheese and wine, and accept our goods.

"I don't accept they will embark on a trade war with us the day after we vote out."

The EU referendum will be held on June 23.