Michael Gove has apologised for comparing economic experts warning about Brexit with the Nazis who smeared Albert Einstein in the 1930s.

It came after the Prime Minister said his friend and cabinet colleague had “lost it” and made a “massive mistake” in making the comparison.

Apologising for the comments, which he made on LBC radio on Tuesday, Mr Gove said: “Yesterday I was asked a question by Iain Dale about the predictions of doom for the economy. I answered, as I often do, with a historical analogy. It was clumsy and inappropriate.

“Obviously I did not mean to imply anything about the motives of those who have spoken out in favour of staying in the EU.

“Throughout the campaign I’ve avoided making personal attacks, I’m sorry for speaking so clumsily and apologise for giving offence.

“I think Britain will be more prosperous if we end our connection to the euro project and I should have answered this question directly.”

His apology came shortly after fellow Leave campaigner Boris Johnson backed Mr Gove.

The former London mayor told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Michael Gove has run an absolutely fantastic campaign and he is right in what he says, I think.

“Some of these experts, they totally failed to foresee the crash of 2008.”

Justice Secretary Mr Gove sparked outrage when he claimed experts cannot always be trusted and pointed to the German scientists used to denounce Einstein to prove his point.

He told LBC: “We have to be careful about historical comparisons, but Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced, and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish.”

He made the comments while he was being quizzed on why the Leave campaign was disputing forecasts by respected economic experts that a Brexit would damage the British economy.

It came after the group Economists for Remain put out a statement by 12 Nobel laureates and more than 175 UK-based economists warning that leaving the EU is a danger to the economy.

The group’s organiser, Eric Beinhocker, an economist at Oxford University, said: “Independent fact-based experts are essential to the functioning of a democracy.

“It is one thing for Michael Gove to disagree with us, but it is another for him to call us Nazis.

“Do we really want political leaders who denigrate experts because they challenge their political views?

“It may be inconvenient for Michael Gove, but the independent IMF and OECD, and the 12 Nobel laureates and over 175 UK economists who signed our statement all say the same thing: Brexit would hurt growth and jobs, raise prices, and leave less money for government services.”

The Prime Minister also criticised Mr Gove for his choice of words, telling Sky News: “To hear the Leave campaign today sort of comparing independent experts and economists to Nazi sympathisers – I think they have rather lost it.

“These people are independent – economists who have won Nobel prizes, business leaders responsible for creating thousands of jobs, institutions that were set up after the war to try to provide independent advice. It is right to listen.”

Mr Cameron used an interview with LBC to hit back at Mr Gove, saying: “I think, I’m afraid, the Leave campaign here are making a massive mistake.”