Saturday 10 December 2016

Cameron warned he faces party meltdown over Europe

Gavin Gordon

Published 01/06/2015 | 02:30

David Cameron has been pressed to allow government ministers to campaign for Britain to withdraw from the EU
David Cameron has been pressed to allow government ministers to campaign for Britain to withdraw from the EU

British Prime Minister David Cameron is coming under renewed pressure to allow ministers to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in his promised in/out referendum on the UK's continued membership.

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Senior Conservative figures on both sides of the debate warned that Mr Cameron will struggle to hold his government together unless he allows minsters the freedom to act with their consciences.

The prime minister has insisted that ministers would be expected to campaign for a "yes" vote if he recommends the country accepts the outcome of his renegotiation of UK membership terms, which he is now embarking upon.

However, former cabinet minister and arch Eurosceptic John Redwood said that when the referendum comes, ministers would act in the way that they saw fit - even if it meant losing their jobs.

"They should be free to campaign as they see fit and they will be free to campaign as they see fit. The only issue is whether they are asked to leave their government positions before they do it or not," Mr Redwood told Sky News.

"This is so fundamental. What is the point of being a minister if you are charged, for example, with getting immigration down but the European Union won't let you do it. If you are faced with that situation, the only honest thing to do is to campaign for a change in the arrangement or to campaign for out."

His comments were echoed by the veteran pro-European Ken Clarke, who said that Eurosceptic ministers like Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith could not be expected to support a "yes" vote.

"There will be Conservatives campaigning on both sides," he told the BBC1 'Sunday Politics' programme. "It is up to David how he wants to run his cabinet. I would advise him to let cabinet ministers campaign on both sides because Iain Duncan Smith and I are not going to be on the same side.

"Iain Duncan Smith and I have both actually been committed to party unity overall. We differ on Europe. The referendum is meant to be a way of letting us resolve that in a civilised way.

"I would let the Eurosceptics have a kind of free exercise in campaigning in the referendum."

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed concern that Mr Cameron was taking the UK "perilously close to the exit door" from Europe.

She confirmed that SNP MPs at Westminster would seek to amend the EU Referendum Bill so that Britain could only leave if there were separate majorities in favour of the move in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Irish Independent

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