Friday

15th Dec 2017

British ministers voice support for leaving EU

  • Gove (r): ' Life outside would be perfectly tolerable' (Photo: cabinetoffice)

Two senior British ministers have said they would vote to leave the EU if there was a referendum now.

Speaking on BBC TV on Sunday (12 May), the ruling Conservative Party's education minister Michael Gove said: "My ideal is exactly what the majority of the population think, which is that the present situation is no good, to say that life outside [the EU] would be perfectly tolerable. We could contemplate it, there would be certain advantages."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Defence minister Philip Hammond told BBC radio later the same day: "If the choice is between a European Union written exactly as it is today and not being a part of that then I have to say that I'm on the side of the argument that Michael Gove has put forward."

Both men nuanced their statements.

Gove noted that his "preference is for a change in Britain's relationship with the European Union" rather than for leaving the EU.

Hammond said it would be "defeatist" to quit the Union without trying to reform it first.

Their remarks come ahead of a vote next week on holding an in/out referendum more quickly.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold it in 2017 - after the next elections and after talks on taking back EU powers in areas such as criminal law and social policy.

But two of his MPs have tabled an amendment to hold it in 2014.

The non-binding motion is expected to get just 100-or-so mostly Conservative votes in the 650-seat assembly.

Gove himself dismissed it as "letting off steam."

But it will add to pressure on Cameron to reconsider the 2017 date.

Three Conservative heavyweights - former chancellor Nigel Lawson, former chancellor Norman Lamont and former defence minister Michael Portillo - last week also said Britain should get out.

Lawson wrote in an op-ed that: "The relevant economic context nowadays is not Europe but globalisation, including global free trade, with the World Trade Organisation as its monitor."

He added the EU has "achieved its historic purpose and is now past its sell-by date."

Lamont said on BBC radio: "I think that the economic advantages of the EU are vastly over-stated. I think we could manage on our own, as Switzerland … does."

Meanwhile, huge gains by the eurosceptic Ukip party in recent local elections backed up Gove's claim that many ordinary British people want to leave.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out a protocol for an EU member state to "withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements."

It says EU countries "shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that state, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal" - a clause that would allow the UK to create a free trade zone with Europe.

For its part, the opposition centre-left Labour Party seized on Gove's statement to hammer Cameron.

Its shadow foreign minister, Douglas Alexander, told the Financial Times on Sunday that leaving the EU would harm US relations.

He recalled a warning in January by US diplomat Philip Gordon against holding the in/out vote.

"In doing so he [Gordon] exposed the post-imperial fantasy of Conservative eurosceptics that our relationship with the US is an alternative to our relationship with Europe," Alexander said.

Cameron is visiting Washington this week, with the in/out question likely to come up in his US talks.

Merkel spends family weekend with Cameron

A family week-end at a German castle allowed the German Chancellor and the British Prime Minister to seek common ground on an EU-US trade agreement and the fight against tax evasion.

US warns Britain on EU referendum

The Obama administration has warned Britain against sidelining itself in the EU as Prime Minister Cameron comes under increasing pressure to hold a membership referendum.

Commission wants more centralised eurozone by 2019

EU leaders will discuss at their summit next week the commission's proposals, which include a European Monetary Fund and an EU finance minister - but no eurozone budget, as proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  2. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  3. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  4. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  5. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont
  6. French central bank lifts 2017 growth forecast
  7. EU leaders set to move Brexit talks on to next stage
  8. EU leaders confirm support for two-state solution

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  2. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states
  3. EU asylum debate reopens old wounds
  4. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  5. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  6. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  7. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  8. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat