Monday

10th May 2021

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

News in Brief

  1. Lukashenko amends emergency transfer of power
  2. German centre-left picks Scholz as would-be chancellor
  3. EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June
  4. Macron: Pandemic showed need for more EU integration
  5. Election win fuels Scottish nationalists' referendum plan
  6. Surge in migrant arrivals to Italian island
  7. EU embassy pays bail for Georgia opposition leader
  8. British aristocrats caught peddling Kremlin ties

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence
  2. Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands
  3. Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No
  4. Vaccine fairness plus Russia on table This WEEK
  5. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  6. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  7. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  8. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us