Monday

25th Mar 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us