Saturday

13th Aug 2022

Resign if you back Brexit, Cameron warns party

  • David Cameron at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany

David Cameron has warned eurosceptic ministers that they will have to resign if they want to campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Bavaria on Sunday (7 June), the UK prime minister insisted that his government would not be “neutral” and planned to “get a deal that’s in Britain’s interest and then recommend Britain stays in it”.

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“I’ve been very clear. If you want to be part of the government, you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation, to have a referendum and that will lead to a successful outcome,” he said.

A number of Conservative ministers are hostile to EU membership and many within the party hoped that Cameron would allow a free vote, repeating the tactic used by Labour premier Harold Wilson at the UK’s last referendum on the then EEC (European Economic Community) in 1975 of temporarily freeing ministers from the principle of ‘collective responsibility’.

Cameron’s warning to his party came hours after the campaign group, Conservatives for Britain, announced its launch with an open letter in the Daily Telegraph on Sunday (7 June).

The group set out a series of highly ambitious demands for Cameron to achieve in negotiations to revise the UK’s terms of membership. More than 60 Conservative MPs have signed up to the groups whose co-founders are Steve Baker and David Campbell-Bannerman, a Conservative MEP who defected from the anti-EU party Ukip.

Although the letter states that “David Cameron has been spectacularly successful in Europe”, and praises his promise to renegotiate the UK’s membership status, it gives a clear hint that it will still call for Britain to leave the 28 country bloc.

Its policy shopping list includes three items that are highly unlikely or impossible without a complete re-opening of the EU treaties - “domestic control over social and employment law…migration controls for member states and the right for Britain to veto EU laws.”

“We are ever more accustomed to a globe without borders and boundaries,” said Baker, “why should British firms and families accept European barriers to global trade?”

“Unless senior EU officials awake to the possibility that one of the EU's largest members is serious about a fundamental change in our relationship, our recommendation to British voters seems likely to be exit,” he concluded.

Obama

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama called on the UK to remain part of the bloc, telling reporters at the G7 that “its influence is positive not just for Europe, but also for the world."

“One of the great values of having the United Kingdom in the European Union is its leadership and strength on a whole host of global challenges,” he added.

The UK parliament will hold its first debate on the government’s referendum bill on Tuesday, and the campaign on the plebiscite, which could take place as early as May 2016, is already gathering pace.

In an interview on Saturday (6 June), Ukip leader Nigel Farage called for a cross-party ‘No’ campaign, and warned that supporters of a ‘Brexit’ would have to “get cracking” immediately to avoid being caught unprepared if the referendum is held before the 2017 deadline promised by Cameron.

Although a handful of Labour MPs will support a British exit from the EU, almost all of its political support will come from the Conservatives and Ukip.

Andy Burnham, the front-runner in the Labour party leadership campaign, has said that Labour should run its own ‘Yes’ campaign, in a bid to avoid what it believes was a tactical mistake by campaigning alongside the Conservatives ahead of the Scottish independence referendum last year.

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