Over the weekend, the UK Secretary of Defence and the Education Minister caused a stir when they publicly stated on Sunday they would vote to leave the European Union if a referendum were to be held now.
Cabinet Crisis Erupts
The Guardian reports David Cameron faces EU cabinet crisis as ministers break ranks.
David Cameron is struggling to maintain Tory discipline over Europe after cabinet loyalists Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said on Sunday they would vote to leave the European Union if a referendum were to be held now.
Gove, the education minister, confirmed for the first time that he believes that leaving the EU would have “certain advantages”, while Hammond, the defence secretary, later said he too would vote to leave if he was asked to endorse the EU “exactly as it is today”.
This is fresh on the heels of an announcement last week that former cabinet minister Michael Portillo and Lord Lawson call for Britain to leave the EU. Lawson was Thatcher’s longest-serving chancellor.
David Cameron faced growing Tory pressure on Europe last night when the former cabinet minister Michael Portillo threw his weight behind the call by Lord Lawson for Britain to leave the EU.
As Boris Johnson entered the fray, by saying that Britain should be prepared to quit if it fails to secure better membership terms, Portillo said he “fervently” hopes the British people have the “guts” to vote no.
The intervention by a second Tory grandee came as Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer, revealed that the late prime minister came to believe after she left office that Britain should quit the EU. Writing in this week’s issue of the Spectator, Moore says that Thatcher kept her views private after she was advised that her views would push her to “the fringes of public life”.
Cameron pledged in his speech on the EU in January that he would hold a referendum by 2017 after negotiating a series of reforms to the EU with fellow European leaders.
But the former defence secretary writes: “I have not been impressed by Mr Cameron’s pledge. Given his party’s electoral prospects, I doubt if he expects to have to deliver on it. But in any case, he seems to have decided already that Britain should stay in.”
Purposely Self-Inflicted Wounds
These wounds are self-inflicted. No one believes Cameron has any intention of holding a referendum as promised, because no one can possibly believe one of Cameron’s pre-requirements for the referendum.
Recall that Cameron pledged to hold a referendum after he is re-elected. He may not survive that vote. But even if he does, his next condition on holding a referendum was renegotiation of the treaty with the rest of Europe.
There is virtually no chance of that happening, at least along the lines of Cameron’s pledge. So why the promises?
Clearly, Cameron would rather lie about the referendum and take the punishment than tell the truth. Hopefully a full-scale cabinet revolt and a full-scale revolt by the party will knock some sense into him before he loses the election.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock