Another headache for Cameron as Gove and Hammond say no to EU
Comments from British education secretary, Michael Gove, and defence secretary, Philip Hammond, have attracted a rebuke from prime minister David Cameron following the pair’s admission that they would vote for Britain to leave the European Union if an immediate referendum was made.
David Cameron dismissed the comments as being answers to “hypothetical” questions which had no weight in altering the Conservative Party’s plans to negotiate the EU treaty after a referendum in 2017 on EU membership if a Tory government is elected in 2015.
The prime minister’s irritation comes from his expectation that all cabinet ministers were behind the Tory timetable to allow for renegotiating the terms of EU membership to take place between the UK and the twenty-six other member states.
Mr Cameron said: “What all Conservative cabinet ministers agree is that we should be spending the next period improving the EU and improving our relations with the EU and then putting that choice to the British public in a referendum. That is our policy. It is the right thing to do and we are all confident of success.”
The prime minister added: “It also had a reasonable reception in Europe with a number of key European players recognising this was a legitimate agenda. That’s a good start to the process. So the idea of throwing in the towel before the negotiations have even started is a very strange opinion.”
Conservative Party plans to renegotiate the terms of EU membership have received a boost by Germany’s continued insistence on negotiating a new treaty for the impending EU Banking Union rather than working it into the framework of the Lisbon Treaty.
However, if negotiations for a new treaty get underway, its primary concern would be to pass proposals on a Banking Union, and the UK may risk seeming obstructive if they bring into play a national agenda.