David Cameron to allow ministers campaign for EU exit

British PM’s move intended to prevent resignation of Eurosceptic Tories

British prime minister David Cameron: seeking to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties before a vote due by the end of next year. Photograph: Jack Hill/Getty Images

British prime minister David Cameron: seeking to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties before a vote due by the end of next year. Photograph: Jack Hill/Getty Images

 

British prime minister David Cameron will let government ministers campaign to leave the European Union in an upcoming referendum, a source in his office said on Tuesday.

Mr Cameron is seeking to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties before a vote due by the end of next year. He has said he wants Britain to remain in a reformed EU, but he does not rule out leaving if he can’t get key changes to Britain’s relationship with the bloc.

Europe has divided the Conservatives for three decades. It played a major part in the downfall of Mr Cameron’s two Conservative predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Up to a third of Mr Cameron’s cabinet – including home secretary Theresa May, foreign secretary Philip Hammond, business secretary Sajid Javid and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith – have expressed Eurosceptic sentiments.

There has been speculation that some Eurosceptic ministers would have resigned as ministers if he had forced them to campaign for membership.

Mr Cameron is due to update parliament on his EU renegotiation later on Tuesday, and a source in his office said he would “give a strong signal” that so-called collective responsibility would effectively be suspended for the EU referendum.

“He will make clear collective responsibility continues to apply all the way up until a deal is done . . . at that point clearly the government will take a position on the deal,” said the source, who declined to be named.

“If there are some individual ministers who want to campaign in a different way, he will make clear that will be accommodated.”

Reuters