Prime Minister David Cameron will let members of his cabinet decide for themselves whether to campaign for Britain to stay in or leave the European Union — a so-called Brexit — in a referendum expected later this year after he’s renegotiated membership terms. Cameron said Tuesday he’d achieved a “good outcome” in a draft agreement. But which way are his ministers likely to go?
The big unknown is Boris Johnson, who again failed to come down firmly on either side in the debate in comments Wednesday. Should the London mayor back quitting the EU, the “Leave” campaign would gain a much-needed big hitter — Johnson is popular with the wider public. Euroskeptics received a blow on Tuesday when Home Secretary Theresa May, one of the most senior cabinet ministers, dashed hopes that she might back an exit with a statement in favor of the deal. So far, only Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons. has suggested he’s likely to swing the other way.
Tending toward staying in
George Osborne: The chancellor of the exchequer is taking a leading role in Britain’s renegotiation, with his stance closely aligned with Cameron’s. Speaking in Rome on Wednesday, Osborne said the draft accord put forward by EU President Donald Tusk provided the “essential ingredients” for a deal with the 27 other EU members at a summit later this month. “If we can get an agreement in the coming weeks,” it “will lead to a stronger, reformed Europe Britain can be part of,” he said.
Theresa May: The home secretary said Tuesday the draft agreement proposed by EU President Donald Tusk “is a basis for a deal.” She said it was “encouraging” that the proposal recognized the need to stop abuse of free-movement rules and would let the U.K. deport “dangerous foreign criminals.”
Philip Hammond: The foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4 last month that he “can’t envisage us negotiating a deal which the prime minister thinks is good enough to recommend to the British people and which I want to campaign against.”
Stephen Crabb: The Welsh secretary told the Cardiff Business Club last week that “if the prime minister’s renegotiation is successful and he secures the reforms he has spelt out, then I believe it will be in the U.K.’s best interests to remain in a reformed European Union.”
Amber Rudd: The energy secretary told the Daily Telegraph in an interviewpublished last month that there would be “unknown” consequences for the energy market, households and businesses if Britain leaves. “I would like to see a reformed EU, and then I’d like to campaign to stay in,” she said.
Greg Hands: Speaking in Edinburgh last month, the chief secretary to the Treasury described free movement of labor across the EU as “very important” and said the U.K. “benefits from that a great deal.” Migrant workers are “a fantastic thing to have,” he said. “We’ve just got to make sure that we don’t make our system overly generous to people that haven’t paid in enough beforehand.”
Liz Truss: The environment secretary said last month that she fully supports Cameron’s renegotiation. “I have seen how hard he is fighting to get a better deal for Britain,” she told a farming conference in Oxford. “There is a huge prize at stake and one worth fighting for.”
Nicky Morgan: The education secretary told an event at the Tory conference last year she could “personally not” imagine backing a British EU exit.
Jeremy Hunt: The health secretary has expressed backing for Cameron to get an acceptable deal, though he’s said he’d support Brexit if no deal is achieved.
Patrick McLoughlin: The transport secretary told the Observer newspaper in October that he backs staying in, saying he’s “looking forward to a bit more of a conversation about some of the good things that come out of Europe.”
On the fence
Boris Johnson: The London mayor, who’s part of Cameron’s political cabinet and may be given a ministerial job before the referendum, remains on the fence. “The prime minister is making the best of a bad job,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday in his first comments since the publication of Tusk’s draft. “Most people looking at this think there is a lot more to do.” He added: “Let’s wait and see when this whole thing is agreed and try and see what it really means — every bit of it.”
Michael Gove: The justice secretary said in 2013 he’d be prepared to vote to leave the EU and that life outside the bloc would be “perfectly tolerable.” Gove denied a report in December that he was about to come out in favor of an exit, saying a deal could only be judged once concluded.
Michael Fallon: “We are all skeptics about Europe. We all want to see reform in Europe,” the defence secretary told the BBC in October. “We’re all thoroughly behind the prime minister in his reform agenda.”
Tending toward leaving
Chris Grayling: The leader of the House of Commons, a self-declared euro-skeptic, wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper last month that staying in the bloc on current terms would be “disastrous” for the U.K. “I want Britain to choose between a changed relationship and leaving, and not between the current situation and leaving,” Grayling wrote, shedding doubt on the willingness of the EU to offer real change.
Iain Duncan Smith: The work and pensions secretary and former Tory leader is widely regarded as being among the most euro-skeptic members of the cabinet. He was at the forefront of opposition to the EU’s Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s. He told Parliament in November that “Brexit” campaigners “may well carry the day” but said last month he’ll only make up his mind which way to vote after the renegotiation is completed.
Sajid Javid: The business secretary inclines toward euro-skepticism. He told the House of Commons in November that many companies believe that at present, the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits. In a Bloomberg TV interview in Davos, Switzerland, he refused to be drawn on whether he might campaign to leave if a satisfactory deal isn’t achieved.
Theresa Villiers: The Northern Ireland secretary was among Tory euro-skeptics attending a 2012 dinner to mark the 20th anniversary of the rebellion against the Maastricht Treaty.
Oliver Letwin: The minister who runs the Cabinet Office said in 2014 he would like Britain to be part of an outer rim of EU states forming a free-trade zone. He said there was an 80 percent chance of Cameron getting the sort of deal he wanted, and if not, he “would want to recommend leaving.”