EU referendum: Cameron 'risks bitter Tory row' with sacking threat

时间:2019-10-08 责任编辑:卢忏瞧 来源:银河娱乐网投官网 点击:123 次

risks sparking a bitter Conservative party row after adopting a “my way or the highway” approach towards ministers who want to campaign to leave the EU, David Davis has said.

The former shadow home secretary accused the prime minister of adopting an extraordinary approach which showed a lack of confidence in his EU renegotiation plans.

Davis, who unsuccessfully stood for the Tory leadership against Cameron in 2005, spoke out after the .

Speaking at the G7 summit in Bavaria, the prime minister said the government would not be neutral once he had struck a deal on a new relationship with the EU. He said he was confident of securing such a deal, which would be legally binding and do “what it says on the tin”, a formulation that leaves open whether the deal will stop short of immediate treaty changes.

Davis, a former minister in John Major’s government who served as a whip during the bitter battles over the Maastricht treaty, said he thought the party had learned lessons from the 1990s. But he suggested Cameron risked turning a decent debate into an acrimonious argument.

“I thought the party had come to a conclusion among itself that we were going to have a decent debate but it wasn’t going to be acrimonious,” Davis said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We may end up turning a decent debate into a bitter argument.

“A referendum would act as a lightning rod to take some of the heat and the anger out of the parliamentary debate. Up until a month ago we all felt well we are going to go through the negotiation, the prime minister is absolutely convinced he can deliver on this negotiation sufficient to persuade people that we should stay in. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for that. Most, if not all, of my party were, as well as much of the country.

“This doesn’t show a great deal of confidence in the outcome of those negotiations that he has to say: my way or the highway, stay and obey the line or leave.”

The first signs of organised opposition to EU membership on the Tory benches have come with the signing up of 60 Tory MPs to for Britain. They said they would campaign for an exit unless the prime minister toughened his negotiating stance on issues such as national sovereignty.

David Cameron with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 summit in southern Germany. Photograph: Zhu Sheng/Xinhua Press/Corbis

At G7, Cameron was asked whether he had “absolutely closed his mind to allowing ministers a free vote”. He replied: “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.”

Davis said Cameron should have followed the example of the late Labour prime minister Harold Wilson who allowed cabinet ministers to remain in their posts while campaigning on either side in the 1975 referendum on Britain’s EEC membership. But Davis said Cameron appeared to want to deny ministers a free vote on one of the biggest political questions in their lifetimes.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime, history-changing event. For many people it is the reason why they came into politics. Not mine. For some it is. And yet the only people who will not have the freedom to vote and speak on it are ministers in the government which, of itself, is extraordinary.

“That will likely lead, I’m sorry to say, to some people resigning from the government or being fired. Some people will feel it is a change in policy. You are going to have decent people who care deeply about the country’s future and this is, for some of them, the biggest issue.”

But James Wharton, the communities minister who introduced a private member’s bill on an EU referendum in the last parliament, supported the prime minister.

“It is for everyone to choose how they vote in that referendum,” he told Today. “Of course that includes ministers. It is just that the government will take a position too. The prime minister’s hope is that negotiation will be successful and he will be able to lead the government in campaigning for an in vote if he has been successful but ruling nothing out if he has not been successful in the renegotiations.”