David Cameron would find it “very difficult” to remain as Prime Minister if the country votes to leave the European Union in June’s referendum, two Eurosceptic former cabinet ministers have suggested.
Mr Cameron has publicly insisted he would stay on in Downing Street regardless of the poll’s outcome in an attempt to ensure the campaign doesn’t become a referendum on him.
But in interviews on 4 March Liam Fox and Lord Tebbit suggested the Prime Minister’s position would become untenable in the event of a leave vote and the bruising internecine Tory struggle between those who want to stay in the EU and those who want to pull out.
Suggesting the Prime Minister “probably should” stand down if he is defeated in the referendum, Lord Tebbit said “it would be very difficult for him to negotiate for all those things that we need to get settled with our European partners having said that it would be a disaster if we did leave”.
“What I am saying is that I think he would find it extraordinarily difficult to suddenly change sides again,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. “Now to say ‘that’s what I wanted but the country doesn’t want it, so now I’m going to go over to the side of my country’. I think that would be an extremely difficult thing for him to do.”
Asked whether Mr Cameron would have to stand down in the event of a leave vote the former Defence Secretary Dr Fox would say that “constitutionally” he remained in office.
He also appeared to criticise the Prime Minister for the personal nature of his attacks on Eurosceptics in his cabinet.
“No one can look at the Conservative party in the last 20 years and say it hasn’t had a fundamental difference of view on Europe,” he said.
“In a referendum friendships get tested, relationships can sour. That’s always the risk when you get into a referendum, especially on something as passionate as the European Union and Britain’s future, control of its own destiny.
“But we just need to not allow that passion in the debate over Britain’s future to spill into our personal relations.”