Britain can never be 'fully sovereign' again – even if it leaves the EU, Michael Fallon warns

The Defence Secretary says the UK cannot go back to the 'golden age' of self-government

The idea that Britain can be fully sovereign and self-governing outside the European Union is “an illusion”, a Cabinet minister has said.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, warned that the “golden age” of sovereignty was over and that the European Union would affect Britain whether it was a member or not.

“Of course there are those who would like Britain to have – not simply the illusion, but the fact – of being a self-governing nation again, where our parliament and courts are absolutely supreme again,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But the difficulty is this – if we got back to the ‘golden age’ where our parliament is absolutely sovereign, you would still have the European Union next door, taking decisions that affect our trade and businesses and our way of life.”

Mr Fallon, who is campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU, said Britain could better produce change in the world as part of the bloc.

“Isn’t it better to still be there – however frustrating it is – at the table, shaping those regulations, leading Europe in the direction you want, protecting your national interests?” he said.

“Or should you go out and pursue this illusion of separate sovereignty all on your own without these alliances and partnerships that help us shape the rest of the world?”

A spokesperson for the Leave.EU campaign last night however said that leaving the EU would give Britain “full, democratic control of its affairs, and a relationship with Europe based on free trade and voluntary co-operation”.

This weekend David Cameron announced that Britain would hold its in-out referendum on membership of the European Union on 23 June of this year.

The vote follows a renegotiation of the terms of membership of the EU by Mr Cameron. 

The Prime Minister had previously announced that he would allow his Conservative cabinet colleagues to campaign on either side of the referendum.

Joining him and Mr Fallon on the “remain” campaign are Theresa May, the Home Secretary, Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Tories campaigning to leave the EU including Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, the Justice Secretary Michael Gove, and Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons.

Backbench Tory MPs also substantially split on the question of whether to remain in the bloc.

Labour is largely in favour of remaining in the EU though a small minority of its MPs support leaving. 

The Liberal Democrats and SNP are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, while Ukip is completely in favour of leaving.   

Current polls of the referendum tend to show a small but narrowing lead for the “remain” campaign but with big differences between different polling companies

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