EU referendum: Vote Leave launches campaign featuring Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith

Six ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, have kicked off their campaign to leave the EU

The six ministers backing the Vote Leave campaign have launched their campaign, just minutes after David Cameron announced the EU referendum will be held in June.

Ministers Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers and Priti Patel posed for their first campaign photo, which was tweeted out this morning.

The six ministers are the most high profile Tory MPs to publically declare support for a leave vote in the referendum which will be held on June 23 this year.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and a member of the political cabinet is yet to formally back a side.

The Vote Leave campaign tweeted the picture with the caption: “The safe option is to #VoteLeave.”

It has criticised David Cameron’s EU Deal, announced late last night, for not going far enough to protect Britain’s interests.

Michael Gove, secretary of state for justice and former education secretary and chief whip, and Iain Duncan Smith, former Tory leader and secretary of state for work and pensions, are the highest profile out campaigners. 

Mr Gove explained his reasons for backing a leave vote in a 1,500-word essay, published online.

In it, he called the move "the most difficult decision of my political life". 

He added: "I believe our country would be freer, fairer and better off outside the EU. And if, at this moment of decision, I didn’t say what I believe I would not be true to my convictions or my country." 

Chris Grayling is the current leader of the House of Commons and former justice secretary, while Priti Patel is minister for employment. 

Speaking at the launch event Mr Grayling said: “The six of us who stand here today are committed to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

“This is going to be a team effort. It is not going to be Conservative effort, it is going to be a cross-party effort, it is going to involve people of all parties and none."

Theresa Villiers is minister for Northern Ireland, while John Whittingdale is secretary of state for culture, media and sport. 

Andrea Leadsome, minister of state for energy and climate change, also said she would vote against staying in the EU. 

Seventeen Tory cabinet members have so far declared support for the remain campaign, including George Osborne, Theresa May, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. 

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