Senior Conservative backbenchers are pressing David Cameron to appoint a more Eurosceptic Europe Minister in his upcoming reshuffle. The post has been held since the 2010 election by David Lidington – a moderate figure whose appointment was welcomed by other EU Governments.
Mr Lidington got the job in place of Mark Francois, the former Eurosceptic shadow Europe minister, who had brokered the Conservative controversial split from the main centre-right EPP group in the European parliament.
But now backbenchers are pressing Mr Cameron to move Mr Lidington in the reshuffle to signal a new harder line. Some are pressing him to bring back Mr Francois or offer the job to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee.
Mr Brady was the Tory spokesman on Europe for three years in opposition but resigned in 2007 in a row over grammar schools.
One senior Tory backbencher said: "We need someone more Eurosceptic as Europe Minister. This is about to become the most important policy area."
Any move to install a more Eurosceptic figure would be met with resistance from the Liberal Democrats but Tory right-wingers say Mr Cameron must act if he wants to reassure his party.
"Europe is one of the key appointments and the Liberal Democrats should be told they can go hang," one said.
Mr Cameron regards Mr Lidington as one of the three most effective ministers of state in his government. But he could reward him with a promotion to the Cabinet as Northern Ireland Secretary, since he held that in opposition.