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EU referendum: Where Conservative cabinet ministers stand on Europe

The Prime Minister will allow Tory Eurosceptics to campaign to leave Europe to avert political damage of splits in the party

Tuesday 05 January 2016 23:15 GMT
David Cameron has appointed a Commission to review the FOI Act
David Cameron has appointed a Commission to review the FOI Act (PA)

David Cameron has conceded that Conservative ministers will be free to spearhead the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union while staying in the Government.

The move avoids the prospect of cabinet Eurosceptics resigning, thus limiting the political damage of Tory splits on the issue.

Here, we look at where the key figures in Mr Cameron's cabinet stand on Europe:


George Osborne

George Osborne promoted the special adviser in charge of his public image (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chancellor’s political fortunes are inextricably tied to those of David Cameron. He knows that a vote to stay will strengthen his chances of succeeding his friend as Prime Minister while an Out vote would possibly mark the end of his front-line political career.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove MP for Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Justice speaks during day one of the Conservative Party Conference (Getty Images)

The Justice Secretary is a Eurosceptic but also a loyalist. He will bite his tongue and follow Mr Cameron in campaigning for In. Many, though, will suspect that in the privacy of the polling booth he might just vote Out.

Philip Hammond

Phillip Hammond (Reuters)

The Foreign Secretary is a Eurosceptic – but even with a free vote, he would almost certainly not be able to remain in his post if he campaigned to leave. He is likely to enthusiastically back Cameron’s “triumphant” renegotiation in public even if in private he is sceptical about its significance.


Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May is set to have budget talks with police chiefs next month (Getty Images)

The Home Secretary has been fabulously opaque about her views on the issue. Some aides have been pressing for her to come out in favour of leaving but she has kept her own council. In some areas of her brief, such as immigration, she has been highly Eurosceptic – but in others, such as arrest warrants and the sharing of DNA evidence, she has been much more in favour of cooperation.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson's hopes of becoming the next Prime Minister will heavily influence his descision (AP)

The “will he, won’t he” that surrounds the London Mayor’s intentions on Europe have already taken up many column inches of newsprint – not least the articles he has written himself on the subject. Johnson has flirted with both the In and Out campaigns. His final decision is likely to rest on what position is most advantageous to his primary goal: succeeding David Cameron.


Iain Duncan Smith

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith addresses the Conservative Party conference (PA)

The Work and Pensions Secretary is a long-standing Eurosceptic and knows that he is unlikely to get another Cabinet job after this one. He is known to want to campaign to leave and might have decided to quit the Cabinet if Cameron had not allowed a free vote.

Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling exits a car on Downing Street (Getty Images)

Grayling is another Eurosceptic who is on his way down the ministerial ladder. He is likely to lose his job as Leader of the Commons at the next reshuffle anyway and his future career prospects could only benefit from campaigning to leave.

Theresa Villiers

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers (Getty Images)

Normally a loyalist, the Northern Ireland Secretary is understood to have raised her concerns about Europe with the Prime Minister ahead of December’s Brussels summit. She will be one of those most pleased by Mr Cameron’s offer of a free vote and is almost certain to take him up on it.

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