Cameron's Ministers Take Their Positions for Battle of `Brexit'

  • Johnson and Gove, renowned communicators, back leaving EU
  • Javid backs prime minister's deal `with no enthusiasm'

U.K. ministers are declaring their hands after Prime Minister David Cameron sealed a deal he hopes will persuade voters to back staying in the European Union in a referendum on June 23. Cameron has said they’ll be allowed to campaign on either side of the vote. So who is backing the status quo and who is seeking withdrawal from the 28-nation bloc, a so-called Brexit.

QuickTake Brexit

Boris Johnson, Britain’s most popular politician, declared himself for leaving the EU on Sunday and looks likely to be the biggest thorn in Cameron’s side. Alongside him is Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who has a reputation in the ruling Conservative Party as one of its smartest thinkers. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is firmly in Cameron’s camp, alongside Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who previously expressed doubts about EU membership.

Campaigning for staying in

George Osborne: The chancellor of the exchequer took a leading role in Britain’s renegotiation, with his stance closely aligned with Cameron’s. He was the driving force behind the agreement to protect the interests of countries outside the euro currency. “We’re stronger and safer and better off in the EU and the alternative is a big leap in the dark with all the risks that involves,” he said after the renegotiation agreement.

Theresa May: The home secretary declared her hand before the agreement was completed, saying the draft proposed by EU President Donald Tusk was a “basis for a deal.” After Cameron’s return from Brussels, she issued a statement backing his position: “For reasons of security, protection against crime and terrorism, trade with Europe, and access to markets around the world, it is in the national interest to remain a member of the European Union,” she said.

Sajid Javid: The business secretary inclines toward euro-skepticism, telling the House of Commons in November that many companies believe that, at present, the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits. But in article for the Mail on Sunday, he said he would be campaigning to stay in “with a heavy heart and no enthusiasm.” He wrote that the threat to the economic recovery would be too great: “My heart says we are better off out. My head says it’s too risky right now.”

Justine Greening: The international development secretary was one of the first to come out in support of Cameron after the cabinet meeting on Saturday. “I believe the prime minister has successfully negotiated a good deal for Britain and we should stay part of a reformed European Union,” she said in a statement.

Philip Hammond: The foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4 last month that he “can’t envisage us negotiating a deal which the prime minister thinks is good enough to recommend to the British people and which I want to campaign against.” After the agreement, he called for the U.K. to take the lead on further reform in the EU.

Stephen Crabb: The Welsh secretary told the Cardiff Business Club that “if the prime minister’s renegotiation is successful and he secures the reforms he has spelt out, then I believe it will be in the U.K.’s best interests to remain in a reformed European Union.” After Cameron’s return from Brussels, he tweeted that his boss had done enough: “EU deal means it won’t be a vote on the status quo. ‘Ever closer union’ no more. Strong grounds for In,” he wrote.

Amber Rudd: The energy secretary told the Daily Telegraph in an interview published last month that there would be “unknown” consequences for the energy market, households and businesses if Britain leaves. “I would like to see a reformed EU, and then I’d like to campaign to stay in,” she said.

Greg Hands: The chief secretary to the Treasury described the U.K. deal as “best for the U.K.’s future” in a posting on Twitter. He said it delivered “tough” curbs on welfare while keeping Britain at “the heart”’ of the single market.

Liz Truss: The environment secretary said last month that she fully supports Cameron’s renegotiation. “I have seen how hard he is fighting to get a better deal for Britain,” she told a farming conference in Oxford. “There is a huge prize at stake and one worth fighting for.”

Nicky Morgan: The education secretary told an event at the Tory conference last year she could “personally not” imagine backing a British EU exit.

Jeremy Hunt: The health secretary expressed backing for Cameron during the negotiations and said on Feb. 20 that he will be campaigning to stay in the bloc, saying it would make Britain’s “voice for freedom, democracy and human rights stronger if we stay.”

Patrick McLoughlin: The transport secretary told the Observer newspaper in October that he backs staying in, saying he’s “looking forward to a bit more of a conversation about some of the good things that come out of Europe.”

Michael Fallon: After telling the BBC in October that “we are all skeptics about Europe, we all want to see reform in Europe,” the defence secretary is backing Cameron’s deal. “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 on BBC Radio 4.

Campaigning to leave

Boris Johnson: The London mayor, who’s part of Cameron’s political cabinet, remained on the fence until after Cameron’s return from the EU summit, using his column in the Daily Telegraph newspaper to announce that while Cameron had “done his very best,” it wasn’t good enough. “There is only one way to get the change we need -- and that is to vote to go; because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No,” he wrote. “At a time when Brussels should be devolving power, it is hauling more and more towards the center, and there is no way that Britain can be unaffected.”

Michael Gove: The justice secretary, one of Cameron’s closest allies, said on Saturday that it was “the most difficult decision of my political life” to turn against his friend. “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,” the former journalist said in a statement. “By leaving the EU we can take control. Indeed, we can show the rest of Europe the way to flourish.”

Chris Grayling: The leader of the House of Commons, a self-declared euro-skeptic, wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper last month that staying in the bloc on current terms would be “disastrous” for the U.K. “It’s a campaign to restore the sovereignty of our nation,” he said at a Vote Leave event on Saturday. Exiting the EU would be the start of “a journey that I think will take Britain to a prosperous and successful independent future,” he said.

Iain Duncan Smith: The work and pensions secretary and former Tory leader is widely regarded as being among the most euro-skeptic members of the cabinet. He was at the forefront of opposition to the EU’s Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s. He told Parliament in November that “Brexit” campaigners “may well carry the day.”

Theresa Villiers: The Northern Ireland secretary was among Tory euro-skeptics attending a 2012 dinner to mark the 20th anniversary of the rebellion against the Maastricht Treaty. “I am supporting the Leave campaign because I have an optimistic view of our country’s future. I believe we can flourish outside the European Union,” she wrote on the Conservative Home website on Sunday. “This referendum provides us with the chance to become a self-governing nation once again.”

John Whittingdale: The culture secretary appeared in a photoshoot of cabinet members campaigning to leave on Saturday and on Monday bet TV presenter Piers Morgan 1,000 pounds that Cameron will remain as prime minister if he loses the referendum.

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