British Prime Minister David Cameron’s newly eurosceptic cabinet reflects the increasing prevalence of anti-EU feelings in the country, a newly promoted minister said Wednesday.
Conservative Cameron has conducted a major shake-up of his ministers, notably replacing foreign secretary William Hague with Philip Hammond, who has said he would vote for Britain to leave the EU unless it takes back more powers from Brussels.
“It’s certainly a eurosceptic cabinet, but the country is eurosceptic now,” said Michael Fallon, who replaces Hammond as defence secretary in the reshuffle.
He told BBC radio: “We think Europe has been on the wrong lines and you have seen a prime minister prepared now to veto things coming from Europe, who has achieved a budget cut for the first time ever and he is promoting reform in Europe.”
Fallon said the government also wanted to persuade voters not to turn to the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), which many lawmakers fear could take seats from the Conservatives at the election.
Cameron has vowed to win reforms of the European Union before holding an in-out referendum on EU membership in 2017, provided that he wins a general election next year.
But analysts say his chances of renegotiating Britain’s EU membership could be hurt by this week’s cabinet reshuffle and his choice of a relative unknown, Jonathan Hill, as Britain’s next EU commissioner.
Cameron was due to head to an EU summit in Brussels later Wednesday where he was expected to press for Hill, the former Conservative leader of the House of Lords or upper chamber of parliament, to be given a top economic portfolio.
Opinion polls have shown varying levels for support for Britain’s EU membership.
The latest YouGov poll released Tuesday shows that 41 percent of Britons would vote to remain in the EU and 38 percent to leave on the current terms, while 52 percent would vote to stay and 25 percent to leave if the terms were renegotiated.