David Cameron has been warned that he must allow anti-EU ministers to campaign to leave the bloc without fear of being forced to resign. The demand came on Sunday from the pro-EU former Chancellor Ken Clarke and anti-EU former Welsh Secretary John Redwood.
Redwood told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News: “Of course they should be free to campaign as they see fit and they will be free to campaign as they see fit. The only issue is whether they are asked to leave their government positions before they do it or not.”
He continued: “This is so fundamental. What is the point of being a minister if you are charged, for example, with getting immigration down but the European Union won’t let you do it.
“If you are faced with that situation the only honest thing to do is to campaign for a change in the arrangement or to campaign for out.”
Mr Redwood, once again, reaffirmed his opposition to Britain’s membership of the European Union. He said: “I don’t wish to stay in the current European Union… I could not conceivably campaign to stay in the current EU or anything like it.”
Ken Clarke appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics programme warning that ministers like Iain Duncan Smith would never campaign to stay in the EU. He said: “It is up to David how he wants to run his Cabinet. I would advise him to let Cabinet ministers campaign on both sides because Iain Duncan Smith and I are not going to be on the same side.
“Iain Duncan Smith and I have both actually been committed to party unity overall. We differ on Europe. The referendum is meant to be a way of letting us resolve that in a civilised way.
“I would let the Eurosceptics have a kind of free exercise in campaigning in the referendum.” He also dismissed the idea of repatriating powers to the UK from the EU.
Clarke said: “Most of the people demanding the repatriation of powers can’t think of any or want to repatriate powers that would lead, for example, to an inability to tackle international crime.”
Under the doctrine of collective responsibility all ministers are required to defend and accept responsibility for government policy. If they want to oppose government policy they have to resign their ministerial posts. The Prime Minister can however free them from the requirement, should he choose to do so.