One of David Cameron’s most senior former Cabinet ministers has warned that those who wish to leave the European Union (EU) are not “idiots” and the time has come for the country’s leader to stop touring Europe with a “political begging bowl”.
Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox said he will vote for the UK to leave the EU in the future referendum and he would be happy to share a platform with Ukip leader Nigel Farage in that cause.
In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Conservative MP outlined the reasons why. He said:
“For me, two things had to happen to want to stay in the European Union. One was a fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with the European Union but more importantly a change in direction for the EU itself, away from the concept of ever closer union and towards a much more independence and looser association of sovereign states, and that’s clearly not going to happen.”
When asked if David Cameron would see his comments as a “stab in the back” as he attempts to renegotiate Britain’s relationship in the EU, Dr Fox said:
“It’s very clear from the discussions that are going on in Europe, the other European leaders are making it very clear that they intend to move towards an ever closer union and I think that’s against Britain’s national interest.”
Dr Fox also said that Cabinet ministers should be allowed to campaign to leave without losing their jobs, arguing that it was “effectively a matter of conscience”.
“The more that we are able to give freedom to colleagues and the more we treat one another’s views with respect and tolerance, the easier it will be for us to come together after the referendum to continue to run the country.”
Dr Fox warned Mr. Cameron that treating Eurosceptics like “idiots” would have hazourdous effect on his campaign – and his role as prime minister. He said:
“Treating the views of others with respect will be key to our ability to govern effectively for the rest of the decade.
“Those who wish to remain in the EU are not ‘unpatriotic’ and those who wish to leave are not ‘idiots’.”
Writing in the Sunday Times, Dr Fox said he wanted an end to the scene of a mendicant British prime minister being rebuffed by every leader on the Continent. He said:
”The fact that a British prime minister has been effectively forced to take the political begging bowl around European capitals in order to make the laws that he believes necessary for Britain is the best possible demonstration of the problem.
“It is time for us to recover our birthright. That is why I’ll be campaigning to leave.”
As for the future of the Brexit camapign, Dr Fox feels the issue is bigger than individual personalities. He said pro-Brexit camps needed to “speak with a much greater, much more unified voice than they have had up to this point” and that he would “definitely” share a platform with Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
“It has to become a question of the issue and not a question of personalities”, he added.
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