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Ministers decide ... for and against Brexit Reuters

Now make EU mind up: Cameron U-turn as he gives Cabinet free choice on Brexit

WT24 Desk

PRESSURE is mounting for the Brexit ditherers to nail their colours to the mast on the In-Out EU vote, The Sun reports.  David Cameron yesterday gave the green light for ministers to take different sides in the referendum, as The Sun predicted last month. It paves the way for leading Tories like Theresa May and Boris Johnson to lead the “Out” campaign as they jockey to succeed the PM as leader.

 Eurosceptics including Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Employment Minister Priti Patel will be urged to spell out how they plan to vote.The PM made his decision to avoid damaging Cabinet resignations.The Sun understands it was taken after a showdown meeting earlier this week with Commons Leader Chris Grayling who demanded “certainty” following weeks of speculation over whether Ministers would be allowed to back a Brexit.

Mr Grayling, a prominent Eurosceptic, is thought to have been ready to resign over the matter, although sources insisted he did not threaten to quit or issue an ultimatum. Mr Cameron used a Commons statement to declare his suspension of collective Cabinet responsibility, meaning ministers have to resign if they do not toe the Government line. It will kick in after his EU renegotiation is complete, which he hopes will be next month.

He intends to secure reforms and then campaign for Britain to stay in the EU but admitted not all his colleagues felt the same way.  He said: “There will be a clear Government position, but it will be open to individual ministers to take a different personal position while remaining part of the Government.”  Mr Cameron, who said he would remain PM whatever the result, said the public would decide in the poll which could come by June.

He said it was never his aim to “strong-arm” ministers into backing a position they disagreed with.  His decision echoes the choice made by Labour ex-PM Harold Wilson for the 1975 referendum.  Out campaigners Lord Lawson and MP David Davis called the PM’s move “sensible”.

Vote Leave said it hoped the initiative would allow Ministers to campaign openly.  Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he had been in touch with Tory MPs about the Brexit and could unveil a new group later this week.

CHANCELLOR GEORGE OSBORNE leads a posse of ministers backing the Prime Minister.

He played a key role in the renegotiations and needs to be on the winning side to keep his own leadership hopes alive.

Former Eurosceptic PHILIP HAMMOND has said it would be “defeatist” for us to leave, similarly MICHAEL FALLON is a trusted Cameron lieutenant.  JEREMY HUNT is another loyal to the PM who will toe the line.  NICKY MORGAN, AMBER RUDD, PATRICK McLOUGHLIN and LIZ TRUSS are all behind the PM.  But Welsh Secretary STEPHEN CRABB will only vote to stay in if renegotiation demands are met. He may switch if talks fail.
CHRIS GRAYLING is now free to chase his dream of leading Britain out and was ready to resign if the PM insisted on loyalty.  Life-long Eurosceptic IAIN DUNCAN SMITH will also be delighted with the PM’s decision.  The Work and Pensions Secretary pushed for ministers to be able to campaign for Brexit.

Ex-MEP THERESA VILLIERS also thinks Britain would be better going it alone and asked Cameron some tough questions about the free vote in Cabinet.  JOHN WHITTINGDALE, the Culture Secretary, is officially undecided. But as a former Maastricht rebel under John Major it is hard to see him campaigning to stay in.

Theresa tops Tory poll  THERESA May has shot to the top of a list of Tories favoured to replace David Cameron amid rumours she will campaign for a “Brexit”. A poll of Tory Party members yesterday revealed the Home Secretary was first choice, with 20 per cent support, to be the next leader when the PM quits.

Eurosceptic Liam Fox, on 19 per cent, has overtaken Boris Johnson and George Osborne to go second.  Paul Goodman, of Tory site ConHome, said Mrs May’s lead was due to her “flirting incorrigibly” with the idea of leaving the EU.

— ZAC Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for London Mayor, said yesterday he is ready to back a Brexit unless Mr Cameron delivers “radical” reform of the EU.

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