DAVID Cameron has warned his ministers that they face the sack if they do not back his line in the referendum on the UK’s future in the European Union.
Kicking off the Tory conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister said in a broadcast interview that ministers will be bound by “collective responsibility” on the referendum despite some senior figures including Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Justice Secretary Michael Gove being prominent eurosceptics.
However, Mr Cameron admitted that he might not campaign to keep the UK in the EU if he cannot get a good enough deal on renegotiating Britain’s membership terms.
“I’ve always said if I don’t get what I want I will rule nothing out,” he said on BBC’s Marr show.
But he said he was “confident” that “we will get what we want.”
Mr Cameron’s comments came amid rumblings of anger over the EU at the conference.
The influential Bow Group came out for a Brexit as reports came out of major Tory donors preparing to back a Conservative out of Europe campaign.
Last night the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Institute of Economic Affairs, [anti-EU] Business for Britain and the Heritage Foundation held a drinks reception as a focus of the eurosceptic movement in the Tories.
Mr Cameron expressed frustration with the Tory eurosceptic MPs on his backbenches and former Chancellor Lord Lawson who are preparing to campaign for a Brexit.
“There is nothing I am going to bring back that will satisfy these people,” he said.
He also made it clear access to benefits for EU citizens was a red line issue.
He said: “You shouldn’t be able to come and work here and get British levels of child benefits.
“These are things I’m going to fix.”
Later in his conference speech, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond tried to calm fears that the negotiations would only be skin deep and not deliver significant changes to Britain’s relationship with Europe.
He said: “Let’s be quite clear: The EU is seriously in need of reform, it’s too big, too bloated and too bureaucratic, it interferes too much in our daily lives, it has been on the wrong track for decades and it needs to change and I’m clear about the change we want to see.”
He went on: “We say Yes to a Europe that champions and extends the single market, a multi-currency Europe of pounds, krone and Forints as well as Euros, an outward-looking Europe, relentless in its pursuit of trade with the wider world, a Europe focussed on growth, and jobs and wealth creation, a Europe where powers flow back from Brussels, rather than to it.”
But he said there was “an emphatic no” to closer union, the euro, a European army and abuse of the welfare system.