Any progress made at the G7 summit in Germany was overshadowed by Prime Minister David Cameron’s insistence yesterday that his comments on the forthcoming in/out referendum on Britain’s European Union membership had been “misinterpreted”.
Over the weekend, Cameron was asked if he would allow government ministers a so-called “free vote” in the in/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership. In response, the Prime Minister indicated he would sack ministers who campaigned to leave the EU, telling reporters: “I’ve been very clear, which is I’ve said that if you want to be part of the government, you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation to have a referendum, and that will lead to a successful outcome.”
When a reporter followed up, asking if “anyone in government who opposes… will have to resign”, Cameron replied: “Everyone in government has signed up to the programme set out in the Conservative manifesto.”
But yesterday, at a press conference in Germany following the G7 meetings, the Prime Minister appeared to make an abrupt u-turn, blaming reporters for “mis-interpreting” his comments and insisting that he had not yet “made up his mind”and would “rule nothing out” about ministers’ responsibilities in the in/out vote.
Cameron said he had been speaking only about the ongoing renegotiation period, not the referendum itself. “I was clearly referring to the process of renegotiation,” he said, adding: “I have always said what I want is an outcome for Britain that keeps us in a reformed EU.”
“But I have also said that we don’t know the outcome of these negotiations, which is why I have always said I rule nothing out,” Cameron added.
The Prime Minister has faced increased pressure in recent days from his eurosceptic backbenchers, who have already begun preparing for an “out” campaign. On Sunday, Tory MP Steve Baker said that at least 50 MPs had signed up to his pro-Brexit Conservatives for Britain group.