Mark was quoted in today’s Telegraph about whether Ministers should openly advocate our leaving the EU before the referendum. That article can be found here and you can read Mark’s full position on this below.
“We went into the last election seven months ago on a specific pledge to renegotiate our EU membership, and then to let the people decide via an in/out referendum on whether to remain a member of the club under a reformed deal. That is something all ministers should continue to stand behind.
I have the greatest respect for all those in my Party who believe we should leave the EU (and indeed I was one of the 81 so-called rebels who voted against a three-line whip and in favour of a referendum in November 2011), but clearly such a position is incompatible with holding a ministerial office in advance of the referendum.
What I cannot accept is individual ministers believing they should publicly have a free rein or that they can, in an off-the-record way, spend the next few months undermining the prime minister’s package of renegotiation. That is quite wrong.
In 1975 we had an in/out referendum: should we stay in the EEC or not? Since the Bloomberg speech at the beginning of 2013 onwards, it has been very clear that the UK has been on a glide-path towards a renegotiation for a reformed European Union and then a referendum. That was the referendum manifesto pledge that all Conservatives stood behind in the run-up to May of this year. It is the basis on which every member of the government has been elected.
It is entirely respectable for Tory MPs to conclude at the end of this renegotiation process that Britain should leave the EU. But clearly anyone who does that must leave the government. Otherwise, they are putting the Prime Minister in the position of trying to persuade over 40 million Britons of his case without being able to secure unity among the 22 members of his cabinet table. Ministers who take the view that we should leave the EU – and it is a perfectly respectable view (albeit one I do not share) – must take it from the backbenches.”