Every cabinet minister is a Eurosceptic, says Michael Fallon

House Of Commons

David Cameron’s whole cabinet is now Eurosceptic so cannot be purged of ministers who are not on his side of the EU referendum argument, Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has claimed.

The senior Conservative insisted the cabinet was united in unhappiness about Britain’s membership of the EU as it stands, following reports that Cameron was planning to demote some of his most Eurosceptic colleagues.

Those could include John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, Chris Grayling, the leader of the Commons, and Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary.

The prime minister has so far not decided whether he will give cabinet ministers permission to campaign on either side of the EU referendum, which must take place before the end of 2017. He publicly insists he has not ruled out backing a Brexit himself.

It is widely understood he is planning to campaign for the UK to stay in Europe after negotiating changes with Brussels.

Amid public concern about the European migrant crisis, there is growing unease within Downing Street about the number of Tory MPs who may back the out campaign and the chance of the UK voting to leave.

Cameron is seeking changes to the UK’s relations with the EU in four areas but the issue of restricting benefits for migrants is encountering resistance in Brussels.

Asked about the chances that Cameron may try to sideline Eurosceptics from his top team, Fallon insisted the cabinet was all on the same page and emphasised the government was still hoping to address problems with unlimited “movement of peoples”.

“I think we’re all eurosceptics now. I don’t see any Eurofanatics around the cabinet table,” he told the BBC1’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

“We are all part of the reform commitment we made in the manifesto to get a better deal out of the EU and I think David Cameron was pretty prescient to make the movement of peoples and the claiming of benefits one of the key areas for reform.

“I do think other European leaders are now beginning to realise that the originally European construct that anybody can move anywhere, that we were very wise to opt out of the Schengen arrangements and that we are right to pursue what is in our best national interest.”

Last week, Cameron bowed to pressure from other EU governments and pledged to put his shopping list of demands for his in/out referendum on paper within weeks after previously declining to do so.

The prime minister will write a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, before the end of November detailing the changes he hopes to obtain in the EU.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason, for theguardian.com on Sunday 18th October 2015 13.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010