The Commons leader, a prominent Eurosceptic, warned that Brussels was heading towards closer union between member states, and said this was “a path that the UK will not and should not follow”.
While backing David Cameron’s bid to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, Grayling has now served notice that he is planning to campaign for Britain to leave the union during the upcoming referendum.
His news, which comes after Cameron was forced to announce last week that ministers will be given free rein to campaign on either side in the EU referendum following manoeuvres by hardline Eurosceptic cabinet ministers, also goes against the prime minister’s hopes that colleagues would hold their tongues for a little longer.
“I am someone who believes that simply staying in the EU with our current terms of membership unchanged would be disastrous for Britain,” Grayling wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph, in an intervention which will also be widely seen an attempt to position himself as the leading cabinet minister on the referendum side which will advocate for a so-called “Brexit”.
Grayling, who is likely to find himself lining up alongside cabinet colleagues Theresa Villiers and Iain Duncan Smith in campaigning to leave the EU, added that the UK had reached “a crucial crossroads”.
“The crisis in the eurozone and the migration challenge have led to calls for still more integration and a move towards much greater political union,” he wrote. “It is a path that the UK will not and should not follow.”
Britain could not be left in a position where it has no ability to defend its national interest or “simply accept endless migration from across Europe with no ability to slow or stop the resulting growth in our population”, Grayling added, who said that most people at Westminster knew he held strong Eurosceptic views.
Grayling is understood to have argued recently in a meeting in Downing Street that the referendum is a matter of such vital importance that voters should hear both sides of the argument from ministers.
His latest comments came after the former foreign secretary and one-time Tory leader, William Hague, made an intervention that put him starkly at odds with the position of other senior Tories.
Despite having been regarded for many years as on the sceptical wing of his party, Hague said in an interview with ITV News that it was very unlikely he would be recommending a withdrawal from the EU.
Warning that a vote for withdrawal could result in the “disintegration” of the UK as a result of a differing vote by Scotland, Hague also wondered if it was the right thing to leave the EU at a time of what he described as great economic, security and other challenges for the west.
“If what then happened was the EU became a lot weaker and the UK disintegrated, then what would we have achieved by leaving the EU?” asked Hague, who retired from the Commons at the last election.
“There is a risk of that. There will be another referendum in Scotland and it would come quicker if we left the EU and Scottish nationalists would say, if you want to stay in the EU in Scotland, the way to do that is leave the United Kingdom.”
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