Coffee House

The reshuffle responded to the lessons of the European elections

16 July 2014

12:17 PM

16 July 2014

12:17 PM

The talk before the reshuffle was all about the march of women into the cabinet, but the other story from yesterday’s developments is the positioning of Eurosceptic voices in the Cabinet. Rather than focusing on the demographic composition of the Cabinet, it’s worth considering the beliefs of those in key positions. In the run up to the election next year, and maybe a 2017 In/Out referendum, those who believe that fundamental reform of the EU is necessary and aren’t afraid to consider the alternative if it fails, will occupy key seats at the top table. No wonder Michael Fallon said ‘it’s certainly a Eurosceptic cabinet’ on the Today programme this morning.

The biggest part of this story is Philip Hammond’s move to the Foreign Office, which is likely to send shockwaves through Whitehall. The culture of the FCO has always been explicitly europhile, at odds with public sentiment. This has been reflected in processes such as the balance of competencies – an audit of the EU’s influence across government departments. The views of Eurosceptics have tended to be marginalized, while the prevailing FCO attitude of maintaining the EU status quo has been reinforced. But now the FCO is led by a Secretary of State who is on the record as saying he would vote to leave the EU unless substantial powers are returned. In his new role Hammond may be able to ensure the FCO reflects the priorities of the British electorate, priorities made clear in the recent European elections.

Michael Gove’s switch to Chief Whip is also a boost for Eurosceptics.  The former Education Secretary has made no secret that he is not afraid of leaving the EU and would vote to do so if our relationship is not reformed. He is right to argue for the need for a better deal for the UK from the EU, and in his new role of ‘Minister for Television’ he is perfectly placed to make this case on the airwaves. His views are also likely to factor into his responsibility for keeping Conservative backbenchers in line, many of whom are keen to see the Government go further and faster in changing our relationship with the EU.


Meanwhile the departure of Ken Clarke improves the chances of reforming our relationship with Brussels. Ken’s views on the EU are well known, and he has used his exit as a chance to fire off a few last parting shots. Clarke believes that the current terms of our relationship are good enough for the UK and was incapable of seeing the benefits of seeking something better, let alone giving people a say in a referendum. He was a roadblock to change whose exit will empower the campaign for EU reform, not weaken it.

Then there is the removal of Dominic Grieve QC as Attorney General, something that many in Westminster see as paving the way for a British Bill of Rights. As the Spectator has noted previously, Grieve has been a constant roadblock to Britain reducing the influence of the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile ministers like Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling, who have been frustrated by the ECHR and who are on record as being strong Eurosceptics, remain in their important posts.

The loss of ministerial office by anyone should not be celebrated – many of those who have lost their jobs have been superb ministers of the crown – but the view articulated by Business for Britain that reform is necessary for Britain to remain in the EU is now represented more prominently and more influentially in Government. With Lord Hill as Britain’s new EU commissioner, charged with pushing ahead with the reform agenda, this reshuffle has been good for those who want a change in our relationship with the EU. It appears the lessons of May’s European elections have been taken to heart by the Prime Minister. Now it’s time for Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg to respond.

Matthew Elliott is Chief Executive of Business for Britain

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Show comments
  • Sentinel

    “The culture of the FCO has always been explicitly europhile ”

    Some FCO eurosceptics:
    1. Roger Makins, later revising his opinion apparently because he never expected British industry to perform so poorly as it did in the 1960s.
    2. John Coulson: “no question of our entering any organisation of a supra-national character.”
    3. Gladwyn Jebb, UK’s ambassador in Paris.

  • John_Page

    Worthless article.

    1. How does the sacking of Owen Paterson fit the thesis?

    2. “Eurosceptic” can mean anything from sticking plaster to definitely want to leave.

  • Denis_Cooper

    So will Hammond oppose the plan to opt back into the EU Arrest Warrant?

    If he is such a eurosceptic, will he be prepared to have a row with May over that?

    • Conway

      I think if you look at Hammond’s voting record on the Bruges Group website, you’ll find he isn’t all that eurosceptic after all. Deeds, not words.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it all before. Hague was a Eurosceptic until he became a ‘pragmatist’ and became Wet Willy EUnuch (impotent on all matters Brussels). We’ve learnt through 40 years of bitter experience that you can’t trust the Tories over Europe. So the message is simple. PUT UP OR SHUT UP. No more posturing, no more prevaricating just recover our sovereignty. Every single bit of it!

    Until the Tories do they are about as credible as the assertion that Gordon Brown ‘saved the world’.

  • beenzrgud

    I wasn’t aware that Lord Hill had been passed by the European parliament, although I would certainly be glad to see him get the job.

    • dado_trunking

      Pssst! Don’t mention that name! We must not talk about him!

      Lord Hill is a great appointment – we all know what he stands for, he is
      a man of the people. He continues the line of great UK representatives
      such as Kinnock, Patten, Mandelson and Ashton.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …but is he a man of the sockpuppets, lad?

  • Gizzard Puke

    There’a as much chance of us leaving the EU as Cameron is likely to scrap the Yooman Rights Act or England winning a World Cup.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      And why would you want to scrap the Human Rights Act, never mind the football, you cretin?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …it doesn’t include your army of sockpuppets, does it?

  • Chingford Man

    When push comes to shove, the Tories will stay in the EU under any circumstances. I’m a bit cynical about Hammond: admitting he might vote to leave, just like his muttering about gay marriage, seems a bit of cost-free strategic career positioning.

    However, this is what really caught my eye:

    “With Lord Hill as Britain’s new EU commissioner, charged with pushing ahead with the reform agenda…”

    I suspect Elliott knows full well that no Commissioner would ever be permitted to advance his own country’s negotiating interests in this way. Why is he taking us for fools?

    • HookesLaw

      You are the one that is cynical. Leaving the EU and joining the EEA woiuld leave us no different to now. Lets hope so anyway because we do not want to lose inward investment or access to the single market.
      The Eurozone will come closer together and we will need negotiations over that. So it will happen and you can have your referendum. You are just upet the public will probably vote to stay in.

      • Smithersjones2013

        More lies upon lies……

      • Chingford Man

        “Leaving the EU and joining the EEA would leave us no different to now.”

        Hooky Babe, forgotten about border controls?

  • Machina22

    I like how commentators are forgetting that Hague was supposed to be a great Eurosceptic. Look what happened on his watch…

    Hammond will go native just like the rest of them, assuming he’s even truly Eurosceptic to start with. This change won’t make a blind bit of difference.

    • starfish

      There is a difference between being a foreign secretary in a nation that is never going to leave the EU and one in a nation that might
      Blair&Co were fully committe to the European project, Cameron used to be
      Maybe he has realised that being the only EU-sceptic party next May might be a way of overturning Labour’s baked-in majority

      • Smithersjones2013

        Except the Tories wont be the only Eurosceptic party now will they?

      • Conway

        Cameron still is. He’s applied a bit of window dressing to try to make voters think he’s really eurosceptic. The Tories, the “only EU-sceptic party”? You’re joking, aren’t you? Who took us into the EC, who signed all the treaties bar Lisbon? Answer the Conservatives.

    • Tim Baker

      So he had better things to do than being a Europhobic pub bore.

  • Tim Baker

    Thankfully Britain is becoming less eurosceptic as the old europhobe population is dying out.

    • Chingford Man


    • the viceroy’s gin

      …apparently you’re not following the public polling on the matter.

  • telemachus

    Stop this Eurosceptic nonsense
    Staying in the European Union is worth between 4-5% of UK annual output and “overwhelmingly” best for business, according to the CBI.

    Ahead of its national conference, the CBI said research found EU
    membership is worth £62-78bn to the UK.

    • dado_trunking

      Stop talking about money and start talking about values.

      • telemachus

        I can talk values
        Values as belief in peace guaranteed by the EU
        Values like the binding of 28 countries in an egalitarian project sharing resources from rich Germany to poor Bulgaria
        Values like working directives that prevent exploitation of 500 million people across Europe
        Values like Universal Justice and nowhere to hide for criminals in relation to National borders

        • starfish

          Values as belief in peace guaranteed by the EU
          The EU does not ‘gurantee peace’

          Values like the binding of 28 countries in an egalitarian project sharing resources from rich Germany to poor Bulgaria
          It is clearly not egalitarian

          Values like working directives that prevent exploitation of 500 million people across Europe
          Local labour lawa prevented this in most european states anyway

          Values like Universal Justice and nowhere to hide for criminals in relation to National borders
          Already existed


          • telemachus

            Do you really think any of this would be in place without the EU project
            Of course it is not egalitarian yet
            But getting there
            Have faith

            • starfish

              You said it was egalitarian – now it isn’t
              Want to revise anything else you wrote?

            • girondas2

              “Of course it is not egalitarian yet
              But getting there
              Have faith”

              The EU is destroying the democratic values of the countries of Europe, it is destroying their economies and it is destroying their very social fabric and is about as egalitarian as pre-revolutionary France – it is the Ancien Regime. of the modern world.

              As for faith – when I become so senile that I need faith I’ll join a church.

        • Mark


          Guaranteeing peace. That would be NATO then. Fiscal
          Union on the other hand has caused poverty and instability across
          Southern Europe. Rioting and violence have followed.

          The German
          electorate has been notably reluctant to accept the fiscal transfers
          from rich to poor implicit in fiscal union. Hence the aforementioned
          poverty in Southern Europe.

          Working directives made by the
          unelected to impose and entrench transnational socialism. No thanks.
          Whatever needs doing to prevent exploitation is the function of national

          Universal Justice? Yup – Abu Hamza was very well served.

          I notice that you didn’t include democracy in your list of values. It’s proved a but inconvenient to the project, hasn’t it?

          • telemachus

            The Germans have already shown their readiness to bankroll the troubled economies of Southern Europe

            • DWWolds

              According to an article in Der Spiegel Germany has benefited to the tune of more than 40 billion euros from the single currency.

        • Chingford Man

          A shame there’s no value to you.

        • david croft

          Values like interfering in the Ukraine, causing a civil war. There is the possibility that the EU could get involved in some sort of military action if it gets its own army.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …and sockpuppets… start talking about all your sockpuppets.

    • starfish

      Special pleading

    • girondas2

      “Ahead of its national conference, the CBI said research found EU
      membership is worth £62-78bn to the UK.”
      I think you’ll find they mean “worth £62-78bn to those companies that are members of the CBI”
      There was a time, long ago, when the Labour Party understood that the interests of the CBI are not the same as the interests of the workers that the party was elected to represent. I wonder what happened to that party – any ideas telemachus?

      • HookesLaw

        What it said is that membership was worth 4 – 5% of UK annual output.

    • DWWolds

      And that same CBI wanted us to join the euro.