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What was said at the EU referendum Cabinet

20 February 2016

2:45 PM

20 February 2016

2:45 PM

At Cabinet this morning, every minister spoke in strict order of Cabinet seniority. This meant that Michael Gove was the first person to make the case for Out. I’m told that his argument to Cabinet was essentially the same as the hugely powerful statement he put out afterwards, which you can read in full here.

The theme of the Cabinet discussion was, broadly, the trade-off between sovereignty and access to the free market. According to one of those present, where you fell on that question determined your position in the debate.


One IN supporting Cabinet minister tells me that Oliver Letwin was the most persuasive speaker for that side of the argument. Letwin, who has been a Eurosceptic for decades, said that he was backing the deal because the carve-out from ever closer union resolved the conundrum of how do you have access to the market without being part of the political project.

I hear that Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary, argued for IN on the grounds that the Tories have a golden chance to reform Britain over the next few years and that they didn’t want to instead spend that time negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Though, as Gove does in his statement, you could make the argument that leaving the EU is actually a part of the job of reforming the country and how it works.

The Chief Whip Mark Harper spoke last, praising the respectful nature of the discussion and emphasising the need for this collegiality to be maintained during the campaign.

For today, the Tory peace appears to be holding. In Ministers are full of respect for how their Out counterparts have conducted themselves today. Whether this mood can survive the campaigner, remains to be seen.

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