A SENIOR Conservative Cabinet minister has said that he would not “shed a tear” if Britain votes to leave the European Union.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne, said that the “most important thing” was for voters to be given a choice on the issue.
Mr Javid has previously said that British people should not be frightened of cutting ties with Brussels, prompting speculation that he may be lining himself up as a possible candidate of the eurosceptic right in a future leadership election.
But he told a Westminster lunch that he was “not making any plans to lead any party”.
Answering questions from reporters, Mr Javid was asked if he would shed a tear if voters opted for “Brexit” in 2017.
The Culture Secretary said: “The most important thing is that the British people are given a choice. I’m pleased that the Conservatives are absolutely committed to that, and that is what will happen if we win the election.
“Would I shed a tear? No.”
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: “We already know that the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, would contemplate a British exit. Now the Culture Secretary has added his name to the list of Tory politicians who would be willing to put jobs and investment at risk by pulling Britain out of Europe.
“Britain leaving Europe would present the biggest threat to British national prosperity in a generation. Every nod and wink to those who want to leave sends a message to potential investors in our country that Britain is not open for business.
“As Labour we understand that Europe is both a strategic, as well as an economic asset for Britain.”
Mr Javid went on to say that new safeguards requiring police to obtain authorisation from a judge before accessing journalists’ phone records should be put in place before the General Election in May.
The protection was recommended by a report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner Sir Anthony May, which Home Secretary Theresa May accepted in full on Wednesday.
Mr Javid said he was “shocked” by the extent of official snooping on journalists revealed by Sir Anthony’s report.
He said there was “no excuse” for the authorities using powers created to tackle terrorism as a tool to prevent scrutiny by reporters.