70% of Tories 'want to quit EU'


Seven out of 10 Conservative members would vote to leave the European Union and eight out of 10 want the party to promise an in/out referendum in its manifesto at the next general election, according to a poll released today.

The Channel 4 News survey found that more than one-third of Tories (36 per cent) believe Britain will be outside the EU in 10 years time, while 38 per cent said the UK would remain a member but on renegotiated terms, while just 26 per cent expect the relationship to remain the same.

The poll, which comes amid increasingly vocal calls for a referendum from some backbench MPs, will intensify pressure on the party's leadership, who remain committed to British membership.

Some 79 Tory backbenchers defied David Cameron to vote for an in/out referendum in October last year, in the largest rebellion of this Parliament so far.

The poll of more than 1,600 Conservative Party members found that 83 per cent wanted a commitment to an in/out referendum in the manifesto, compared to 17 per cent who wanted a commitment to renegotiate the UK's terms of membership but no explicit promise to put the question of continued membership to the vote.

Of those who thought the party should promise a referendum, around half (41 per cent, compared to 42 per cent) said that the Conservatives should pledge to renegotiate the terms of the UK's membership first and then put the results to a nationwide poll.

Supporters of this option hope that the prospect of the UK leaving the EU would encourage Brussels negotiators to agree to the return of many powers to Westminster.

Asked how they would vote if there was an in/out referendum tomorrow, 70 per cent of the Tory members questioned said they would vote to leave the EU, against just 23 per cent who want to stay.

Presented with a range of options for the future of Britain's relations with the EU, 54 per cent said they would like the UK to leave altogether and negotiate a separate trade agreement, 34 per cent that it should remain a full member but on "substantially renegotiated" terms, 8 per cent that it should remain a full member but reject further integration and 4 per cent that it should participate in further integration.

:: ConservativeHome surveyed 1,604 Conservative Party members between May 26 and 28.