Exclusive: Tory rebels form new Eurosceptic group

 

Conservative MPs have defied David Cameron by forming a new Eurosceptic group to keep up the pressure on him to redefine Britain's relationship with the European Union.

In a provocative act, they are calling themselves the "81 Group" – a reference to the 81 Tories who rebelled last week by demanding a referendum on Europe. While Mr Cameron had hoped that the biggest backbench revolt of his premiership was a one-off, the sceptics are warning that it was only a start and are determined to maintain the momentum.

Their key demand will be for Mr Cameron to start to claw back some powers from Brussels – and not to shelve the issue until after the next general election in the face of Liberal Democrat opposition.

Mark Pritchard, one of those involved in the new group, told The Independent: "I hope the Government does not think it can kick the repatriation of powers into the elephant grass. The scale of last week's support for a more robust Euroscepticism shows that any long grass will be mowed down."

The group held its first meeting yesterday, when it agreed to be a "bottom up" organisation. It is confident of attracting support of centre-left as well as traditionalist Tory MPs. Its numbers could exceed 100 since some Tories are believed to regret not joining last week's rebellion. The group describes itself as the "new face of Conservative Euroscepticism" – and "not the Tory right".

Mr Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs and MP for The Wrekin, said: "It is not a formal grouping, a faction or a party within a party but an informal caucus of like-minded MPs from both the left and right of the party who want to put the country first."

The new organisation may not stage a rebellion next week when the Commons debates the EU budget for 2014-2020 because ministers are opposing the European Commission's plans to boost spending by 5 per cent.

It is also trying to build bridges with the Liberal Democrats to try to persuade Nick Clegg to back Mr Cameron's attempt to grab back some powers on employment laws and fisheries policy.

However, the creation of the new group will dismay Cameron allies. The Prime Minister regards calls for a referendum as a distraction from the immediate task of resolving the crisis in the eurozone. But passions are running high on the Tory back benches.

The Greek government's surprise decision to call a referendum on the bailout has only fuelled the Tory demands for the British public to be given a say. Julian Lewis, MP, said: "If the Greeks can have a referendum on Europe, why can't we?" Nadine Dorries, Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said the setting up of the 81 Group was a sign that more rebellions are on the cards. "What happened last Monday night was historic in terms of parliamentary tradition and is worthy of being honoured in the same way as the 1922 [Committee]," she said.

Some of those involved in the new group do not favour Britain's withdrawal from the EU but want to downgrade the relationship to one based on free trade.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering