David Cameron’s brief honeymoon after his stunning election victory ended as Eurosceptic Conservative MPs demanded that he win major concessions when he renegotiates the terms of Britain’s EU membership.
The Europhobes admit the Prime Minister’s unexpected triumph has strengthened his position in the party, and insist there will be no repeat of the rebellions over Europe which destabilised John Major’s government in the 1990s.
However, they are already raising the bar high on a new EU deal and warning that they will campaign to leave the 28-nation bloc in the 2017 referendum if he secures only cosmetic changes.
One Eurosceptic MP said: “He has won a breathing space and he must be allowed to get on with it [the EU talks]. But we have also won new muscle because he will need our votes in the Commons.” Mr Cameron could usually ignore his hardline critics under the Coalition because the Liberal Democrats gave him an overall majority of more than 70. But with his majority down to 12, a rebellion by a small number of Tories could defeat him.
In his first interview since Thursday’s election, Mr Cameron told Channel 4 News: “The first thing is to get the renegotiation going. We will be doing that soon. I've already made calls to European leaders. Then the referendum. I'm confident we're going to get the right result."
But Peter Bone, a Tory Eurosceptic, said: “I think he'll go to Europe, I think he'll negotiate very well, but I think he'll fail to get the British people want, not because of his efforts, but because [of] the European bureaucrats. They live on a different planet. I'll campaign to stay out of the European superstate. We'll see what the British people decide.”
David Davis, a Eurosceptic who was a Government whip during the Major era, believed there would not be a repeat of the revolts in the 1990s. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We have done it before and we know what it feels like… people have got the option of talking to him [Mr Cameron] more than before. And if they don't like the outcome they can actually campaign against it in the referendum.”
However, Mr Davis said he wanted to see Britain win a special opt-out if an EU measure affected the national interest, saying that might persuade him to vote to stay in the Union. “That, for me, is the acid test, it's not the only one, I grant you, but it's the central one,” he said.
But there would be little chance of Mr Cameron winning such special treatment. Brussels officials say other member states would make similar demands, causing gridlock inside the EU.
On 11 May the Prime Minister will complete the line-up of his first all-Tory Cabinet. On 10 May he announced that Iain Duncan Smith will remain as Work and Pensions Secretary and that Baroness (Tina) Stowell of Beeston will stay as Leader of the Lords and will be given full Cabinet status, which she did not enjoy under the Coalition because there were five Lib Dem Cabinet ministers. Six out of the eight posts already announced have seen ministers keep the same job.
Mr Cameron will tell the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs at Westminster on 11 May: “We will renew our relationship with Europe, ensuring we get a better deal for the British people – culminating in an in/out referendum.”
He will say: “We are the party of one nation – and that is how we will govern. After the great Labour recession – so much of the last five years was about repair and recovery. It fell to us to put the economy on the right track and to get Britain back to work….The next five years will be all about renewal. It will be our task to renew a sense of fairness in our society – where those who work hard and do the right thing are able to get on. We will make sure our economic recovery reaches all parts of our country.”
New cabinet: what we know so far
In keeping with the very limited nature of the reshuffle so far, it has been announced that Nicky Morgan will continue as Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, while Baroness Tina Stowell will stay as Leader of the House of Lords.
Late on Saturday evening it emerged that Michael Gove would be moved to the Department of Justice from his previous role as Chief Whip. Gove had held the latter role for less than a year after being removed from the post of Secretary of State for Education last July.
He will be replaced by Mark Harper, formerly a minister of state at Work and Pensions and the immigration minister at the Home Office, while outgoing Justice Secretary Chris Grayling becomes Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, the post vacated by William Hague, who has stood down as an MP at the election.
David Cameron began announcing his new Cabinet via Twitter on Friday afternoon, within hours of his thumping election win being confirmed.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
There has been no change at the great departments of state: George Osborne remains Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister has also made Osborne his official number two by naming him First Secretary of State.
Also announced on Friday, Theresa May will remain Home Secretary, Philip Hammond will stay on as Foreign Secretary, and Cameron is also keeping Michael Fallon as Secretary of State for Defence.
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