Pressure increases over EU referendum vote

Pressure was mounting on Prime Minister David Cameron today to give Tory MPs a free vote in Monday's Commons debate on an EU referendum, when he faces the likelihood of the biggest rebellion of his 18 months in power.

At least 61 Conservative MPs have now signed a motion calling for a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU, leave or renegotiate its membership, and one prominent backbencher predicted the total number of rebels could top 85.



Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, called on the PM to implement a non-binding single-line whip in Monday's vote, which would allow MPs to back the motion without facing disciplinary action.



Downing Street made clear this morning that Mr Cameron expects all Conservative MPs to oppose not only the referendum motion - triggered by a petition of more than 100,000 public signatures - but also two amendments tabled in the hope of finding compromise.



Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice, who as Mr Cameron's former press secretary is seen as being close to Downing Street, is proposing that a referendum should be held only after the Government has completed the process of renegotiating the terms of UK membership with the EU.



And Watford MP Richard Harrington has tabled an amendment which backs the Government's commitment to hold a public vote on any future transfers of power to Brussels, and calls on ministers to negotiate the return of some powers now.



Speculation that Downing Street would give Tory eurosceptics the green light to back the Eustice amendment in the hope of minimising the size of any rebellion on Monday was scotched by Mr Cameron's official spokesman today.



"We do not think either of these amendments are in line with Government policy," said the spokesman. "We have a policy set down in the coalition agreement and we expect people to support that policy."



Mr Pritchard warned the PM that he could be defied by more than a quarter of his 306 MPs if he attempts to impose a three-line whip, and urged him to take a more relaxed approach.



"From discussions I have held over the last 24 hours, if the amendments to the EU motion are not selected by Mr Speaker, the number of Conservative backbench MPs backing the main referendum motion could rise to above 85 MPs," said Mr Pritchard. "The Government should think again and allow a one-line whip."



Among those planning to defy the whip is Stewart Jackson, the parliamentary aide to Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson.



Mr Paterson today said he had not heard from his parliamentary private secretary since Mr Jackson announced his willingness to forfeit his unpaid Government job by joining the rebels.



One of the leading advocates of a referendum, Bernard Jenkin, said that the proposed amendments should be rejected because they would mean Parliament was not debating the issue to which petitioners put their signatures.



"There is a great danger that Parliament will emerge from this looking very out of touch if the House is not to debate the original motion, or at least something which reflects its spirit," Mr Jenkin warned in an open letter to Mr Eustice.



Independent MEP Nikki Sinclaire, who gathered the original petition, branded attempts to whip MPs on the issue undemocratic.



Announcing that she had gathered a further 20,000 signatures to hand to Mr Cameron on Monday, Ms Sinclaire said: "We've forced them to have the debate, but they have imposed whips. This shows complete contempt for the people who gave them their positions.



"They may think this will just fizzle away, but I will organise another petition and another and another until the British people get the right to choose who governs them... This is no longer about membership of the undemocratic EU. It is about whether democracy still functions in the UK."



Meanwhile, there were signs of dissent on the Labour side over leader Ed Miliband's order to vote against the referendum.



Former Labour whip Graham Stringer - who has signed the motion and intends to vote in favour of a referendum - told the BBC: "I think it is a mistake of all three party leaders when the public are clearly aching for a say on Europe to say, no, you can't have it."



And another signatory, former minister Kate Hoey, said: "This is an opportunity to stand up for the 75% of voters - including millions of Labour voters - who are demanding a referendum.



"People will be disappointed that Labour is taking the same line as the establishment Government parties in not allowing a vote, but this issue will keep returning until the public's voice is heard."

PA

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
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’
boksUnlike '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

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
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor