Tories want to pull out of EU, says Blair

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair clashed angrily with Iain Duncan Smith yesterday as he accused the Conservative Party of supporting Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

The Tories said the Prime Minister had deliberately misrepresented their policy after he claimed that the Opposition backed the idea of "associate membership". He said that would be the result of proposals by the Eurosceptic Tory MP David Heathcoat-Amory, a member of the convention that drew up a new EU blueprint.

During a Commons statement on last week's EU summit in Greece, Mr Blair said Mr Heathcoat-Amory's alternative draft treaty would mean redrawing the terms of Britain's EU membership. This policy, which he claimed was endorsed by the Tory front bench, would be "wholly inconsistent with Britain's present membership".

Rejecting calls for a referendum, he told Mr Duncan Smith: "That is the true dividing line. The reason that you want a referendum is so that you can say 'no', so that you can paralyse the EU, so that you can get out." Mr Duncan Smith told MPs: "The Conservative Party does not want Britain to leave the EU. We want to make it work."

He accused Mr Blair of trying to hide his failures at the EU summit by setting up a "false debate" about whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU. It was the Prime Minister, he said, who had called on the EU to become a "superpower".