Tory Eurosceptics come out of the shadows in force to wrest EU debate away from David Cameron

 

Whether they win or lose tomorrow’s attempt at forcing the referendum on Europe into the heart of the Queen’s Speech, the Conservative dissidents who have engineered what one MP admitted was “constitutional symbolic chaos” believe they have already succeeded in wresting control of the EU debate away from David Cameron.

While the Prime Minister was in Washington taking tea in the Oval Office with President Obama, a series of private meetings were being held in Westminster among Tory Eurosceptics to discuss what happens next. The mood inside some of the rooms is said to have been remarkably upbeat.

The recent interventions by Lord Lawson, Michael Portillo, Phillip Hammond and Chris Grayling have – according to a core of the dissidents – given the party’s anti-EU wing two elements it lacked in previous outings: “intellectual respectability” allied to a recognised “political profitability” in openly challenging the EU merits. Euroscepticism hiding in the shadows of Tory policy appear to be over.

Key members of Mr Cameron’s Cabinet and a troop of ambitious ministers are said to be contemplating cashing in on the “profitability” of questioning remaining inside the EU club, regardless of No 10’s official stance that any debate is premature until the outcome of future negotiations is known. Lord Lawson described such negotiations as “inconsequential”. Backbench rebels want this criticism to become more brutal between now and the next general election. 

So why the change? What happened to the discontented “bastards” that undermined the authority of John Major’s administration?  What changed is the QED at the end of current Eurosceptic calculations. It simply reads: Ukip. The “profitability” in admitting that the Ukip protest votes is three Tories against one from other parties, is crucial.

Monday’s discussions centred on “the three stages of Ukip success”: box 1, local elections, has already been ticked; box 2, next year’s Europe elections, are already predicted as a given victory for Nigel Farage’s party. All point to increased media coverage for Ukip, integration into the mainstream, and crucially, more money.  In conversations with The Independent, numerous Tory MPs agreed the aim of the rebellion was to disarm the idea that only Ukip can take the UK out of the EU. One backbencher said: “If we prove this party is intellectually committed to questioning EU membership – then we show there is little point in voting Ukip.”

Cameron is described by many of his own MPs as unable to form a strategy that would force Labour and the Liberal Democrats to vote against a referendum. “That would be toxic for Miliband and Clegg. So how are we trying to make this happen? We aren’t. Cameron has no endgame. It’s down to us,” said one.

Although nothing has been formally written down, the agreed aim of the 2013 rebellion is to force the referendum into the next Tory manifesto. One rebel said: “Cameron says he fears Europe being the dominant political issue. It’s too late. It already is.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Test Analyst

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...

NQ Litigation Solicitor

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Buckinghamshire - NQ Litigation Solicitor ...

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried