Tory rebellion on Europe fuelled by proposed boundary changes
MPs have agreed to debate holding a referendum on leaving Europe next week
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 19 October 2011
David Cameron is facing his biggest Conservative rebellion since becoming Prime Minister after MPs called a Commons vote next week on whether Britain should have a referendum on leaving the European Union.
Senior Tories warned last night that the party's MPs will be under enormous pressure to defy Mr Cameron on 27 October by voting in favour of a referendum. They said the crucial factor in many Tory MPs' minds would be the proposed shake-up of parliamentary boundaries to allow the Government to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This will provoke a scramble for seats, with many MPs doing battle with colleagues for the right to be their party's candidate at the next election.
One senior figure told The Independent: "The mood of Tory grassroots members is overwhelmingly Eurosceptic. They want a referendum on the EU. A candidate who opposed that in Parliament would be cutting his or her own throat. The boundary review will be a big factor in MPs' minds."
Mr Cameron, who urged his party to stop "banging on" about Europe when he became its leader in 2005, believes a referendum would be a distraction. The Government has promised one before any further powers are handed from Britain to Brussels but there is no prospect of that happening.
Feelings are running high among Tory MPs. The crisis in the eurozone, which is likely to lead to fiscal integration among the 17 countries in the euro, has fuelled their demands for an "in or out" referendum, the first since 1975.
The Backbench Business Committee, which decides the subject of Commons debates on 27 days a year, agreed yesterday to hold one on Europe. Although a vote in favour of a referendum would not technically be binding, it would put huge pressure on Mr Cameron to promise one at a later date. To head off the referendum demands, the Prime Minister may offer concessions to the Tory rebels – such as trying to grab back powers over employment laws from Brussels. But that would cause huge tensions with his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners.
David Nuttall, the Tory MP who proposed the debate, said it had been more than 36 years since the UK had held a referendum on this matter. His motion calls on the Government to introduce a bill in the next session of Parliament "to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, leave the EU, or renegotiate its terms."
Nikki Sinclaire, an independent former Ukip MEP who presented a 100,000-signature petition to Downing Street calling for a referendum, said: "This is a serious headache for David Cameron. He has got to deal with this issue."
Mr Cameron said this month that pulling out of the EU was "the wrong answer". He said: "What most people want in this country is not... to leave the EU, but to reform [it] and make sure the balance of powers between Britain and Europe is better."
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...
£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...