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EU Referendum David Cameron faces Tory rebellion

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EU Referendum David Cameron faces Tory rebellion

Post  Panda on Fri 8 Nov - 10:29

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EU Referendum

EU referendum: David Cameron faces Tory rebellion

David Cameron is facing a mini-rebellion in the Commons over his plans to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

The Queen’s Speech does contain a new law on the European Union, but not one that will provide a British referendum.

David Cameron is facing a mini-rebellion in the Commons over his plans to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU Photo: EPA

By Peter Dominiczak, Political Correspondent

9:09AM GMT 08 Nov 2013

Comments18 Comments

Dozens of Conservative MPs could defy the Prime Minister and call for a referendum to be held on Britain’s membership of the European Union before the 2015 election .

David Cameron and many Conservative MPs will back a Bill in the Commons aimed at laying down in law the need for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by 2017.

However, Adam Afriyie, who was previously tipped as a future Conservative Prime Minister, could force a Commons vote in an attempt to force Mr Cameron to hold a referendum next year.

As many as 30 Tory MPs could vote alongside Mr Afriyie, it is thought. Such a small rebellion will not be an seen as an obstacle to Mr Cameron’s plans, but it will anger senior ministers.

Dozens of amendments have been tabled to James Wharton's Private Member's Bill, which faces an uphill battle to reach the statute book because the Bill can only be debated on Friday sittings of the Commons.

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The Bill, backed overwhelmingly by Tory MPs at its second reading in July, has survived its initial Commons stages but Labour MP Mike Gapes - a former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee - was this week accused of attempting to sabotage it by putting down more than 50 amendments.

Mr Afriyie has said that the public are "not convinced" that Mr Cameron would stick to his pledge to hold a referendum on Europe in 2017.

He wants the referendum to be held before the General Election.

Mr Cameron want to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU before holding a referendum in 2017.

The move infuriated the Prime Minister, who hoped he had finally united his party on Europe by pledging to win back powers from Brussels before holding a vote.

Mr Afriyie has claimed that any delay in holding a referendum posed "significant dangers" and would allow Ukip to build up support.

Many senior ministers and backbenchers were also angered by Mr Afriyie’s attempt to torpedo the Prime Minister’s plans.

Mr Afriyie’s amendment will only be reached if there is time before the Commons adjourns.

MPs seeking to move debate along can use closure motions to cut short speeches and debates - but they can only pass if backed by at least 100 MPs.

Mr Wharton's Bill was given its second reading by 304 to zero in July after Labour and the Liberal Democrats abstained, while all Tory MPs were ordered to back the plan - and all but a handful complied. Six Labour MPs supported the Bill.

Conservative MPs prepared for possible all-night sessions to get the Bill through the committee stage, which they achieved without any amendments being passed.

If the Bill is navigated through its report stage before the end of the parliamentary term in May, MPs will be invited to back it at third reading.

It will then go through similar scrutiny in the House of Lords before it can go on the statute book.

Controversial Private Member's Bills rarely survive passage through Parliament because of the limited time available for debate

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Re: EU Referendum David Cameron faces Tory rebellion

Post  Panda on Fri 8 Nov - 12:54

Britain's European Union exit is looking more like a mirage

Sir John Major's prediction that the public will vote to stay in the EU may well be proved right

Gone with the wind? Europe’s leaders will do almost anything to avoid treaty changes

Gone with the wind? Europe’s leaders will do almost anything to avoid treaty changes Photo: ALAMY

Sue Cameron
By Sue Cameron

8:37PM GMT 06 Nov 2013

Comments1168 Comments

'Let me tell you what’s going to happen on Europe,” said a senior Tory dreamily. “The only person who matters in Europe is Angela. All the rest are on her payroll, so she can deliver. After the next election, Angela and Dave will go off for a long weekend, perhaps in the Alps. They’ll work out what he needs and what she can blame him for, saying later that she had to do it to keep Britain in the EU. Ultimately, they both want a more liberal Europe and she’ll do a deal…”

He waved away questions about the all-important details of a new-look European treaty, saying: “Under the treaties everything comes within EU competencies, from motherhood to apple pie. Surely it must be possible to knock out motherhood?”

It sounds so simple – enticing, even. Yet ask in the diplomatic world and the signs are that talk of negotiating a new settlement is little more than a sham. And as the Commons prepares to debate Tory MP James Wharton’s in-out referendum Bill tomorrow, there is convincing evidence that the option of a British exit, so passionately desired by many Right-wingers, will turn out to be a threat full of sound and fury signifying… that nothing much will change. Sir John Major, who says the British public will vote to stay in the EU, will be proved right; and like Sir John, the pro-European David Cameron will thwart his party’s Eurosceptics and keep Britain in the Union.

The runes are not good for the sceptics. Consider first the Government’s promised renegotiation of our relationship with Brussels. Serious discussion would only begin after a Tory victory at the next election. (Nobody knows what would happen if Labour won because Ed Miliband is dithering about a referendum – he was famed in Whitehall for his dithering when he was an energy minister.) But if Mr Cameron remains PM and keeps his tryst with Angela Merkel, then surely the two will agree on a new settlement?

“No,” says one top diplomatic figure with wide experience of Europe. “There is no meeting of minds between Merkel and Cameron. It’s true that when it comes to the competitiveness agenda she’s on board and she would agree to some deepening of the single market. What she won’t accept is Cameron’s wish to take away Europe’s powers to legislate.”

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She is not the only one. Any major changes in Europe – such as curbing Brussels’s lawmaking powers or ending the commitment to ever closer union – would require treaty changes. These have to be ratified by all member states, which would mean some holding a referendum with the risk of getting a No vote. My diplomat friend was incredulous at the very idea. “Can you imagine François Hollande, a socialist president of France, agreeing to Britain opting out of the social provisions of the Treaty, knowing he would have to put it to a referendum?” he said. “It’s la-la land. The French already think we’re fascist hyenas who want to destroy workers’ rights and gain an even bigger competitive advantage over them.”

One European official warned: “It would be like pulling a single thread and finding that the whole fabric unravels.” Europe’s leaders, therefore, will do almost anything to avoid treaty changes – which rules out all the big stuff that the critics want. Only small-time concessions will be left and, while welcome, they will hardly amount to the new settlement that even moderate Eurosceptics desire. Nor are minor changes likely to impress British voters when it comes to a referendum.

Yet cynical though it may be, when it comes to the crunch, it looks as if Mr Cameron is banking on repeating Labour PM Harold Wilson’s smoke-and-mirrors trick in the 1975 referendum. In October 1974, the polls showed that the public were four to three in favour of leaving what was then the European Economic Community. But asked how they would vote if Wilson renegotiated a deal and recommended staying in, the polls showed they would back him by two to one, which is what they did in the actual referendum.

At the time, a young journalist called Peter Kellner, now president of YouGov, uncovered a secret Labour Party analysis showing that Wilson’s claims about renegotiating a new deal for Britain were fatuous. The story was splashed in the Sunday Times – but it made no difference to the outcome.

Ah, you say, but that was 40 years ago and everything is different now. But is it? A YouGov poll at the end of last month asking whether people wanted to be in or out of Europe showed 42 per cent wanting to leave, 37 per cent wanting to stay and 21 per cent don’t knows. When they were then asked how they would vote if David Cameron recommended staying in after renegotiating a deal, the figures changed dramatically, with 52 per cent wanting to stay, only 28 per cent wanting to leave and 20 per cent don’t knows.

Imagine what those figures would become after a full-blown Yes campaign. Mr Kellner says: “As the momentum towards a referendum builds and people start seriously contemplating life outside Europe, their voting intentions change. All Cameron needs is a fig leaf of renegotiation – a very small fig leaf.” Of course an unforeseen event could change everything, but, for the moment, the past and Brussels’s own Byzantine workings provide our best guide to the future of Europe. Both show that all the talk about a radically new deal for Britain will prove to be a carefully crafted charade and a British exit a mirage. The best hope for the Eurosceptics is that Ed Miliband squeaks in at the next election, calls a referendum where he half-heartedly leads a Yes campaign – and loses

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