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VOTE NOW: West MPs join EU revolt - now you can join our online poll

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 15, 2013

By Graeme Demianyk

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  • Ian Liddell-Grainger

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Westcountry MPs have joined a growing Conservative rebellion over Britain's membership of the European Union.

Up to 100 Conservative backbenchers are expected to register their anger that the Government's plans for the next year do not include a law to enshrine David Cameron's pledge for an in-out vote by 2017.

Some 78 MPs have signed an amendment to the Queen's Speech, which sets out the coalition Government's legislative programme, making clear their frustration.

They include Richard Drax (South Dorset), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) and Sarah Wollaston (Totnes).

The amendment states that signatories "regret that an EU referendum bill" was not included in the Queen's Speech.

It came as, unexpectedly, David Cameron will today publish a draft bill aimed at writing into law his commitment.

The Prime Minister’s move will deepen coalition divisions over Europe, with the Liberal Democrat wing of the Government “nonplussed” about the plan.

Foreign Secretary William Mr Hague said a Private Member's Bill was a "much more difficult route for legislation" than a Government Bill but insisted it meant there could be a vote in the House on the referendum policy.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “There can’t be, in a House without a Conservative majority, any certainty of passing legislation. There can be an effort to do so.”

Asked if he was relaxed about Tories voting in support of the amendment, Mr Hague said. “Yes, that remains the position and I must stress that this Bill doesn’t alter that position. Its purpose is not to alter that position. It’s to provide an opportunity."

Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, backed the Prime Minister's position, saying she would support the Bill and arguing Mr Cameron had "delivered".

Cornwall MP George Eustice, who leads a group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, said colleagues should "get behind" the Prime Minister, contending a "semantic argument" about timing is a "distraction".

Asked what he would do if given an in-out vote today, Mr Liddell-Grainger said: "I would come out. I'm sick to death with it. It's bankrupt. It's pushing us to do things we don't want to do. It's a dictatorship from Brussels."

Mr Cameron's plan is to renegotiate Britain's relationship and stage a referendum on the renewed deal if the Tories win the next election. But he is unable to bring forward government legislation to enact his pledge because of opposition from the Liberal Democrats.

As to whether the amendment would help or hinder Mr Cameron, Mr Liddell-Grainger said: "I don't think we really care. Our job as backbenchers is to represent the feelings of our constituents. And Bridgwater and West Somerset is sceptical – to various levels."

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he would rather a referendum this side of the election, or hold the two on the same day in 2015. He questioned whether a re-negotiation would work without a clear list of demands over powers to be repatriated, and a deadline for them to be delivered. He added: "I would love to renegotiate, but the history of the EU is that it does not like to renegotiate."

The vote is expected take place tomorrow, although Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition means it is certain to fail.

Conservative ministers have been told that they can abstain. At the weekend, Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would quit the EU if there was a vote today, but stressed that they supported Mr Cameron's bid to renegotiate.

Explaining her backing for the amendment, Mrs Murray said: "It doesn't matter what we promise. The public just don't believe us. I believe we should show the public we are absolutely determined to do this."

Given her concerns over the Common Fisheries Policy and the continuing crisis in the Eurozone, Mrs Murray, whose late husband was a fisherman, thought she would probably vote to quit the EU if a vote was held now.

On his blog, Mr Drax wrote the EU is a "huge elephant in the room, which simply won't go away". "It was always foolish of those who didn't want to discuss our future position on Europe to believe it would just conveniently be forgotten," he said. "The EU affects our sovereignty, our liberty and our future. I can't think of three more important topics for politicians to consider and debate, especially in our party."

He said Tory backbenchers were acting because of "lack of clarity, dragging of feet and general waffle from all political parties".

"Unprecedented times needed unprecedented action and I am confident that a large number of my colleagues will vote for this amendment," he went on.

Mr Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former Press aide to the Prime Minister, said: "David Cameron set out exactly the right approach towards the EU in January. We should renegotiate our relationship with Europe and then have a referendum after. We now need to get behind him and knuckle down to winning the next election because without a Conservative victory nothing will change. Semantic argument about referendum timing is a distraction from the core task."

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has come under pressure from his party's backbenches to pledge a referendum in its next manifesto. Senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, former Europe minister, said: "I believe that it is the democratic right of the people to make that decision for themselves." Labour has ruled out a referendum now, but not in the future.

The Lib Dems have not backed the Conservative position. Leader Nick Clegg has said a vote in the next Parliament was "not in the national interest", and would create uncertainty that spooks business.

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35 comments

  • Imaginos  |  July 19 2013, 9:09PM

    Oh I can assure you that UKIP will take Britain out of the EU and make it work in Britain's favour. We will support those who are reliant on EU money because the money saved will be there to do so. Without the shackles of the EU business and the entrepreneurs of Britain will be free to create a powerhouse of commerce. Free to deal with whom they like, when they like, where they like and the right environment will be created to allow this. Yes, it will take some hard work but I thought high flyers liked a challenge, I do, don't you? Unless you are totally blind you will see that what we are facing by staying in the EU is oblivion. It doesn't take a genius to work this out with seven other countries waiting in the wings to pick us clean. It's not about choice; it's about the survival of our country and way of life. We will return the right to parliament to rule Britain. Britain has not been in peril anything like this since 1939. Ignore this and you are complicate in the destruction of your children's future. The right of your children to have the same quality of life that you have known. Do not fool yourselves that the Tory's or Labour will somehow turn this country round, they won't because they don't want to. The point of no return is 2015. How will you live with yourself if you allow all that you hold dear to be but a distant folk memory? Already Labour are saying Britain never had a golden age. They don't understand that what we had wasn't measured in monetary terms but in moral fibre, humanity and a measure of decency that is hard to grasp today. When Tony Blair came to power he condemned Britain to a slow death. The good news is that the decline can be reversed; you just have to have the courage to break the mould and vote for some people who care about their children's future, your children's future. Don't say that you weren't warned.

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  • WMNSteveGrant  |  May 16 2013, 10:00PM

    Thanks for all the comments people - keep them coming! Hope you've voted in the poll too!

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  • WMNSteveGrant  |  May 16 2013, 10:00PM

    Thanks for all the comments people - hope you've voted in the poll too!

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  • conundrum  |  May 16 2013, 12:35AM

    A lot of interesting viewpoints here, but seriously....UKIP ? This is how it works: A self-absorbed, possibly sociopathic individual (a politicial or religious leader usually )spouts reassuringly simplistic nonsense to credulous, intellectually lazy individuals who will then vote for or support them. This more or less applies to all political parties and religions. Other smart sociopathic and wealthy individuals give these leaders money so they make policies or religious dogma that results in the transfer of even more money from the many to the few. The credulous are told that it'll solve their problems and if it's painful, then it's because it's unavoidable but for their own good in the long term. (Does this sound familiar yet? ) If anyone thinks UKIP and Farage are somehow a new, exciting version of this, it's because they're naive and desperately want to believe it. It's called a 'cult'. Understand one and you've understood the lot....even the 'new' ones. The only real hope we have is an unflinchingly critical understanding of our common humanity and reciprocal responsibility to each other. This kind of petty nationalism and xenophobia is its exact opposite.

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  • emurfitt  |  May 16 2013, 12:10AM

    We're controlled by the EU because we are bound by laws and directives, SteveTorbay? Laws don't "control" people! We consent to be bound by the law. That's what makes us civilized. Do you really want to live in anarchy with the weak going to the wall? In 1975, the British people voted in a democratic referendum to stay in. I voted to come out then, but the world has changed and I have the sense to see we now need to be in it. We don't keep having a referendum on the Magna Carta or the Race Relations Act. We accept the change and move on. Germany and France don't have our contribution to the EU. It goes on developing the poorer regions and countries, like Cornwall and eastern European countries. It is in the interests of everyone to do this - in the future they will buy our exports. I don't think France and Germany want to rule Europe but if they did, how would our leaving prevent it? Surely, if that were true, we should stay in the "club" and be an influence. Or should we just pull out and wait for the next war? The EU isn't perfect but is probably no more corrupt than the British Government. We need to work on its defects.

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  • break  |  May 15 2013, 10:36PM

    So,does anyone else find it slightly suspicious that Cameron wants to leave the EU,just after the EU mention that they want to cap bankers pay?Maybe by giving us a referendum,he'll be kiling 2 or 3 birds with 1 stone.

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  • josdave  |  May 15 2013, 8:22PM

    The rise in the popularity of UKIP, who get my vote and I am not ready for the funny farm yet, feel disenfranchised by all three parties who will go to any lengths to stop the people having a say over this most undemocratic shambles they call a union. While I voted NO in 1975 I was prepared to give the others the benefit of the doubt in thinking it might just be a large free trade area. But now it is out of control and you have us and Germany, the only two net contributors propping up the inefficient economies of the other 25 freeloaders. It is inefficient, controls our laws (over 70% of out laws are made in Brussells), out borders, agriculture and fishing to name but a few. To those who say we can't afford to come out I say we can't afford to stay in at £50million a day. It is also in the Lisbon treaty that member states must continue trading with any nation that leaves

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  • Doitdreckley  |  May 15 2013, 8:09PM

    Cornwall would not 'survive' without the EU unless British Governments supported it so it could stand eventually on its own two feet. There has NEVER been a referendum on whether Cornwall wanted the unitary. I dont know wny some people peddle the myth that there was.

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  • eu_blues  |  May 15 2013, 7:30PM

    The problem lies with those that have the money and power, namelly those that funded the EU project. We have internationalists running the UK and many other EU countries that have a different agenda. Signing up to rules requires compromise, give and take and discussion. emurfitt The discussions are over. The EU and the consessive UK governments made certain that all six treaties were signed to inter-lock us into the EU superstate structure. Not even the Queen prevented her own country from being consumed by the EU. All six treaties passed, and no one was permitted a vote or a referendum on the six treaties passed. If democracy truly exsited in the UK, then the government would of allowed the plebs a vote, but it's all done behind closed doors. UKIP is a joke. If people genuinely believe that UKIP will get the UK out of the EU superstate, you've got another thing coming. Mr. Farage is a paid member of the very system he opposes. The people that voted for UKIP must need their brains seen to. Every party has sold this country out!

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  • vulcan  |  May 15 2013, 5:51PM

    @doitdreckly,Cornwall does not need to rely on europe to exist. It has been in existence considerably longer than the EU. As for Ireland it is still a financial mess and likely to be so for many years yet. You are correct about the single currency being a big mistake, and continuing our membership with the EU will no doubt mean we would have to join that too in future. And god bless your rose tinted spec's but it is not the 1970's and never will be again. @emurfit, the 'club' you talk about is not equal and never can be.

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