World

Cameron suffers setback as party members reject offer on EU vote

PTI London | Updated on November 21, 2017

UK Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a fresh blow to his authority today when around a third of his own party’s lawmakers voted against his policy on offering a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership.

The Lower House of Parliament rejected a motion introduced by MPs from Cameron’s Conservative Party expressing regret that the coalition Government’s plans for the year contain no guarantee of a referendum.

But Cameron’s attempts to end growing eurosceptic dissent in Conservative ranks appeared to have failed as the figure of 130 legislators who voted for the non-binding motion was far higher than expected.

It included around 115 Conservatives, more than one-third of the party’s 305 lawmakers in the House of Commons.

Cameron’s coalition partners, the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, and the opposition Labour Party both mainly voted against the motion.

Leading Tory rebel Peter Bone vowed to carry on pushing for legislation committing to a referendum.

“We’re not going to walk away,” he said.

Bone claimed that the vote could have been won with Cameron’s support and urged the Prime Minister to introduce legislation despite opposition from the Lib Dems.

“To a certain extent, the Prime Minister was encouraging us to vote for the amendment because, after all, it’s his own policy,” he told BBC News.

Cameron, who missed the vote because he is visiting the US, had insisted he was “profoundly relaxed” about the vote and gave his MPs a free vote, although ministers were expected to toe the line.

But a day before the vote he tried to quell the rebellious mood in his party by publishing a draft bill revealing the wording of a referendum to be held by the end of 2017.

The Conservative rift is bad news for the party two years before a general election, and a reminder of how the issue of Europe led to the downfall of late former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and undermined her successor John Major in the 1990s.

The Parliamentary motion proposed by the rebels expressed “regret” that legislation promising a referendum was not included in last week’s Queen’s Speech, in which the Government set out its programme for the year.

Cameron argues that he wants to renegotiate the conditions of Britain’s membership of the EU and then, if he is returned to power in the 2015 general election, put the question to the people in a referendum by the end of 2017.

Published on May 16, 2013

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