Cameron rejects EU referendum call ahead of MPs debate

EU and national flags at Strasbourg David Cameron says Europe should focus on sorting its own problems out

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David Cameron has rejected calls for a referendum on Europe ahead of a Commons debate on the subject next week.

At Prime Minister's Questions, he said he shared MPs' frustrations with how the European Union worked but would oppose calls for a vote on whether to quit the EU as it was "not our policy".

Up to 50 Tory MPs could potentially rebel against the government.

The BBC understands the debate has been brought forward by three days to enable senior ministers to attend.

The debate will now be held on 24 October, not 27 October as originally scheduled.

The government requested the switch because both the prime minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague - who will lead for the government in the debate - will be in Australia at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting between 28 and 30 October.

The government would not be bound by the result of the vote, based on a motion by Tory MP David Nuttall, but it could prove politically tricky for the Conservative leadership.

Mr Nuttall's motion calls for a referendum by May 2013 and says the public should have three options put to them in the nationwide vote - keeping the status quo, leaving the EU or reforming the terms of the UK's membership of the European Union.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said the British people were "crying out" for a referendum and urged the PM to "make history and give the British people the chance to vote on our future with the EU".

Start Quote

I do not support holding a referendum come what may. That is not our policy and I will not be supporting that motion”

End Quote David Cameron

In response, Mr Cameron said his focus was on controlling the EU budget, keeping the UK out of any future eurozone bailout schemes and ensuring the single market was functioning properly.

"I completely understand and share the frustration that many have about the way the EU goes about its business, about the costs, about the bureaucracy," he told MPs.

"Of course we, the Conservative Party, are committed to the return of powers from Brussels to Westminster.

"We are also committed as a government that if power passes from Westminster to Brussels, there would have to be a referendum. That promise is good for the whole of this Parliament and beyond.

"But I do not support holding a referendum come what may. That is not our policy and I will not be supporting that motion."

Europe's problems

In response to a similar question from Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard, Mr Cameron added: "The right answer is not to hold a referendum willy-nilly in this Parliament when we have so much to do to get Europe to sort its problems out."

The idea of an in/out referendum has become an increasingly popular idea among Tory backbenchers although some argue that it is a distraction and their party must focus on returning powers to the UK Parliament as soon as possible.

No 10 have indicated all Conservative MPs will be expected to support the government in rejecting the referendum option and uphold the commitment in the coalition agreement to the UK remaining a "positive participant in the European Union".

The BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins said plans to impose what is known as a three-line whip had been confirmed at a meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee.

A petition signed by more than 100,000 people, including Conservative and Labour MPs, calling for a referendum was handed into Downing Street last month. Members of the Commons Backbench Business Committee agreed to hold the debate on Monday.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Common market...EEA.....EU... They call this 'mission creep'. When an unpopular idea is forced onto a people, it is usually done slowly, bit by bit. Again, I say, doesn't matter whether you are for or against, give us the right to speak. DC is out of touch with the public if he doesn't realise this. And this single issue is why the Lib Dems will never be elected to a majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Let the people decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    The Europeans use us as a cash cow to squeeze and to sell us their Audis, VWs etc. What do we sell to them? By leaving, we would be in a stronger position by potentially closing/taxing a lucrative market to them. To the Tiffanies of this world, Britain is capable of being a great country again (look at south korea or Taiwan). What we need are people with can-do attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    The Establishment ie the Houses of Parliament knows it would lose the EU vote . The MPs are suppose to be representing their constiuents not themselves.

    Just as there no evidence England would implode if zero% immigration of all types.Vote should happen

    The funniest thing is chip on the shoulder scotland wanting a vote to be seperate but part of the All encompassing EU . Thats hilarious that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    422 RIK Your anti monarchy rant is pathertic

    I am fed up with the left who call anyone who is anglo saxon and proud to be English as little Englanders. if it is ok for Wales, Scotland and Irish (Little celtlanders) to have referendums on their little populated areas of Britain.
    Considering the number of votes for parties anti European Union at European Elections. Then we should have that vote.


Comments 5 of 427


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