EU referendum: MPs told to vote against Monday's motion

 
EU and national flags at Strasbourg David Cameron will attend the EU debate after the date was brought forward

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The three big parties at Westminster have told their MPs to vote against a motion calling for a referendum to be held on UK membership of the EU.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour will all ask their MPs to oppose the move at a debate on Monday.

A Tory MP is calling on his colleagues to back an amendment which would delay a referendum until the UK had renegotiated its position in the EU.

The idea is being seen as an attempt to head off a rebellion by up to 60 MPs.

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.

'Country first'

Conservative MPs are expected to face a three-line whip - not yet confirmed - which would require any in government jobs to follow the party line and vote against the motion or to resign their posts.

Start Quote

What matters is that backbench MPs of all parties should be free to vote in accordance with our beliefs ”

End Quote Graham Brady Conservative MP

One MP, Stewart Jackson, has already said he intends to vote for the motion even if it costs him his job as a parliamentary private secretary, saying: "Some things are more important than party preferment."

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.

David Cameron has argued he shares MPs' frustrations with the costs and bureaucracy involved in EU membership, but would oppose calls for a vote on whether to quit, saying it "is not our policy".

In response to a question from Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard on Wednesday, the PM said "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."

Compromise suggested

Mr Pritchard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was willing to defy a three-line whip if necessary.

"This is about country first, party second and career last," he said.

He added: "This is not about necessarily the terms of a particular bill... or a future referendum, it's fundamentally about freedom, it's about democracy and it's about the legitimacy of the European project."

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, said, in an article in the Daily Telegraph, that "this is a backbench debate and there is no need for ministers to participate".

"What matters is that backbench MPs of all parties should be free to vote in accordance with our beliefs and in the interests of our constituents," he added.

In what is seen as an attempt to broker a compromise, Tory MP George Eustice has tabled an amendment urging the government to reconfigure its relationship with the EU - returning certain powers to Westminster - before putting the issue to the public.

Mr Eustice, David Cameron's former press secretary, said the initiative was "not yet" backed by the government but he urged MPs of all parties to support it and suggested it "more closely reflected the views" of most Conservative MPs compared to Mr Nuttall's motion.

"The advantage of having a referendum after the renegotiation rather than before is that the public would then be able to judge whether or not the government had succeeded and this would put pressure on the government to negotiate forcefully," he said.

'Collision course'

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prospect of a referendum would create further "economic uncertainty" and urged David Cameron to "show leadership" rather than make concessions to his backbenchers.

"It (a referendum) is not the right thing for Britain," he said. "It is not the right thing for jobs. It is not the right thing for growth."

Mr Miliband's stance has been criticised by Labour MP Graham Stringer who said backbenchers should be free to vote in any way as the debate had been organised by the Commons backbench business committee rather than the government or the opposition leadership.

Mr Stringer, who says he will vote for the motion, accused all three party leaders of making a "mistake" at a time when the public were "clearly aching for a say on Europe".

"Now is the time to give people a choice about whether they want to stay in the European Union," he told the Today programme.

And the UK Independence Party, which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU, said the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem leaders were "out of step" with the British public.

"By forcing their MPs to vote against an EU referendum, they have set them on a collision course with the electorate. It has become the people versus the politicians," their leader Nigel Farage said.

The debate has been brought forward by three days to allow Mr Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague to attend. They were both due to miss the original date on 27 October because of a trip to Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says the prime minister wants to be in parliament for the debate so he can look his backbenchers in the eye and tell them: "Don't do this."

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
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    88.
    smartIgnoramus
    3 Minutes ago

    71. corncobuk


    How do you know that the majority wish their MPs to vote for a Referendum?

    ----------------------------------

    If they do not why is Cameron imposing a three line whip unless he knows he`ll lose the vote. If his case against leaving the EU is so strong put it to the people. That`s what a democracy is.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 93.

    You voted these liers into power, nobody in this country voted for this coalition, but they did it anyway, don't start crying now they are doing as they please, what we need is a snap general election and watch the Conservative's and the lib dems get wiped of the political map for ever, and good riddance to them as well in my opinion, this was not labours mess, although they didn't help

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 92.

    Why not just give everybody the information for both sides of the arguement, and then allow us to come to our own conclusion. We managed it with the last vote (on voting).

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 91.

    EdMil and DC are using a 3 line whip! Both are cowards , and BBC should stop focusing on it being a 'tory' issue . It is a National issue , even Labourites who understand the UKs future want a referendum ... it is not a dirty word!

    I don't care if I'm right or wrong , I just want a debate and a say !!
    In a democracy you involve the public......

    ...or is Barosso in charge ?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 90.

    WE WOULD LOSE JOBS? Yes those on the gravy train. Think of how many jobs lost here thanks to EU workers. If they went back it would solve unemployment in a stroke. Some EU government backed workers would lose jobs and JUST LIKE credit crunch rich who had all their money in banks The poor and middle classes have to pay for it. Our government gave train building to germany with OUR money.. ENOUGH

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 89.

    60 PurpleDogzzz

    OK I have looked at the appalling UKIP policies and I don't need to hide behind a silly nickname.
    Spend an extra 40% on defence.
    More misguided people who think that spending more on "defence" is in our interest?
    "Maintaining our nuclear deterrence" is a morally indefensible policy.
    Maybe UKIP (or the failed tories) should stick to the single issue of withdrawal from the EU.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 88.

    71. corncobuk

    "The whip must go. We cannot have one man dictating to MPs to vote against the interests of the people who elected them. This is not a dictatorship but a democracy. To all MPs i would say remember who voted you into westminster and listen to them, they are your paymasters and to whom you owe your allegiance"

    How do you know that the majority wish their MPs to vote for a Referendum?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 87.

    The Dutch and the Irish have both recently registered their objection to things european. Brussels just told the Irish they were wrong so vote again. That and other factors are what angers so many people. Britain has a democracy going back much further than other EU countries and Brits object to being pushed around by faceless bureaucrats. Politicians are responsible for this mess so let's vote.

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 86.

    The reason the labour party lost the last election is because they would not listen to the electorate. They thought they knew better than the man in the street as to what was best, - they were wrong!

    Don't make the same mistake Mr Cameron. We want a referendum on the EU, (it was promised by the Tory party).

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 85.

    Come on BBC. This is the 3rd debate on this issue in as many days (Is whether or not the PM turns up to a vote, we already know the outcome of, actually an issue). It has all been said already. There must important things happening somewhere in the world. Yawn!

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 84.

    If David does one good thing, it'll be getting the Britain out of the EU. To all you people saying that we need the EU because of our trade in Europe, there is no reason why we can't continue trade in Europe and be free of the chains. It will mean however that we can freely deport illegal immigrants without Brussels breathing down our back.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 83.

    The Euro sovereign debt crisis has been the first test of the EU's crisis management capabilities.

    EU mismanagement, procrastination and bungling have needlessly brought the world to the edge of a global economic depression.

    They cannot get another chance to have such a major say over the lives of citizens of the UK again.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 82.

    An observation:
    A frequent point made by the pro-EU lobby in any debate about our EU membership is that many UK jobs depend on our exports to the EU.

    Could somebody explain why that depends on our membership?
    Many non-EU countries trade with the EU.

    There may be tax and tariff issues, but would withdrawal really cause mass redundancies?

    Does anyone know for sure?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 81.

    excellent news David. I wonder now whether you will be voting for the country of for yourself. I guess we will never find out as long as you deny the public their democratic say.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 80.

    "Read Animal Farm" (Ironic, since that book clearly shows the rise of the EU Parliament and Commission)

    We can still be in a trade agreement with the EU, for purposes of TRADE. That would not require our Parliament and our elected ministers to the bend to the will of the ex-soviet EU elite who would never be elected in this country in a million years!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 79.

    Those of us who want this referendum and believe in it, must closely watch the way our constituency mp votes on 24th, and vote accordingly next general election. The UK is in dire straits, but we will be a lot worse off if we allow the likes of David (Blair mark 2) Cameron to keep us clinging to the wreckage which is the EU.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 78.

    Surely the best option is to stay in, but take back some of the powers we have given up over the years?

    We would be economically a lot worse off out of the EU for a variety of reasons.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 77.

    The good thing about a debate on europe is that many of the euromyths propagated by lazy media types and parrotted by politicans after an easy vote will be exposed to actual scrutiny and will be shown for the misinformed brain farts that they are.
    There is a reason why, no matter the noises they make on the campaign trail, nobody is euroskeptic in office.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 76.

    70. David

    "How is democracy served by the Conservative party leadership instructing our MP to vote as they wish on such an important issue."

    So important, that it did not make the Tory Manifesto? Important to you, maybe, and the xenophobe Mail readership, but not to everyone.

    btw, do you know how the Whips operate? If you did, then you would know how parliament works in sitatuions like this.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 75.

    2.jl45
    "Much rather be part of the US than the EU"

    ------
    We already are in some respects. The US wanted us in the EEC in the first place for their own ends. It would be interesting to see their reaction should we decide to withdraw from the EU.

 

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