EU referendum: Cameron says no bad blood towards rebels


PM David Cameron: 'There is no bad blood and no bitterness'

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David Cameron has said he has "no bad blood" towards Conservatives who defied orders to oppose a call for a referendum on the UK's EU membership.

Ministers won the vote but 81 Tories backed the call, the biggest rebellion on Europe against a Conservative PM.

The prime minister said he knew people felt "strongly" about the issue but he had to "give a lead" on the issue.

Some Conservative MPs were annoyed that the party imposed a three-line whip on a backbench motion.

Asked whether he regretted the order - which meant any Conservative MP who voted against the government would be expected to resign from government jobs - he said: "No I don't, in politics you have to try to confront the big issues, rather than try to sweep them under the carpet and that's what we did yesterday."

'Valued colleagues'

He said Europe had always been a difficult issue for the Conservatives and "always will be" but he had to do the right thing for the country.

"It wouldn't be right for the country right now to have a great big vote on an in-out referendum," he said.

"There's no, on my part, no bad blood, no rancour, no bitterness. These are valued Conservative colleagues, I understand why people feel strongly and we will go forward together and tackle the difficult decisions the country faces."


The education secretary is not just one of the prime minister's closest friends. He is not just a very clever man. He is a lifelong and instinctive Eurosceptic.

I worked with him when he was a young BBC reporter and I know.

Gove's claim was that the Conservative Party was united as never before behind the goal of renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU.

He is right that, providing Ken Clarke is not in the room, Tories can say "we're all Eurosceptics now".

What divided them last night was - as I wrote yesterday - trust.

Backbenchers do not trust the prime minister, the coalition and Whitehall to deliver.

The backbench motion - prompted after a petition was signed by more than 100,000 people - was defeated by 483 votes to 111, after all Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MPs had been instructed to oppose it.

It called for a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU, leave it or renegotiate its membership - but even if the government had lost, it would not have been obliged to hold a referendum.

However Mr Cameron urged his MPs to vote against it arguing that, with a "crisis" in the eurozone any legislation for a referendum now "could cause great uncertainty and could actually damage our prospects of growth".

But almost half of his backbenchers appear to have ignored his calls.

In total 81 Conservative MPs, including two acting as tellers (the name given to the MPs who count the votes) supported the referendum motion and two more MPs - Mike Wetherley and Ian Stewart - actively abstained by voting both yes and no.

A further 12 MPs did not vote - although that figure includes Foreign Secretary William Hague, who put the government case against the motion before having to leave the debate early to travel to Australia, and another minister Mike Penning, who was in China.

It was the biggest rebellion against a Conservative prime minister over Europe - the previous largest was in 1993, when 41 MPs defied John Major on the Maastricht Treaty.


Labour leader Ed Miliband described the result as "a humiliation for the prime minister": "If he can't win the argument with his own backbenchers, how can the country have confidence that he can win the arguments that matter for Britain?"

But Education Secretary Michael Gove told the BBC: "It's not a humiliation."

He said that while there were a "significant number" of rebels - the differences between them and the Conservative frontbench were not significant.

"It was a very precisely worded motion which allowed a number of people like myself, who are passionate Eurosceptics, to say: Look, I disagree with the tactics but we agree on the ultimate goal."

He said the prime minister was "committed" to taking back powers from Europe to boost economic growth in the UK.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Lib Dems, traditionally the most pro-European of the three biggest UK parties, would not let Britain be pulled to the margins of the European Union.

The Lib Dem leader warned Conservative rebels against what he called a "smash and grab raid" on Brussels.

"You reform and change Europe by leading it, not by leaving it. Each step of the way, the question should be, what can we get out of Europe, not how can we get out of Europe? I think the Eurosceptics need to be a little bit careful about what they wish for.

"Let's be under no illusions. Every step closer to the exit sign shakes confidence in the British economy and can hit British jobs."

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the deputy PM's comments had poured salt on Mr Cameron's wounds.

The Conservative rebels included two Parliamentary private secretaries, Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway - Downing Street has since confirmed both had been "removed" from the unpaid roles.

One Liberal Democrat MP, Adrian Sanders, defied his party's leadership and voted for a referendum.

Nineteen Labour MPs rebelled, including Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Jon Cruddas and Graham Stringer. Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the Commons, also voted for the motion, as did all eight DUP MPs and independent Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Senior Conservative backbencher Mark Pritchard said Tory MPs wanted "clarity" about how the government planned to repatriate powers from Europe, or the government's position would become "politically unsustainable".

"The Conservative Party will move on from the vote last night but I do not think Europe as an issue is going to move on from this Parliament.

"It is going to be more rather than less of an issue."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    re: #268. JustRight
    >>>I laugh so hard at the Neanderthals who are screaming about a lack of democracy

    Don't laugh too hard, your pre-conceptions may fall off.

    >>> a majority in each area voted your MP in, and it is him, not the Tories or Lib Dems or Labour politicians as a whole you should approach.

    That'd be true if there had been a free vote. There wasn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    At least it shows the conservative MPs are not as great a bunch of sheep as the others. Cameron should be proud of that and the humiliation is Cleggys and Milibands and their overly tame and timid MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Those rebels voting for the motion are the pride of Britains democracy.
    I for one do not believe in the referendum lock because I suspect that as in the past the government has left loopholes to explain at the next occassion Brussels spreads that that is not sufficient grounds to trigger a referendum. Lies, lies and more lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    I do not trust Westminster to do what is right for our country or to carry out the will of the people. This blatant ignorance on the part of Westminster MPs will fan the flames of Alex Salmond's independence drive & the way I feel right now, I really hope it does. It's time we had employees - yes, that's what you are David Cameron - who actually listened to the electorate and what they want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.


    I don't see how any of that negates what I said. The implication was that being in the EU hasn't hampered Germany.

    Except, the bailouts as you mentioned, the fact its growth has collapsed showing it's as vulnerable as any other country...I mean, can you not see that trading almost exclusively with a limited set of countries backfires when the whole set is in trouble?

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    @ 227.Miklatov

    I do not believe that this would work. I think the ePetition gets rejected as "Already Discussed".

    On the ePetition website there are countless rejected petitions for capital punishment as this (thank God). So i feel its a fruitless endevor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    @ 262.June

    "I am sick of phrases like "little englanders" and of psuedo intellectuals"

    I think you are missing the point. The rest of the UK (esp. Northern Ireland) is under represented in Westminster and "little short-sighted Englanders" can be heard more often than a lot of other UK demographics.

    We have to make do with a sprinkle of MPs and our largely powerless assemblies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Too many people have been brainwashed by Europhile outlets like the British Brainwashing Corporation into thinking we need Europe, 'we cannot stand on our own two feet', despite the fact that Norway and Switzerland does already and we have done for centuries. The only purpose the EU serves is to eventually destroy British independence for European federalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    On the e-petition site it gives only 2 reasons for not having a debate once 100000 signatures
    1 if the subject of the e-petition is currently going through legal proceedings, it may be inappropriate for a debate to be held
    2 if there has just been, or is about to be, a debate in the House of Commons on the same topic as your e-petition

    so the government has gone back on its words - big surprise

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    198. The_Gambler
    Fact is, MPs don't think the general public knows enough to let them vote on important things.
    They're right. This country is infested with utter morons.
    I've read all your comments, they all basically say the British are 2 thick/moronic/uninformed to have a say.

    I think you are a troll.
    BBC, block this user publishing, his comments don't agree with mine and he is uninformed

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    "I can assure you back in my home country the majority of Germans can't wait for the UK to actually leave the EU completely!"

    That doesn't surprise me. If I was young and could speak german I'd be over there like a shot. Is anyone over there demanding a referendum on our membership by any chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    reminds me of the signs ive seen with all the global protests.....IF VOTING CHANGED ANYTHING,THEYD MAKE IT ILLEGAL, or just not give us the right to decide

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    "When your neighbour's house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help them to put out the flames - not least to stop the flames reaching your own house," he said.
    What he should have said was 'When your neighbour's house is on fire, and the flames have already spread to your house, you deal with that first.'
    David, we have 8.4% of the vote in the EU = a cupful of water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Answer to Alex below

    I find that it is not from "under-educated Anglo Saxons" that anti-EU feeling comes predominantly, but from Britons who arrogantly style themselves as "educated". but who are monoglot English speakers. Anyone who speaks French and German fluently will straight away see from the press of those countries the extent to which the EU has ditched all pretence at democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    If any of the Tory/LibDem/Labour Manifestos promised a Referendum on staying in the EU, then why was an e-petition considered necessary?

    Why did people not ask the question "WHEN?"

    Or, why did the e-petition not reference the Manifesto, where it promised a Referendum, and demand it be held?

    cos no Manifesto made such a promise.

    So, lobby your party, or vote UKIP but please stop spreading lies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    If we leave the EU does it mean that our flights to Europe get more expensive? If so I am definately not up for leaving!

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Cameron gave a “cast iron guarantee” that there would be a referendum when he was in opposition – now he is PM he orders a three-line whip against it. Further proof that there is no correlation between what politicians say to get elected and what they do once in power.

    The low turnout in elections is often criticised - in reality it’s a wonder anyone bothers to vote at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Ok Gambler i'll take your advice
    Previous BBC report with graph comparing the UK and Germany
    That graph clearly shows Germany has higher growth.
    As I said high horse with an attitude that seems to want to snub everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Okay, so tories see referenda as the 'new democracy'. If so, let's crack on with referenda on NHS reforms, university fees, bank bailouts and....bad weather. The list is endless. The tory rebels need to relearn all about parliamentary democracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Our Politicians extol the virtues of democracy to other countries yet they are quite happy to delay giving the public true democracy on this issue indefinitely. This was not a vote on the EU, but a vote to give the public a right to have their say. In British Law there should be a referendum whenever there is to be a change at the ballot box, we have had many changes, but no referendum.


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