David Cameron: EU referendum bill shows only Tories listen


David Cameron: "It's not voting against the Queen's Speech"

David Cameron has said only his party is offering a "clear choice" about the UK's future in Europe after the Tories published a draft bill outlining plans for a referendum by the end of 2017.

The prime minister said the Liberal Democrats and Labour were not willing to listen to the public on the issue.

Mr Cameron says he has shown leadership on the issue but critics say he is being dictated to by his backbenchers.

MPs will seek to force a vote on the issue of a referendum on Wednesday.

The Conservatives have published a bill aimed at reassuring the party's MPs that, if they win the next election, the party will fulfil the PM's commitment earlier this year to let the public have their say on the UK's future in Europe.

The bill states that voters would be asked the question "do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?" in a referendum to be held no later than 31 December 2017.

Many Tories were unhappy plans for an in-out EU referendum were not mentioned in the Queen's Speech - which lays out the government's plans for the next year.

'Compelling choice'

But, speaking in the US - where he is on a three day-visit - Mr Cameron said this was not possible because his Lib Dem coalition partners opposed such a step.

Asked whether he had consulted his deputy Nick Clegg before publishing the bill, Mr Cameron said he had discussed the whole issue of the UK's future relationship with the EU "in quite a lot of detail".

"It is well known that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats do not agree about Europe," he said.

"We want a renegotiation, they don't, we want an in-out referendum, they don't.

Start Quote

The publishing of a draft bill looks like an exercise in what Mrs Thatcher used to call 'followership not leadership'. ”

End Quote

"When the dust settles on this, what people will see is one party, the Conservative Party, offering this very clear, very compelling choice in the national interest, reforming the EU, changing the Britain's relationship with it and giving people the chance of an in-out referendum.

"And the other two main parties saying they don't want to listen to the views of the people on this issue. That is the truth of... what is actually under debate at the moment."

Some Conservative MPs have suggested the prime minister is pursuing the wrong strategy while one, Philip Hollobone, said No 10 had been "in chaos" over the issue in the past few days amid open divisions in the party about whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave.

Up to 100 Conservative MPs could support an amendment to the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, signalling their "regret" that legislation paving the way for a future referendum was not in the programme.

But their actions have been described as "lunatic" and "offensive" by veteran Conservative MP Nicholas Soames.

"This is the most fundamental and important decision this country will have to take for the next generation," he told BBC Radio 4's PM.

"It is isn't just about adding some silly little clause to the Queen's Speech - an entirely, in my view, improper thing to do in the first place."


The prime minister said it was a "complete misconception" to suggest the MPs were opposing the Queen's Speech as a whole by tabling the amendment, and repeated his position that he was "relaxed" about how backbenchers voted.

Ministers, including several who have said they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was held now, will be required to abstain although the amendment is unlikely to pass because Labour and the Lib Dems are set to vote against.


  • MPs put names into a ballot
  • Normally the first seven drawn are given a day's debate for their bill
  • Most private members' bills - lacking government support - do not become law
  • There have to be at least 100 MPs backing a bill to ensure it clears the first few hurdles
  • But one with the backing of Tory ministers but not Lib Dems would be likely to fail to get a majority unless a decent chunk of Labour MPs back it

No 10 has dismissed any comparisons between Mr Cameron and former Prime Minister Sir John Major, whose government was damaged by ongoing rows about Europe during the 1990s.

Mr Cameron said he was the first party leader in "30, 40 years" to offer the public a choice on the UK's membership of the EU on the basis of a "reassessment" of what is in the country's national interest.

"The whole reason we are having this debate is because of the act of leadership I took to say it is time now for Britain to renegotiate our relationship, to seek change in Europe and seek a referendum for that change."

The draft legislation could be brought to the Commons for debate by one of the party's backbench MPs in the form of a private member's bill, rather than one sponsored by the government.

The ballot to choose who can bring forward private members' bills will be held on Thursday and, although they have little chance of becoming law, there is non-government parliamentary time open to them to be debated.


Labour says committing to hold a referendum in four years' time is not the "right choice" for the country and internal Tory "machinations" are causing uncertainty at a time when securing economic recovery should be the government's priority.

Start Quote

It could be the worst solution to change Europe”

End Quote Bernard Kouchner French foreign minister

"Our agenda is reform and change within Europe, not exit from the European Union," said shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.

The Lib Dems said the government had already legislated to seek public approval before any further powers were handed to Brussels, and accused their coalition partners of "navel-gazing" over Europe.

The UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage - who campaigns for a UK exit - described the proposed draft bill as "nothing more than gesture politics".

Former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner suggested Mr Cameron wanted to stay in the EU and the draft bill was "a political manoeuvre" in response to UKIP's success in recent elections.

He acknowledged Brussels was being held responsible for Europe's economic ills and was extremely unpopular in France itself, but urged countries not "to throw the baby out with the bathwater".

"Don't play with the referendum," he told Radio 4's World Tonight. "It could be the worst solution to change Europe. We have to convince the people. We need Europe."


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  • Comment number 64.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    32. Luther_Wesley-Baxter
    'If Britain goes along with a United States of Europe we will be trapped and our great British freedoms will disappear down the pan'

    Ha ha hilarious given most of the freedoms 'ordinary' citizen of the UK enjoy come from the EU and were rejected by the Tories.

    You sound like you fell asleep sometime in 1850 and have only just woken up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    We had a referendum on Europe in 1975, and the result was that wanted to be in Europe. We should embrace the community that we, the people decided we wanted to be part of, rather than sitting on the sidelines whingeing.
    Unless, of course, we would rather be part of the USA...

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    There isn't going to be any new legislation this is just designed to massage the egos of a few right wing tories and keep them quite until 2015. Then the tories will get the boot and they will know exactly what the public think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    This is no good. It won't be a government Bill so it won't get passed. And it would depend on Cameron being PM after 2015 - increasingly unlikely. Even if he is, he can break his promise - again. And 2017 is far too late anyway.
    When will our so-called leaders learn that if they won't trust the electorate we won't trust them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    When I commented on this issue yesterday my contribution was removed because it must have been judged to be anti-English. I will therefore repeat that there are many thousands of Labour supporters north of the border who will vote for Scottish independence in order to keep us in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    It’s just lies there is no way WE will be allowed a say in it, too many politicians have their noses in the trough LIB LAB CON your just liars you can’t help it it’s the way you were made.

    UKIP is the only party that would really go through with it BUT there is no chance of them getting into power.

    The lunatics have taken over the asylum without a doubt.

    Vote: NONE of The Above

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Business leaders know that we cannot afford to leave the EU. Someone needs to explain what we gain - not what we lose. The former exceeds the latter.

    If a referendum votes for leaving the EU I for one am leaving this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    So CaMORON promises a referendum on the EU, just like he did before and it came to nothing. Even if there was one, just like the Irish one it would keep getting repeated until the powers that be get the answer they want. All this is a pathetic attempt to save his own skin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    It's no good a having a Referendum Vote that's relies on the Tory's getting back in, nor is is any good having a Vote after 25% of Bulgarians or Romanias have arrived on our door step with nothing more than what they stand up in.

    We need a Referendum NOW!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    While your at it Dave could we have a referendum on bankers bonuses and the culture of greed in the city that has brought this country to it's knees?

    No thought not Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    #28 said - "when politicians speak of having a relationship like Norway has, they mean the UK could rejoin the European Free Trade Association"

    Comparing Norway to Britain? Norway has so many natural resources they don't know where to put all the money. They have the second biggest sovereign wealth fund on the planet. What do we have? Kebab shops? Our car industry and others are foreign owned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    While Cameron tries desperately to make his party 'UKIP Lite' he forgets that we are STILL waiting for his sorry excuse for a government to get the UK economy started again. It certainly shows where HIS priorities lie!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Mr Cameron needs to tell these stupid people in his party he is PM and leader of his party.
    He is in charge and he will give them a choice when the time is right. If they can't trust their leader how can the electorate?
    The Labour party are the only winners and the rest of the world must wonder how this British Prime Minister can be taken seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    BTW under FPTP UKIP don't stand a snowballs chance in hell of getting elected and to think otherwise is delusional.
    That's unfortunately so true. It's one of the reasons the other parties treat UKIP so badly - when 25% of the people vote for a party and they get no representation in parliament, expect some voter dissatisfaction

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Vote for me & you can have a referendum. Yeah right Dave why not have one in late 2014 early 2015 QS was pretty thin does not look like parliament will be doing much in that time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    All this means is for the next however many years we will watch the Tory party tearing itself apart and we poor people will continue to get robbed blind. immigration will not be tackled, jobs will not be created all so the Tories can have a chance of re-election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    All this is Euro froth is Cameron trying to control his party.
    He might as well claim it will be a white Christmas in 4 years time.

    Its very unlikely the Tories will be in power to see this through after the next election, where they will be reduced to a protest party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    This still doesn't give what most people want, which an in out vote before the next election. The reason is we don't trust Dave not to maniplulate the situation, as he did with the Lisbon Treaty. This bill could be just another sham, so I'm voting United Kingdom Independance Party for certain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Go on knock on people's doors and ask them why they don't feel part of their own community and country because of immigration, then and only then will you begin to understand how people feel.

    Cameron simply does not get what is going on and how disillusioned people are feeling. A few years ago it was a few foreign families in towns, now it's huge amounts of them and it has to change.


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