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."


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Leaving the EU would be a disaster for Briton. This is yet another on the long list of reasons I won't be voting Tory next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Nigel will sort UK politics out. Already exposed the EU for what it is. Both cosy clubs for those who don't know how to do a days work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    We can't afford to feed the poor of the Parish now,so what chance do we have of feeding another 3 Million Migrants after next year? None!

    Out of Europe now, or I'm for voting UKIP for the first time at the next election.

    As for the whiners that say fix the Country first, well, if you could see past your noses you would see the countries problems are all to do with the EU and it's Migrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Can anyone please tell me the benefits of staying in the EU. As far as I can see the argument of trade restrictions is not valid, simply because our imports far outstrip our exports with the EU, they would just be punishing themselves. Cameron is also wrong in thinking he can renegotiate as I believe that is impossible under the Lisbon Treaty (Thanks Gordon).

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The Tory party at it's finest....let's party like it's 1899!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Your supposed to be running the country Dave . You are in charge. Your the No 1. The buck stops hear ! That's what your paid for. PUT UP or get out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @62. whitedog 23

    "We had a referendum on Europe in 1975, and the result was that wanted to be in Europe"

    I think the result was the people wanted to be in a common market. I don't think the question was whether people agreed to give up the right of self-determination and join a federal EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    So we are voting just to have a "plan" for a referendum. We have learnt from long experience that a government plan plus £1.75 will buy you a coffee at Starbucks. This is just being done in order to trigger a Labour "NO" vote on the bill doomed to defeat, with consequent electoral fallout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Why is the referendum only "if the Tories get re-elected"? Is this some sort of voter blackmail attempt? We already fell for that one under Blair.

    What's wrong with a referendum in, say, a year's time. That's plenty time to renegotiate with the EU to get a better deal (so we know what we're voting for) and to educate the public about the merits of being in or out.

    Let's finally settle this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Daily Telegraph column – said to be worth £250,000 a year to Mr Mayor – to remind Tory voters and even Ukip voters of the following, cruel facts:


  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    It shall be interesting to see who is in power after the next election with the amount of people saying they will not be voting conservative, labour and lib dem.

    Who will it be? UKIP? the greens? A load of independents?

    Methinks even more of a ropey coalition that fights for its own ideals despite the needs of the nation. It will be like politics in treacle.

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    What kind of chumps do the government thing the average person is . We will never exit the EU as we are too embedded and it would not benefit the UK. Having a referendum means nothing. A majority could say get out of Europe but the government would not do this . They are employing the art of illusion whilst we all look over here at trivia the real issues just pass on by …...

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    @ 62. whitedog23 Lol really? We should all embrace the results of a referendum more than thirty five years ago? Things have changed some what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Too little years too late

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Procrastination - let set up a vote for a date when I won't be leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I think this is a first for this rotten to the core government to claim to be listening to the public for the duration of this parliament, but there again it's probably even more bloody lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    What we all; want to know is...

    WHAT are we doing about:

    1 The difficulty in opting out of damaging EU rules / legislation (eg: forced immigration)
    2 The inability of the EU to cope with and manage economics.
    3 Way out of date thinking
    4 The stupid one size fits all mentality
    5 Corruption in some member states
    6 The gravy trains

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    What use is a bill that will not be made into law?
    I can't see any, people disagree with me.
    Can anyone help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Farage and UKIP started the debate and all the scared politicians jumped on the bandwaggon after the local elections. Theres nothing more to it than that.

    Were only making plans for Nigel. :-)


Page 37 of 41


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.