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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  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    yet more lies from the Pm who only knows how to lie. How many times have the tories promised a referendum on Europe after the next election if they win only they never do its a promise they use only when they know they have no chance to win at the next GE which clearly they have no chance of doing now if dave was so determined to let the plebs speak he would make it law now not vague non-promises

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    No ,totally wrong Dave UKIP would offer a referendum tomorrow.The big problem is that the three main parties are underestimating UKIP and none of the three have a leader or policies worth their salt.Hail a new begining failure Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Wait until Scotland gets Independance then Europe will kick the rest of the UK out! And Europe will laugh! And Laugh! And Scotland will also laugh! :) Just saying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Sorry Dave i dont belive the establishment will ever give the british people an in out referendum on europe. Funny how were all considered competent to vote in a general election but not on europe.
    Stop faffing and set a date before the next election and preferably before the EU elections next year. Let the people decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    This is untrue. UKIP would have a referendum today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    @147. GBA
    "Come on, be fair. The PM does a hard job in trying circumstances, and politicians are highly principled and upstanding members of society. It's pretty mean and cheap to criticise them so much. So stop it".

    Hi GBA, you must be a mate of Ken Clarke's, "send in the clowns"

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Can the government please explain how powers would be taken back without withdrawal as attempting repatriation appears to go against EU law - the ratchet known as 'acquis communautaire' and the obligation to ever closer union? Mr Van Rompuy tried to spare Cameron's blushes by telling him that he would only get polite lip service if he tried to interest the European Council ("other EU leaders").

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Politicians must accept that the UK population is fed up with being lied to about your. It started with Heath and then there was Wilson, Major, Blair and Cameron.

    We the electorate should be asked and listened to!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    This is Jingoism in its worst manifestation ,

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Why do we want to leave the EU?
    Is it so that we can create more job losses when Nissan & Honda leave the country?
    Is it so that we can be forced to work more than 48 hours a week?
    Is it so that we can reduce our exports by up to 51%?
    Is it so that we can be overcharged for mobile calls, and Air travel?
    Is it so that we can ignore science & still use chemicals that kill bees?

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    The biigest fools are the ordinary working people who been fooled by the right wing media that the EU is bad for them. outside the EU your wages and working conditions will take a massive hit . take you heads out of the sand the EU protects you from evil bosses and slave labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Every day the damage being done by being a member is worsening, immigration is resulting in a lack of jobs and housing.

    By 2017 the damage done will be even greater that we may not be in a position to be able to pull out, we need withdrawal NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Do you think we should leave the EU?

    or should the EU happy people leave the UK?

    Can we have a vote that allows that option :@)

    Wont hold my breath.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    132 So your idea is that voting for a party more right wing socially and economically than one you wouldn't vote for on principle is somehow consistent? Do you expect to be taken seriously ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Actually I think I have just figured out what would happen if we withdrew, we would become a 3rd world country 20 years faster than if we stayed in the EU.

    Funny how when we are disillusioned with our internal politics we are told how important it is to be involved, cast a vote and have a say but when it comes to the EU those same people want to ignore it and simply bail out!! HYPOCRITES!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Look, if Scotland secedes, by law we will no longer be the entity known as the United Kingdom of GB and NI. We will become 2 new countries, The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Any treaties we signed as the UKGBNI will be void and we'll need to draw up new treaties to reflect the new countries we will have become. There's your way out for those who want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Its because of UKIP that the current government is forced to listen to the public which is what they should be doing in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Come on, be fair. The PM does a hard job in trying circumstances, and politicians are highly principled and upstanding members of society. It's pretty mean and cheap to criticise them so much. So stop it.

  • Comment number 146.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    They keep saying the British people want a referendum.

    I'm as British as they come and I don't want one.


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