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 804.

    The tragedy of the situation is that the original free trade ideals of the European project were a noble goal. But the European Commission sought constantly to expand its powers and sphere of influence. Weak national governments collaborated, ousting the democratic rights of their citizens in return for a seat at the Council of Ministers. In the end, they destroyed what they set out to build.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    Let me get this straight. UK is a net contributor to EU coffers which goes to pay EU farmers subsidy to produce food which we then import back into the UK, with all the pollution from trucking. Not only this, but our own farmers get paid to do nothing with their land and obviously don't employ British workers as they are not needed.
    Great policy.
    pre- EU did we starve?

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    It becomes more important to have the referendum before the next parliment. I don't want what i've seen of the tories social policies after 2015, but i do want a referendum. I know we won't get facts, just emotive sound bits, but that's politicians for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    @797. TheTakeleySocialist. Most Tory's i know including myself the farming subsidies are one of the main reasons we are against the EU. It is also the reason we get our rebate since most of the money goes to France and southern European countries. So you were saying Hypocrites? This is something a socialist does not realizes and that is sometimes a

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.


    'The social chapter is where we have most of our opt outs.'

    Tony Blair signed up to the social chapter immediately after his first election victory in 1997.


    'You simply don't understand free market econimics.'

    I understand it enough to see the harm it does for most people both within and without the UK. I simply don't accept it's the only economic model.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    797. What you are basically saying is one is stupid to be voting OUT. Well that's very convenient, it's a good job we don't think those voting IN are the same. Your history may not be a strong point but heavy subsidisation is a hallmark of a command economy. You recall the last big command economy we had? No! Let me tell you, it was the USSR, which has now separated into sovereign countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Apparently Dave (let's be clear) is chilled about this. Oh I bet he is LOL.
    Well Dave, I can tell you now how much I like seeing you squirm and probably not be telling the whole truth (no change there). Oh I wish we could bring back spitting image because Dave you would be a star!
    Ps It' getting harder by the day to get a post passsed the moderator. Still - what do expect with this gov.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    794.matthueycamo And it may be upsetting for all those farmers in Takeley who sport UKIP and Conservative Party bill boards during general elections on the same land that allows them to enjoy EU Farming subsidies.
    Oh what Irony come the day that these hypocrites actually get what they wished for and finding out that it's to their own detriment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    Hey Raus, if it wasn't for us you wouldn't be permitted to have an opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.


    For Germany see


    Sticking to ideas they know best.

    Might not work for all but allowed weak nation/area to stumble through to growth.

    Strong voices will win arguments.

    Minute GB does not have a chance on world stage without our Orchestra the EU.

    Learn Adapt and feel Fatalistic about the reverse button.

    Work through a Panic Attack don't let it Take Over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    @783. Alan Robinson-Orr. The social chapter is where we have most of our opt outs. It my be upsetting to hear for socialist europhiles but the main reason you love the EU actually has little impact on UK Employment rights and Law, that's right the British government still decides most of this. Shocking i know that the Tory's have not removed most of this even though they could!

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    780 RausAusEuropa

    I must apologise on behalf of some of our citizens. Insularity probably comes from living on an island. It takes outsiders sometimes to have a true perspective on things, like President Obama was perhaps too polite to say. Insularity. The British state of mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    @781 Yes and that's really the true tragedy of this whole situation.
    An over hyped right wing think tank has been artificially thrown together accumulating all sorts nut jobs contributing to a plethora of faux pas from Hitler salutes to Eugenics you name it...And they now have the whip hand (Ironic term of reference) over government policy without as much of a commons seat between them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    Created so that ultimately Germany will be in charge, it all really sounds good, the eu, but as always the stronger want to rule and control. we did well not to join the euro, the younger generations must learn to read the history books, the leopard doesnt change its spots. I think the majority will vote to stay in, and if not, we will just keep on having a vote till we say stay in. We are naive.

  • Comment number 790.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    The only way forward is this:

    The watershed has to be suspended to allow for Local, Regional and National live TV & Radio impartial and uncensored debates, so that the debates can happen at times where everybody from farm workers to Doctors can get involve, if this means saying goodbye to the soaps, daily chat shows etc... So be it, this is far to important to screw up, it our country's future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.


    Your words are no better than our right wing media politics.

    Europa UE is about solidarity.

    You do not win an argument by divide, but by fighting the flames of debate that every nation has the right to have.

    Please learn your history, because by stopping history repeating is learning.

    An educated monkey would know the EU is a Good think, the ill informed think of it as a bad thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    Breaking News :

    Dave assists in changeing Nigel's nappy.

    (he's doing the RIGHT thing) LOL (Lot's of love).

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    783.Alan Robinson-Orr

    You simply don't understand free market econimics. Your not alone, most Governments don't understand either.
    Read Milton Freidman or better still watch this series. Free to choose.


  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    @782.Doc Daneeka

    "How is a referendum result different from that?

    A referendum is true democracy, rather than a skewed first past the post system where by and large the minority view prevails. In this crazy system we have, 30% of the popular vote can secure a majority, meaning that more than 2/3 of people didn't want that result.


Page 1 of 41


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.