MPs give views on EU membership

David Cameron
Image caption Prime Minister David Camerson faced questions about the EU vote

David Cameron was in the Commons today for his regular showdown with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister's Questions.

But instead of being the main event, it was merely the warm-up act for his statement in which he told MPs the government had reached an "important milestone" in its attempts to change Britain's relationship with Europe.

He called for them to support his draft deal on reforms to the European Union.

But David Cameron is under no illusions about how difficult his task of winning over Conservative MPs will be.

'Not convinced'

Recent research for BBC South East showed that even in the Conservative heartlands of Kent and Sussex only two Tory MPs at this stage would vote for the UK to remain part of the EU.

The Ashford MP Damian Green is one of them.

He said Mr Cameron's deal would help Britain prosper.

But many more are not convinced. Six said they were most likely to vote to leave and many others were still undecided.

After hearing about Mr Cameron's package of proposed reforms to Britain's relationship with the EU, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said she still intended to vote for Britain to leave the EU.

She said the issue of immigration had not been dealt with and the introduction of the living wage in April would encourage more people to come.

But it has to be said she is not alone - I also spoke to another Sussex MP this morning, Tim Loughton, who said he is not happy with the deal negotiated and is now also more inclined to vote out.

And the South Thanet MP and former UKIP founder Craig Mackinlay said: "The emergency brake sounded so hopeful some weeks ago.

"But the concept of 28 feet reaching for the pedal all wanting an influence really means that when a hazard is seen, indecision will mean that an accident will surely happen."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The door is still open for the referendum to be held in June

What we still don't know is when this referendum will take place.

The First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have written to David Cameron urging him not to hold the EU referendum in June.

They said the campaigning would clash with their campaigns for parliamentary elections on 5 May.

But the Prime Minister would only confirm he would not hold it within six weeks of those May elections.

That still leaves the door open for the referendum to be held in June.

If that is the case, it gives the PM just four months to persuade some members of his cabinet, backbench MPs and - more importantly - the voters of the benefits of remaining part of the EU.

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