Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Cameron's Conservatives table EU referendum bill

  • Cameron's move comes after pressure from within this own Conservative ranks and the increasingly popular Ukip party (Photo: UK Parliament)

The British Conservative Party has tabled legislation that would guarantee an EU in/out referendum before the end of 2017.

The bill, released on Tuesday (14 May), is expected to be sponsored as a private member's bill by a backbench Conservative MP.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

It has the support of Prime Minister David Cameron but will not be tabled as a government bill because of the coalition agreement with the pro-European Liberal Democrats.

The question to appear on the ballot papers is “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?"

The radical step is the latest indication that Britain is on the verge of opening the EU's exit door. It also comes as Cameron attempts to face down a rebellion from around 60 Conservative MPs angry that the Queen's speech, which sets out the government's legislative priorities for the next year, does not include provisions for a referendum.

Many are also concerned that Cameron's renegotiation plans are predicated on winning the next election expected to take place in 2015.

The opposition Labour party has so far refused to match Cameron's referendum promise. But its MPs include a vocal minority of eurosceptics and the party is anxious not to be out of step with public opinion.

Cameron in January set out plans to rewrite the terms of the UK's EU membership and then hold referendum in 2017.

However, he has come under sustained pressure from within his own party, and from the anti-EU UK Independence party (Ukip) to bring forward the vote.

Conservatives are also struggling to stave off the rise in popularity of of Ukip. Led by MEP Nigel Farage, the party made big gains at local council elections earlier this month, picking up over 100 seats and beating the Tories into third place with an estimated 24 percent of the vote.

Opinion polls indicate that Ukip would pick up over 15 percent in a general election, the party's highest rating since its creation in the late 1990s.

For his part, Farage dismissed the Tories' referendum bill as "nothing more than gesture politics".

At the weekend two Conservative cabinet ministers, Phillip Hammond and Michael Gove, broke ranks indicating that they would support withdrawal from the EU on the basis of the current terms of membership.

UK media have indicated that at least nine senior ministers would favour a "No" vote without a successful renegotiation.

Key Conservative demands are likely to include special treatment of the City of London financial sector and an opt-out from employment and social affairs legislation.

Meanwhile, the first results of the UK government's 'balance of competences' review, which includes more than 30 audits across a range of EU policy areas, are expected to be published in the coming months.

US warns Britain on EU referendum

The Obama administration has warned Britain against sidelining itself in the EU as Prime Minister Cameron comes under increasing pressure to hold a membership referendum.

UK may hold EU referendum, PM says

British PM Cameron has said the UK could have a referendum on future relations with the EU - but only when the time is right.

News in Brief

  1. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  2. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013
  3. Russia banned from Olympics over doping scandal
  4. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  5. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe
  6. EU commission to 'correct mistake' on enlargement
  7. Luxembourg pushes EU to recognise Palestine
  8. Minister: 'All Brussels kids should be trilingual at 18'

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us