Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

Cameron defeated on EU referendum bill

British Prime Minister David Cameron's government on Monday (7 September) suffered its first defeat in parliament since its re-election in May, after Eurosceptic Tories joined opposition lawmakers to reject proposed rules for a European Union membership referendum.

The referendum bill was passed in the early hours of Tuesday by the House of Commons, with the Eurosceptic and Labour lawmakers defeated by 312 to 285 votes preventing the government from relaxing so-called “purdah” laws.

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  • (Photo: Downing Street)

The purdah tradition means that governments should refrain from publishing or announcing anything in the run-up to the vote that could influence election outcomes.

Cameron’s government has argued that relaxing “purdah” rules was needed to allow British officials to react to events concerning Europe without breaching regulations.

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs argued that relaxing the rules would help Cameron put the “Whitehall machinery” to work to campaign for remaining within the EU.

Earlier, the government conceded a rebel Tory amendment preventing a snap poll from being held.

Labour said the defeat was "humiliating" for the Conservative government.

Cameron's first parliamentary defeat since his re-election with a slim majority of 12 seats in May was a stark reminder of how deeply his Conservative Party is divided over Europe.

The defeat at the hands of 37 rebels within his own party will ring alarm bells for Cameron.

A poll over the weekend showed those in support of leaving the EU were slightly ahead of those wanting the UK to remain part of the block.

The main issue is connected to immigration, as voters tend to vote for leaving the 28-nation club the less secure they feel about it.

Cameron announced on Monday that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian asylum-seekers from refugee camps outside of Europe over 5 years.

No date has yet been set for the referendum but Cameron has promised to hold the vote by the end of 2017.

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