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Cabinet ministers join Tory rebels in latest blow to David Cameron on EU

OWoN: British Democracy at its best. Now over a third of the Government are looking at voting us out of the EU. Damned right too. End the Human Rights Act too. Pack off the illegals and pack off the Euro trash and Asians flooding in. It's an Island. No one comes in unless cleared. No Visa, a one way exit or a parachute and a boot up the backside 200 miles out. Swim home. Exit and we can pack 3M back off home. No housing shortage, a huge drop in crime and no schools swamped. A Health Service now coping and a huge cut in the Welfare budget. How is that not joined up thinking? Politicians who don't get it need to go with them. We need it to be Legal to boot an Illegal.

David Cameron, second right, with world leaders and guests at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria last week, but the real battle for him on the European front was hotting up 700 miles away in Westminster

Cabinet ministers join Tory rebels in latest blow to David Cameron on EU

Eurosceptic organisation, Conservatives for Britain, has more than doubled its numbers to 110 Tory MPs demanding that Britain leaves Europe if Mr Cameron cannot secure drastic changes

The Telegraph
By Tim Ross
13 June 2015

David Cameron is facing a growing Tory revolt over his plan to keep Britain in the European Union, as his own ministers have joined a new group preparing for an “out” campaign.

The Eurosceptic organisation, Conservatives for Britain, which had just over 50 members last weekend has now swelled to include 110 Tory MPs.

A further 12 MEPs and 13 peers are also supporting for the organisation, which will demand that Britain leaves Europe if Mr Cameron cannot secure drastic changes to the terms of EU membership before a referendum.

The development will be a further blow to the Prime Minister’s authority over his party, which has already been undermined over Europe.

He was forced last week to retract a dramatic threat to sack any ministers who want to campaign against Britain’s continuing membership of the EU at the referendum due to be held by 2017.

Mr Cameron has promised to “renegotiate” the terms of Britain’s EU membership before putting the new deal to voters in an in/out referendum and has embarked on a round of diplomatic talks as he seeks allies in Brussels.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron (Barcroft)

However, Tory eurosceptics have accused Mr Cameron of attempting to “stitch up” the referendum for a "Yes" to Europe vote, by preparing to hold it as early as next May, with little opportunity for debate or scrutiny of his new deal.

They fear the government is already “loading the dice” in favour of a Yes vote, by proposing to scrap the convention that would ban impartial civil servants and government departments from getting involved in referendum campaigning.

If the whole government machine is backing a Yes vote to continued EU membership, Eurosceptics fear, the No campaign does not stand a chance of convincing the public that Britain’s best interests would lie in leaving the EU.

One leading rebel said scrapping the so-called “purdah” rules banning civil service involvement in the referendum was “a complete outrage”.

Up to 80 MPs could rebel over the issue when the EU Referendum Bill is debated next in the Commons this week, potentially inflicting a major defeat on Mr Cameron.

Separately, MPs including Sir William Cash, who chaired a parliamentary committee on Europe, and the former Cabinet ministers, John Redwood and Owen Paterson, have tabled an amendment to the Bill demanding that the referendum campaigning period last for at least 16 weeks.

This is designed to ensure that the “out” campaign is guaranteed sufficient time to make its case to voters.

Other MPs who have signed the amendment include the former Labour minister Kate Hoey, and the former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox.

Steve Baker, the MP for Wycombe, who is chairing Conservatives for Britain (CfB), said his group was supporting Mr Cameron’s efforts to negotiate better terms for the UK’s membership.

But if Brussels refuses to give the Prime Minister the truly radical changes the group wants, which would see a new relationship based almost entirely on trade, CfB will urge voters to choose to withdraw from the EU.

Mr Baker said there was “a spectrum of views” about what outcome of Mr Cameron’s talks will be.

About a fifth of members believe a satisfactory deal is “unlikely” and therefore “expect to campaign to leave the EU”, Mr Baker said.

“About three fifths think a successful renegotiation is possible and will make a decision when the renegotiated position becomes clear. Many of them would vote to leave if the question were tomorrow on the present basis,” he added. Others could choose to support Mr Cameron, whatever he achieves.

Mr Baker declined to say whether any ministers had joined CfB.

However, a source close to CfB said: “A number of government ministers have now signed up, including from the Cabinet.” Two separate sources also confirmed privately that CfB had ministerial support.

The disclosure follows a major row last week after the Prime Minister warned his Cabinet colleagues they would be forced to quit the government if they wanted to campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

Mr Cameron was forced to back down as critics including Boris Johnson and David Davis warned that the order would backfire, and potentially cause damaging splits in the party.

A number of senior Cabinet ministers have previously expressed deeply Eurosceptic views, including Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Philip Hammond, Elizabeth Truss, and Chris Grayling.

In his renegotiation, the Prime Minister has said that he wants new limits on Europeans’ eligibility for British benefits, a guarantee that the UK will never join the euro, and an end to the EU’s political drive towards “ever closer union”.

However, other member states – such as Poland – have already rejected these relatively modest demands.

Mr Cameron will discuss Britain’s renegotiation and referendum at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels at the end of this month.


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