When Adam Afriyie called for a referendum on Briatin’s membership of the EU in October last year, it was rejected unanimously by the party. It looked good. It appeared that Cameron had satisfied the Eurosceptics within his party by promising a referendum in 2017. For once it looked as if the Conservatives were united on the issue of Europe. It remained this way with the party pushing James Wharton’s Private Members Bill through the Commons just before the New Year.
It was inevitable that the issue would not disappear from the backbenches of the party. A group of 95 ‘rebel’ Conservative MPs have broken this so-called truce. A letter was drafted by Bernard Jenkins, a senior member of the party. In this letter, they urge Cameron to change the law to give the Commons authority to block new EU legislation. It is also believed that another six MPs, who are in governmental roles, have expressed their support for the demands.
With James Wharton’s Bill being blocked in the House of Lords, Cameron is under intense pressure to tackle the issue of Europe. We are constantly told that he wants to reclaim powers back from Brussels. I agree that it would be dangerous economically to leave the EU, but if these powers are not retrieved soon, then many will lose patience and will vote to leave.
Everybody who is pro-Europe is criticising Cameron’s handling of the situation. His calls for reform from within the EU however, are gaining support. The vice-president of France’s centre – right party UMP has shown her support for Cameron’s reforms. Rachida Dati, an MEP, has called them ‘bold’ and clearly supports his calls for reform. This is encouraging. There is no doubt that with the European Elections approaching, we will see more politicians expressing from within the EU a need for some much needed reform.
We all know Cameron wants to stay in the European Union. As I said above, economically it would be too risky to leave. I hope Cameron will successfully reclaim the powers back from Brussels, but I fear that it something he will not able to do. Also, with the Bill proposing a referendum in 2017 struggling to make it through the House of Lords, Cameron is now facing some difficult times ahead. As things stand, it could go a lot worse in May with reports saying the party will finish third in the European elections. We need to see some drastic action on Europe. Conservative backbenchers are getting restless and if nothing is done, the party will be punished in the elections in May.