By Matthew Barrett
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This evening's backbench debate and vote on the possibility of a referendum on the European Union has dominated today's political news.
Conservative MPs, from both sides of the referendum argument, have been appearing in the media, and their words provide an insight into the possible themes of this evening's debate.
Arguing against a referendum as described in tonight's debate motion:
- Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe): "I believe that relationship has to change, and I believe Europe has to change. But we simply don’t know enough yet about what powers we could repatriate to this country, how the crisis in the eurozone would play. So it would be impossible to have a referendum, debate, and campaign until we understood those things."
- Sam Gyimah (East Surrey): "I think the big thing is, on an issue like this, how do you think about rebelling – I’m a relatively new MP, I got elected in 2010 – and what I look at is, is it a manifesto commitment, is it in the Coalition agreement, and where do your constituents stand. … it’s very easy to rebel, saying that you’re speaking on behalf of your constituents, when maybe you’ve got 50 or so letters, and you’ve got to be careful you’re not speaking for the vocal minority, as opposed to the silent majority."
- Richard Harrington (Watford): "I think it is really absurd that people should be spending their time now, when the Government hasn’t even entered into the negotiations that it intends to do, where there has been no movement towards the pulling back of powers and getting benefits out of Europe, whilst reducing the things that people quite legitimately don’t like. .. The reason I’m opposing this motion is nothing to do with what any whips have said, or what David Cameron has said. It’s because I firmly believe it’s a ludicrous motion and it needs voting down."
MPs who will vote for a referendum:
- Peter Bone (Wellingborough): "The Whips are working very hard to threaten, bully and flatter people. I have no guess. I think 90 people have signed motions for a referendum, but when it comes to it I think if 50 or more people vote for it, then that is a very significant message to the Government that they need to change their policy, and I think really that’s what we’re looking for today."
- Philip Davies (Shipley): "The world's moved on since 1975, these little Europeans who just see everything in terms of Europe are out of date. Our future prosperity lies with trading with countries like China and India and South America and emerging economies in Africa. That’s where the future lies not being part of a backward-looking, inward- facing protection racket designed to prop up inefficient European businesses and French farmers. … This isn’t a challenge to the Prime Minster’s authority; I have no intention in challenging his authority as Prime Minister or leader of the Conservative Party. This is an issue about whether we should have a referendum; I think we should, the Prime Minister thinks we shouldn’t. … We don’t have to fall out over it."
- Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex): "The urgency of this issue is reflected by the fact that there is now over £60bn of European regulation, burden on business, and public services – we’ve slid right down the competitiveness league over the last decade or so – one of the big issues is European regulation. A majority of businessmen now see more disadvantages from the single market than advantages. This is restraining our economic growth."
Readers may also be interested to see Guido Fawkes has a document containing the lines being spoon-fed to loyalist, anti-referendum MPs.