UK News: Majority of Tory Members Oppose
Cameron Faces Revolt On Europe ... Vast Majority of Tory
Members Oppose Position on Lisbon Treaty, Poll Reveals
Andrew Grice, Political editor, The Independent
Saturday, 3 October 2009
David Cameron is facing a major REVOLT
by the Conservative Party grassroots over his policy on Europe,
according to a survey for The Independent. The poll of 2,205
Tory members by the ConservativeHome.com website found that more
than eight in 10 want him to call a REFERENDUM on the Treaty of
Lisbon even if it has been approved by the next general election
– a pledge he is refusing to make.
TOTAL WITHDRAWAL from the European Union is the most
favoured option among party members when asked how a Tory
government should handle the issue, putting them totally at odds
with a Tory leadership committed to British membership.
Some 82 per cent want to freeze Britain's financial
contributions to the EU.
The findings suggest that the damaging divisions on Europe which
destabilised the last Tory government could resurface at the
party's annual conference in Manchester. Mr Cameron has played
down the issue but it is firmly back on the agenda because of
yesterday's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, the
result of which will be announced today.
The expected Yes vote (WGFT Ed: Yes, it was a 'Yes') would
remove the biggest remaining hurdle to ratification by all 27 EU
member states. Mr Cameron has promised a referendum in Britain
if he becomes prime minister and the treaty has not been
ratified by then. But he is reluctant to call one if it has
already won EU-wide approval, as withdrawing from it would
plunge Britain's relations with its EU partners into chaos.
Conservative Eurosceptics will demand a referendum even if
Ireland votes Yes. Mr Cameron will play for time, arguing that
the treaty still needs approval by Poland and the Czech
Republic. Although he would "not let matters rest" if the treaty
has been approved throughout Europe when the election is held,
he refuses to say what that means.
Tory MPs believe his approach will come under severe strain if
the party wins. Many share the Euroscepticism of the party
grassroots highlighted by ConservativeHome's online survey this
Asked to outline Britain's ideal relationship with the EU, 39
per cent of Tory members believe it should pull out and set up a
free trade deal with other European countries. A further 29 per
cent say it should remain an EU member but seek a fundamental
renegotiation of Britain's terms. Another 20 per cent want to
repatriate some powers from Brussels.
Only 9 per cent want to stay in the EU and oppose a
further loss of sovereignty. In a sign of how far the Tories
have shifted on Europe, a tiny 3 per cent of party members
say Britain should play a full part in building an "ever closer
More than half (55 per cent) want to start a new referendum
process if the Lisbon Treaty has been approved and the Tories
win power, while 29 per cent say the treaty should be declared
illegitimate and a British referendum held to give a Cameron
government the authority to opt out of the treaty's provisions.
Only 11 per cent of Tory members would accept that the treaty
could not be undone – Mr Cameron's likely stance as prime
minister – while only 5 per cent would welcome it and put
Britain "at the heart of Europe".
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