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Coffee House

Cameron starts playing catch-up over the EU referendum vote

19 October 2011

8:24 PM

19 October 2011

8:24 PM

Adjust your calendars, CoffeeHousers. The parliamentary vote on an EU referendum is no
longer set for next Thursday. As the Mail’s James Chapman revealed this evening, Downing Street has moved it forward to
Monday so that David Cameron and William Hague can both attend. They would have been away on government business otherwise.

What to make of this hasty measure? I suppose it could feasibly be seen as a scare tactic on the part of No.10: strengthening the current three line whip by making it very clear that Dave Is
Watching You. But it’s far more likely that Cameron is appearing in order to set out the sorts of concessions that James mentioned earlier. There are, after all, almost
50 Tory backbenchers signed up to the original motion — 50 potential rebels. The Tory leadership will want to avoid provoking such a significant portion of the parliamentary party.

So expect Cameron to use the intervening days to craft a position on Europe that will sway his backbenchers; a position that speaks of repatriating powers, and perhaps of a potential referendum in
the next parliament, given certain conditions. As for other possible areas of concession, Zac Goldsmith has just tweeted
that "This will inevitably be a free vote by the time the bell rings". In the circumstances, Mr Goldsmith’s breezy confidence may not be misplaced.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


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