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Coffee House

Some cheer for Tory election planners: Clegg determined to oppose EU referendum

11 March 2013

4:14 PM

11 March 2013

4:14 PM

The last few weeks have, to put it mildly, not been encouraging for those working on the Tories’ 2015 campaign. But today brings news to gladden their hearts. For the FT’s Kiran Stacey reports that Nick Clegg is so opposed to David Cameron’s plan for renegotiation followed by a referendum that he’s considering making it a red line for any future coalition negotiation.

This is good news for Tory campaigners as it indicates that the Liberal Democrats will go into the next election opposed to giving the people a say on Europe. Now, to most voters Europe is not the deciding issue when they cast their ballot. But the Liberal Democrats being on the wrong side of it certainly won’t help them —especially given the Eurosceptic nature of the south west where there are a bunch of Tory / Lib Dem marginals. Indeed, several Liberal Democrat Cabinet Ministers have been privately saying that the party should simply accept that a referendum is inevitable and not expend political capital opposing it.

There is, though, one group that this position will help the Liberal Democrats with: big business. Big businesses tend to regard the regulatory costs of the EU as a small price to pay for the single market. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Liberal Democrats can use this position to win support from them before 2015.

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