Three months after it was sent, the Prime Minister has replied to a letter signed by over 100 backbench Conservative MPs calling for legislation in this parliament for an EU referendum in the next.
John Baron, who co-ordinated the letter, is not releasing David Cameron’s response as the original message was private, too. But I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy from elsewhere, and here are some of the key points Cameron makes:
‘As we discussed, I do believe it would be wrong to rule out any type of referendum for the future. However, I am concerned that making a legal commitment now to hold a referendum in the next Parliament without setting the exact referendum question would not be a workable, nor a sustainable, position.’
But the Prime Minister adds that he believes that ‘as a fresh deal in Europe becomes clear, that is the time when we should consider how best to get the fresh consent of the British people’, and also says he understands ‘the depth of feeling’ among many MPs and that he does ‘share many of your frustrations’ on the matter.
Baron isn’t unhappy with this, though as he believes the reference to getting the consent of the electorate once a fresh deal on a new relationship is struck is still a step forward:
‘You need to read it twice as it is very carefully constructed, but the bottom line is that he’s saying Europe is going through radical range, let’s see the results of our concerted effort to get a fresh deal. It’s a step forward because up to this point he hasn’t talked about getting the consent of the British people.’
But Stewart Jackson, who resigned as PPS to Owen Paterson last winter to vote against the government in the backbench rebellion calling for a referendum, is less content. He tells me:
Tags: Conservatives, David Cameron, EU referendum, UK politics
‘Voters don’t trust politicians who try to sell nuanced convoluted issues with the implicit assumption that they’re too stupid to understand the big issues. The ‘cast iron guarantee’ debacle did us great damage. David Cameron has an opportunity very soon to show leadership by committing unequivocally to an in/out EU referendum. Without it, UKIP will wreck any chance of an overall majority for the Conservative party in 2015.’