Many Tory MPs favour Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union), much of the media reported this week. Some sources claim up to one fifth of all Conservative MPs (members of parliament) would vote to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum.
Mr. Cameron is committed holding a EU membership referendum by the end of 2017. He believes he can renegotiate terms with Brussels so that the majority of ‘don’t knows’ will be persuaded to vote to remain in the trading bloc.
The Brexit controversy is likely to dominate the Conservative Party’s Annual Conference next week. When Mr. Cameron speaks, it will be the first time a Tory prime minister has addressed his party as a Conservative-majority government leader since 1996.
If the UK leaves the EU, might other countries follow suit?
However, on the eve of his speech, the British prime minister will face two highly sensitive and controversial European Court Justice rulings which are likely to fire up his party’s Eurosceptic wing – the right of government to limit benefits to migrants and the right of prisoners to vote.
Mr. Cameron says he is against Brexit if..
Mr. Cameron says he would prefer to stay in the EU, i.e. a reformed EU. However, he adds that if he does not get the changes he seeks, he will rule nothing out.
In November 2014, ahead of the General Election, Mr. Cameron said:
“If our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out.”
Apart from changes in welfare payments to EU migrants, he is also seeking a raft of other concessions, including immigration controls, which many EU member states insist are impossible to concede.
The prime minister’s allies are becoming restive at the negotiations’ alarmingly slow progress so far.
Membership of the EU has haunted the Tories for decades. Splits have contributed to the downfall of two former prime ministers – John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
According to Open Europe, a London-based think tank, sixty-nine of 300 MPs are ‘firmly out’ or ‘out leaning’, while a massive 203 could sway either way. Only fourteen were found to be ‘firmly for’ (staying in) the EU, while 44 were leaning towards remaining.
According to Open Europe, the majority of Mr. Cameron’s cabinet – 12 out of 21 – are undecided. Four cabinet members are leaning towards staying in, while five are leaning the other way.
Brits becoming increasingly anti-EU
If Mr. Cameron does not get the reformed EU he seeks, it is highly likely that the British population will vote to leave, a growing number of studies and surveys suggest.
At least this time round, the Tories have fewer other problems to worry about. The Labour party appears to be undergoing a far-left leaning metamorphosis which most experts believe will take it into the wilderness for at least a decade, the Lib-Dems are licking their wounds from losing most of their seats, and UKIP is still coming to terms with winning just one parliamentary seat at the General Election.
Rifts will grow within the party, with a growing number of MPs either concerned about Cameron’s hitherto unsuccessful EU negotiations or those who simply want to get out.
Lawson says good EU deal unlikely
Former Chancellor Lord Lawson said earlier this week that it was becoming ‘increasingly clear’ Mr. Cameron would not secure a good deal.
Lord Lawson will become the president of Conservatives for Britain, a Tory opposition group that wants Brexit, regardless of what Cameron manages to secure with Brussels.
German think-tank Bertelsmann Stiftung predicted that a Brexit would cost the UK economy more than €300 billion.
Update Oct 9, 2015: Leave Now, which aims to be the official Brexit campaign, has been launched. Its members include Conservative and Labour lawmakers, as well as millionaires who have contributed to all the major political parties.
Update Oct 1o, 2015: The In Campaign, which will try to persuade voters to choose to remain inside the EU, announced that its Chairman will be Lord Stuart Rose, the current boss of online supermarket Ocado and former Marks & Spencer chief.
Update Oct 28, 2015: During a visit to Iceland of northern European leaders, Mr. Cameron warned that a Norway-style Brexit would not necessarily solve Britain’s problems.
Video – Does the UK have a future in the EU?
Sir Michael Leigh, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) of the United States in Washington, D.C., talks about whether Great Britain has a future in the EU.