Prime Minister David Cameron could face a fresh Conservative rebellion over Europe on Wednesday if a parliamentary motion over an EU referendum is debated.
Eurosceptic MP John Baron has introduced a non-binding motion expressing “regret” that last week’s Queen’s Speech, which set out the government’s priorities for the year, did not include a promise to legislate for a referendum on EU membership.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow is set to announce whether the amendment has been selected for debate as part of the wider debate on the legislative programme.
It is thought that as many as 100 lawmakers could back it, a third of the parliamentary Tory party, although the motion is non-binding.
In a bid to head off an embarrassing symbolic rebellion, Cameron’s Conservatives on Tuesday published a draft bill to hold a referendum on membership of the European Union.
It is a highly unusual move as it was published by the party, not the government, and will rely on an individual Tory MP guiding it through parliament as a private members’ bill.
The premier has promised to hold an in-out referendum before the end of 2017 if his party wins a majority at the next general election in 2015. Currently the Tories share power with the smaller pro-EU Liberal Democrats.
The rise of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), which came third in local elections this month, has renewed Tory calls for clear, quick action over Europe.
Cameron says he supports EU membership and would vote “yes” in any referendum but believes the 27-nation bloc needs to change.
However, opinion polls suggest many British people do not agree with him — a YouGov survey this week found 46 percent would vote to leave the EU, compared with 35 percent who would vote to stay.