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Cross-party campaign for in/out EU referendum will target marginal seats

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-03-14 at 07.14.42 Last week David Cameron rejected the idea of an in/out referendum on the EU - confirming the Tory leadership's commitment to continuing EU membership. Some Downing Street insiders have become much more EU-sceptic since entering government but Cameron has become less so, according to ConHome sources. Cameron enjoys the "fraternity of European leaders", despite rebuffs as, last week, on Libya.

With all three big party leaderships committed to EU membership, tomorrow will see the formal launch of a new campaign to get the EU referendum that 61% of the British people want.

The cross-party campaign, previewed in today's Daily Mail, will encourage people to sign what will be called The People's Pledge. Signatories will pledge to only vote for candidates who, themselves, are willing to vote for a referendum. The internet-based campaign will initially focus on the 100 most marginal seats in the country.

Opinion polls say that Europe doesn't register with voters when it is expressed in abstract terms. That changes when voters are reminded that Brussels costs British taxpayers £8.3 billion per year. Then there's the cost to consumers because of the Common Agricultural Policy. Add in the fact we cannot control our borders, the EU has devastated our fishing industry, mis-spends its aid budget, won't get its own accounts audited and produces 30% of the paperwork in Whitehall... and you can see why some polls suggest that the British people are ready to leave Europe.

Supporters of the pledge include Keith Vaz for Labour, Dan Hannan MEP and Zac Goldsmith MP for the Conservatives and the Green Party's Caroline Lucas. Not all of these supporters want to leave the EU but they believe in giving voters a referendum.

In a leader article, the Mail takes the same position - backing the pledge without supporting withdrawal:

"The Mail doesn’t support a wholesale withdrawal from the EU. There are many important trade partnerships to preserve. However, five major treaties have been signed without a referendum since 1975, giving Brussels ever more power over vast areas of our day-to-day lives. From the Human Rights Act to open-door immigration, we have lost far too much of our sovereignty to Europe. Wherever you stand on the issue, isn’t it time there was an honest, open, national debate on EU membership, and the British people were asked what they think?"


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