David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on Europe marks a major victory for the Tory Right.
Just over a year ago the Prime Minister was rocked by a rebellion of 81 Conservative MPs after refusing calls to hold a national poll on British membership.
Now the rebels are celebrating the major U-turn by Mr Cameron.
“Congratulations to the Prime Minister on becoming the 82nd Tory rebel. We’re all in this together!” tweeted Conservative MP Mark Pritchard.
But it was not just the backbenchers who have pushed Mr Cameron into a referendum on Europe. The Cabinet is becoming increasingly Eurosceptic.
When John Major was in power he referred to Eurosceptics in his Government as the “b*****ds”.
Now they are taking over the Conservative Party.
Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has the ear of the Prime Minister, was one of the first to argue that Brussels should be presented with the ultimatum that it must reform or Britain would leave.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith are diehard Eurosceptics.
The most influential voice outside the Cabinet is Liam Fox who has become the figurehead of the Tory Right because of his anti-Brussels views.
Dr Fox is even reported to have helped write some of Mr Cameron’s speech yesterday.
The Prime Minister has also been forced to toughen his stance on Europe by the rise of UKIP under its charismatic leader Nigel Farage.
Recent polls have put UKIP as high as 16%, enough to rob the Tories of vital seats at the next general election.
Once dismissed as “loonies” by the PM, UKIP beat all expectations in the Rotherham by-election last November to finish second behind Labour with more than 20% of the vote.
Here are the eight leading Eurosceptics behind the PM’s change of mind:
The former Defence Secretary piled pressure on Mr Cameron when he gave a speech last year demanding a referendum.
He said there was “simmering resentment” among voters that they were duped into voting for a political union in 1975 and said a fresh poll was “vital”.
The Education Secretary pushed for Britain to take a tougher line with Europe.
He has signalled he would vote no in an in-out referendum on membership.
Iain Duncan Smith
When Dr Fox left the Cabinet, the Work and Pensions Secretary became the leading Eurosceptic in the Government.
He was one of the ringleaders of the Tory rebellions over Europe during Sir John Major’s years in power.
The Environment Secretary is a close ally of Iain Duncan Smith. He has long argued that a referendum is “inevitable.”
The London Mayor has burnished his leadership chances by outflanking David Cameron on Europe.
Last December he called for Britain to renegotiate a new deal with Brussels.
David Cameron’s former spin doctor is a founder member of the Fresh Start group of Tory MPs which has called for powers to be clawed back from Brussels to Westminster.
Right-wing Conservative MP who led the revolt against David Cameron by demanding a referendum on the EU.
Although not a Tory, the UKIP leader has wielded more influence than anybody else in the Conservative Party.
His party’s rise in the polls has rattled the Tories.
David Cameron’s EU U-turn: Who are the right-wingers now calling the Tory tune? – Mirror.co.uk
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