The Prime Minister is facing renewed pressure over Europe, after backbench Conservatives launched a bid to force a Commons vote next week on demands for a referendum.
Downing Street insisted David Cameron was “relaxed” about the move, which was seen in Westminster as a fresh blow to his authority, already undermined by Ukip’s successes in last week’s council elections on top of calls from a number of Tory grandees for a British exit from the EU.
The amendment, tabled by Tory MPs John Baron and Peter Bone, does not demand legislation on a referendum, but “respectfully regrets” no bill was included in the Queen’s Speech, which set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the coming year.
Mr Baron said its purpose was “to keep the Government focused on this issue” and send a clear message that the demand for a bill was “not going away”.
The Prime Minister, who has committed to stage an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if the Tories win the 2015 general election, yesterday defended his approach of first seeking fundamental renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership as “logical, sensible, practical”.
“I think it is possible to change and reform this organisation and change and reform Britain’s relationship with it,” he said.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the prospect of a Parliamentary rebellion next week was “another storm” brewing for Mr Cameron as he faces a grilling on “why he is doing all he can to avoid giving the British people a referendum”.