This letter from Tory councillors, calling on David Cameron to campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, is an open act of defiance after Eric Pickles wrote to demand their loyalty to the “in” campaign.
The Conservative Party is splitting over Europe – as it has in the past.
Cameron can’t back down; he has made too much of his claim to have won significant victories over the UK’s position in the European Union.
But the Eurosceptics won’t retreat either. They know that public opinion is against their prime minister – most of us agree with the Eurocrats that he couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag without highly-educated assistance.
It is a conflict in which the rest of us are bystanders. All we can do is sit and watch.
We’ll have to get our information about the pros and cons of the UK’s membership of the EU elsewhere – but then, we were never going to get a straightforward summary of the arguments from the Conservative Party in any case.
Pickles has been made to look a fool, of course – but then, has he ever been anything else?
More than 130 councillors have written to the prime minister saying he must accept his renegotiation with Brussels had failed to achieve what had been promised in the party’s election manifesto.
“The only responsible and honest thing for the Conservative party – and for those in it – to do, is campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union,” according to the letter seen by the Daily Telegraph.
“You made clear that if you did not get the deal you wanted in Europe you would not rule out campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union yourself, and we hope you will now unite your party and Britain in doing so.
“We ask that you consider the long-term future of the Conservative party and its wishes as a community, and take the views of grassroots members as seriously as your predecessors have.”
Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU, told the Telegraph that the campaign had signed up more than 500 Tory councillors. “I think the vast majority will be disappointed that David Cameron has instructed his MPs to ignore their views,” he said.
The letter to Cameron comes a day after Eric Pickles, the former communities and local government secretary, wrote an email to all Tory councillors urging them to back the prime minister’s drive to achieve a “better deal with our European partners”.
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