Tories' honeymoon over as Eurosceptics turn up heat
Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30
David Cameron's brief honeymoon after his shock election victory has already ended after Eurosceptic Conservative MPs demanded he win major concessions when he renegotiates the terms of Britain's EU membership.
The Europhobes admit the UK prime minister's unexpected triumph has strengthened his position in the party, and insist there will be no repeat of the rebellions over Europe that destabilised John Major's government in the 1990s.
However, they are already raising the bar high on a new EU deal and warning that they will campaign to leave the 28-nation bloc in the 2017 referendum if he secures only cosmetic changes.
One Eurosceptic MP said yesterday: "He has won a breathing space and he must be allowed to get on with it [the EU talks]. But we have also won new muscle because he will need our votes in the Commons."
Mr Cameron could usually ignore his hardline critics under the Coalition because the Liberal Democrats gave him an overall majority of more than 70.
But with his majority down to 12, a rebellion by a small number of Tories could defeat him.
In his first interview since Thursday's election, Mr Cameron told Channel 4 News: "The first thing is to get the renegotiation going. We will be doing that soon.
"I've already made calls to European leaders. Then the referendum. I'm confident we're going to get the right result."
But Peter Bone, a Tory Eurosceptic, said: "I think he'll go to Europe, I think he'll negotiate very well, but I think he'll fail to get what the British people want, not because of his efforts, but because [of] the European bureaucrats. They live on a different planet. I'll campaign to stay out of the European superstate. We'll see what the British people decide."
David Davis, a Eurosceptic who was a government whip during the Major era, believed there would not be a repeat of the revolts in the 1990s.
Mr Davis wants a special opt-out for Britain if an EU measure affected the national interest, saying that might persuade him to vote to stay in the Union.
But there would be little chance of Mr Cameron winning such special treatment. Brussels officials say other member states would make similar demands, causing gridlock inside the EU.
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron also pledged to "bring the United Kingdom together" after the SNP surge in Scotland that led to the party's winning 56 seats.
Both Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, and Alex Salmond, her predecessor, have indicated that in the coming years they will push for another independence referendum.
However, when asked whether there will be another one, Mr Cameron said: "There's not going to be another referendum. We had the referendum, and the SNP aren't pushing for another referendum.
"Nicola Sturgeon has said the election vote wasn't about another referendum." (© Independent News Service)