The truth about the Tories and the EU Referendum Bill

October 29, 2014 10:02 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Conservatives have pulled the plug on their own EU Referendum Bill, despite being given the opportunity by the Liberal Democrats to take it before the House of Commons.

Questions are now being asked as to whether this was a short term tactic to distinguish themselves form UKIP by being able to promise a referendum at the next election, which they couldn't have done if the Coalition had made it law.

For the first time, we are lifting the lid on some of the negotiations behind the scenes in order to reveal the truth to the public.

Quite simply, a deal was being made in government, where the Liberal Democrats offered to grant the required money resolution for Conservative MP Bob Neill's EU Referendum Bill in return for the Conservatives agreeing to a money resolution for Lib Dem MP Andrew George's Affordable Homes Bill.

This is standard practice in government and is a completely reasonable deal - each party getting a money bill for a Private Member's Bill they feel strongly about.

But the Tories decided to putting forward a proposal they know for certain will be turned down by the Lib Dems - a completely unfair deal where Andrew George's Bill would only get a money resolution, but Bob Neill's Bill would have both a money resolution and government time for the EU Referendum Bill.

The Liberal Democrats have been more than willing to sign up to a fair deal that is the same for both sides - i.e. a money bill being granted for both Andrew George and for Bob Neill. This is not the case with the Conservative's last ditched proposal.

A spokesperson for the party has said:

"The Liberal Democrats were never going to block Bob Neill's Referendum bill. We were happy to allow them to try and get it passed in the House of Commons. But the truth is they have folded like a cheap deck chair and are trying to make us take the blame by adding ridiculous conditions they knew we would not and could not accept."

The only logical conclusion that can be reached is that the Tories don't really want their bill to pass and are trying to set the Lib Dems up as the scapegoats. Why else would they put forward a proposal they know cannot be agreed?

We can only assume they would prefer it hadn't become law by the time of the General Election. They would prefer not to be talking about their bottom lines in their proposed grand renegotiation and instead try and deal with UKIP by saying the only way to get a referendum is to vote Tory. They couldn't do the latter if their bill had become law. They clearly never wanted the referendum bill to pass.

It is amazing that the Conservatives are prepared to sacrifice this Bill, which they say they care about, for some short-term tactical distinction from UKIP.