Lord Howe, a former foreign secretary and chancellor has said that the Prime Minister is losing control over his party because of the situation in Europe. Mr Cameron has vowed to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. This will take place before the end of 2017.
Speaking to the Observer, Lord Howe accused Tory leadership as ‘running scared’ of its backbenchers, through offering to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Brussels. Mr Cameron also warned that if the proposed referendum resulted in the UK’s departure from the EU, the country’s globally influencing consequences would be ‘dire’.
The Prime Minister’s position on attempting to return powers has not changed. However, this warning from Lord Howe follows press reports of somebody close to Mr Cameron calling Tories pushing for the referendum ‘mad, swivel-eyed loons’. Downing Street denied that anyone had made these remarks.
In the Observer, Lord Howe claimed that the Prime Minister had ‘opened a Pandora’s Box politically and seems to be losing control of his party in the process.’ These controversial comments were made in reaction to Cameron’s plan to renegotiate the UK-EU relationship. “The ratchet-effect of Euroscepticism has now gone so far that the Conservative leadership is in effect running scared of its own backbenchers, let alone UKIP, having allowed deep anti-Europeanism to infect the very soul of the party,” wrote Lord Howe. He also stated: “The Conservative Party’s long, nervous breakdown over Europe continues and what is essentially a Tory problem is now, once again, becoming a national problem. Serious mistakes have been made, but the situation is not irretrievable.”
In a different BBC Radio 5 live piece, Howe warned of the possible consequences of the referendum. He called the probable effects ‘grave’.
Despite these warnings of the former foreign secretary and deputy prime minister, under Thatcher, the Conservatives last week published a draft parliamentary bill to legislate for a referendum to be held by the end of 2017.