Adam Afriyie, a Tory backbencher, has decided to table an ammendment to James Warton’s EU bill, aiming to bring forward an EU referendum to next year. Tom Watson and Nigel Farage have both said they would support the vote.
Afriyie writes in the Daily Mail this morning:
The fact is, the British people are not convinced there will be a referendum at all if we wait until after the next General Election. So many things can change
They don’t understand why we can’t have one right away – and that makes them suspicious. Many people think delaying the vote is just a tactic to allow all the political leaders to kick the can even further down the road.
He said that delaying the vote until 2017 would create unwelcome uncertainty in the city:
…businesses want an EU referendum because uncertainty is bad for business. Investment decisions are on hold pending the 2015 Election result. Even if the result leads to a Conservative-led government, there will be further uncertainty about what will be renegotiated with Europe, uncertainty over the 2017 referendum result and uncertainty over the implementation of that result.
But Wharton told Sky News this morning that bringing his plans to fruition too early risked ruining them:
This amendment, whilst it may be superficially attractive to some people, I don’t think is actually helpful and I hope it won’t get pushed to a vote, because… it would significantly impede the progress of my bill
Whether or not it will help the bill, Afriyie’s challenge certainly threatens Tory unity. As Isabel Hardman writes in the Spectator, the remaining question is over which lines it will split across.