I’ve been gauging the views of Welsh Conservative MPs ahead of tonight’s vote in the House of Commons on whether or not there should be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
We can expect at least one to defy his party’s leadership and vote for the motion. That’s because Monmouth’s David Davies, was among those who signed the motion in the first place.
Another, Montgomeryshire’s Glyn Davies, will vote with the Government and against the motion, even though, as he writes on his blog, he considers himself to ‘have been a Euro-sceptic ever since Ted Heath took us in to the EEC in 1974’ and that he would have welcomed a debate about ‘excessive interference’ by the EU.
Mr Davies reckons there will be a referendum at some stage, but that discussing the possibility of an ‘in/out’ referendum now ‘would be the most enormous distraction from the Government’s work to reduce the deficit.’
A third, Guto Bebb, did put his name to an amendment (which wasn’t allowed by the Speaker) calling for moves towards renegotiating the UK’s membership of the EU, but he told me he wouldn’t be able to vote for the three-option referendum (i.e. including withdrawal) that the motion itself calls for.
One MP told me he’s spent the weekend ‘struggling’ to make a decision and at the time of writing hasn’t made up his mind.
What Glyn Davies said is also echoed by another MP who’ll be voting with the Government even though he considers himself a Eurosceptic and counts a number of the rebels as friends.
That’s because he believes a time of economic turbulence is exactly the wrong time to hold an in/out referendum and that most voters wouldn’t actually want to withdraw from the EU but would prefer a ‘realignment.’
And the MP thinks that opportunity will present itself sooner rather than later because the Euro crisis will inevitably mean new negotiations between EU members about their relationship with each other.
According to this MP a vote tonight for an in/out referendum would send the wrong signal and bind the hands of David Cameron in those negotiations. ‘He needs as much power and freedom to negotiate as he can.’
Cardiff North’s Jonathan Evans used to lead the Conservatives in the European parliament.
He told me it would no surprise to anyone that he’d be voting with the Government this afternoon, adding that ‘I’ve been outspoken in my view that Britain gains from being in the European Union, not that that means I agree with everything – I was against joining the Euro for instance.’
Mr Evans says the Government HAS acted on concerns about handing over chunks of power to Brussels by introducing the so-called ‘referendum lock’ which requires any future government to hold a vote if it wishes to make any such transfer.
The build up to this debate has dominated political news coverage and parliament today, but according to Jonathan Evans is not the most pressing concern to his constituents.
He said he had close to a thousand emails from members of the public worried about the Government’s plans for the future of forests.
But ahead of this debate, he received precisely 27.