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25.10.11

Largest Tory rebellion over vote for referendum

The largest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe took place last night, even though the Government won the vote against the proposal to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

A large majority voted against holding a referendum, but there were 111 yes votes, including 79 Tory rebels, two abstainers and two tellers who are excluded from the vote tally. Adam Holloway MP resigned as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, as did the parliamentary aide Stewart Jackson, in order to vote for a referendum.

Before the vote, the Prime Minister told MPs: “Those who are supporting today's motion, but don't actually want to leave the EU I say to you, I respect your views, we disagree about ends, not about means.

“I support your aims. Like you, I want to see fundamental reform. Like you, I want to refashion our membership of the EU so it better serves our nation's interest. The time for reform is coming, that is the prize. Let us not be distracted from seizing it.”

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the vote was a “humiliation” for the Prime Minister.

He continued: “If he can't win the argument with his own backbenchers, how can the country have confidence that he can win the arguments that matter for Britain. Tonight confirmed that the Conservatives are more interested in fighting each other than fighting for Britain in Europe.”

A Number 10 spokesman said: “We understand that many people who voted for it felt very strongly – and we respect that. However, the Government has to do what is in the national interest.

“It was important to take a strong lead – because Britain's best interests are served by being in the EU. The PM has made clear that he shares the yearning for fundamental reform of the EU and is determined to achieve that.”

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