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Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Thursday, 20 October 2011 09:04 UK

Tory MP would defy Cameron on EU vote

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A senior Conservative backbencher says he is prepared to defy a government three-line whip on Monday's Commons vote on a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, told Today presenter John Humphrys that "ultimately this is about country first, party second and career last, and that's where we've got to move to. Because ultimately the British people, a majority, have not had a say on this issue. It's not going to go away "

And he added: "This is fundamentally about freedom, about democracy and it's about the legitimacy of the European project. There's the great disenfranchised out there that have never had a say. They need to be enfranchised.

"People feel there's a real disconnect, not only between Brussels and the British people but increasingly between Westminster and the British people."

Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi said the timing was wrong for a referendum on the proposals. He said: "My problem, and I don't need a three-line whip to vote against this debate, is timing. Brilliant strategies, badly timed and executed, end up in failure."

David Cameron has brought forward the debate in an attempt to face down a backbench rebellion over the issue. The Commons vote was due next Thursday but will now take place on Monday, so that the prime minister can attend.

The prime minister believes now is not the right time for a referendum, and government sources have said it is likely to impose a three-line whip, insisting that Tory backbenchers support its position.


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