Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New MP Makes Mark with EU Bill; Widely Praised Speech Says Trust the Voters A North East MP's Bill Demanding an EU Referendum Was Unanimously Approved by MPs at Westminster Yesterday - but the Vote Said as Much about Party Politics in the UK as It Did about Europe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New MP Makes Mark with EU Bill; Widely Praised Speech Says Trust the Voters A North East MP's Bill Demanding an EU Referendum Was Unanimously Approved by MPs at Westminster Yesterday - but the Vote Said as Much about Party Politics in the UK as It Did about Europe

Article excerpt

TORIES are celebrating after a North East MP's Bill demanding a referendum on leaving the EU was unanimously approved by the House of Commons.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband was left trying to explain how his party could say it opposes the measure when not a single Labour MP voted against it.

But the European Union (Referendum) Bill, put to the Commons by StoS ckton MP James Wharton (Con), will have no impact on the UK's relationship with the EU, despite receiving its second reading.

It states that the UK must hold a referendum before December 31, 2017, posing the question: "Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?" But even if the Bill does eventually become law, which is far from certain, Parliament could simply decide to repeal it after the next election.

The question of whether a referendum takes place will be decided by MPs elected in 2015, who will be free to ignore yesterday's vote.

Nonetheless, Mr Wharton's Bill was personally backed by the Prime Minister, who was in the Chamber to hear the backbench MP speak, alongside Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague. Some Labour MPs demanded to know why Mr Cameron wasn't proposing the legislation himself. The answer, as they knew, was that his Lib Dem coalition partners oppose a referendum, making it impossible for the Prime Minister to sponsor the Bill.

Another question pointedly asked by Labour was why a Tory backbencher felt the need to propose the Bill when Mr Cameron had already said the promise of a referendum would be in the Conservative Party's next General Election manifesto.

It suggested Mr Cameron's backbenchers didn't trust him to keep his word, Labour said.

But the opposition was also in an awkward situation. Labour's official policy was to oppose the Bill, but party leader Ed Miliband had also instructed his MPs to abstain on the vote. …

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