The vote on whether Britons should decide Britain’s future in the EU might have appeared an easy win for the British Prime Minister, at 483 votes to 111. But among those who voted against him in Parliament were around 80 of his own party – that is more than a quarter of all his MPs – who want a referendum on Britain leaving the EU.
David Cameron said: “There is no bad blood on my part, no rancour, no bitterness. These are valued Conservative colleagues. I understand why people feel strongly and we’ll go forward together and tackle the difficult decisions that the country faces. But you have to do the right thing and give a lead in politics and that’s what yesterday was about.”
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, himself a former member of the European Parliament, said leaving the EU would be disastrous for Britain.
“Eurosceptics need to be quite careful about what they wish for. Because if they succeed in pushing this country – and they won’t succeed as long as I’m in government – to push this country towards the ‘Exit’ sign, let’s be clear, the people who will be damaged is British families, British businesses, British jobs, British communities and I will not let that happen.”
The biggest parliamentary rebellion on Europe since the war was accompanied by an anti-EU demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament and raft of public opinion polls. One survey, for the Guardian newspaper, showed 49% of the population would vote to leave the EU were a referendum to be held.