Conservative MEPs split over Brexit

European Parliament's Conservative party delegation at odds over UK's EU membership.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

26 Feb 2016

Tensions are mounting within David Cameron's Conservative party, as some members have defied the UK Prime Minister and announced their intentions to campaign for Brexit. Even the Brussels branch of the party is split, with some Tory MEPs wishing to call time on the UK's – and presumably their own - EU membership.

Amjad Bashir is one such MEP, although he insisted that; "This is not a vote against Europe or its people; it is a vote  borne out of deep frustration with the EU's chronic inability to achieve the reforms it critically needs, not just to prosper, but to survive as a political entity."

"It is a vote for the belief that the UK can be more successful as a friend to the EU on the outside, rather than from within, with a new relationship that better reflects the open, amicable and pragmatic approach to our relations with our other friends around the world."


Bashir, who defected from the UK Independence Party last year, believes that, "ultimately, the referendum will be a healthy exercise in reducing the democratic deficit that is talked about so much, yet acted upon so little. I would encourage others to heed the UK's example."

Bashir's colleague Emma McClarkin, who serves as the ECR group's shadow rapporteur on TTIP, has also come out in support of Brexit. She argued that Cameron's membership renegotiation deal, "unfortunately falls far short of addressing the very real concerns that both the

British people and I have for our membership of the EU. I believe the UK's best interests for a more democratic and prosperous future lie outside the EU."

"The deal contains no return of powers to the UK, no full control of our immigration policy and no treaty change. This deal is simply not going to deliver the reforms the British people want and deserve. It is time to leave."

However, most Conservative MEPs are expected to vote in favour of remaining a member of the EU. Vicky Ford, Chair of Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee, highlighted that, "the single market helps the UK trade across Europe's 500 million consumers."

"But the devil in the detail of EU law can affect every sector of our economy. Other countries, such as Norway, have to accept these laws without having a say on the underlying terms. For an economy as diverse as the UK, we cannot afford to be in a position like that of Norway."

"Much as I would like to be able to walk away quietly from the bureaucracy of the EU institutions, all my instincts tell me that leaving would lead to a very expensive and drawn-out divorce."

Veteran MEP Richard Ashworth - formerly the leader of the Conservative party in the European Parliament - praised the EU for having, "facilitated the longest period of peace and prosperity that the European continent has ever known."

"Far too often, this debate is about emotions and not facts. The 'out' campaign is weak on facts and has not offered any credible alternative to EU membership. Britain will be stronger in Europe, working with our European colleagues. I therefore fully support the Prime Minister and will campaign to remain in a reformed EU."

Sajjad Karim, who like Ashworth has been an MEP for over a decade, agreed, saying;, "There is no doubt in my mind that Britain is stronger as part of the EU. Cameron's deal secures a special status for the UK and I believe it is in our country's economic and national security to remain as a member of the EU, standing for change from within, rather than taking a leap into the unknown."

"Our future does not lie in isolation, our past and present dictate that it lies in leadership - leadership in Europe and the UK acting strong on a global stage."


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