Prime Minister David Cameron suffered an embarrassing blow in parliament on Wednesday, when more than a third of his Conservative MPs voted against him in protest at his stance on Britain's membership of the European Union.
While the vote was non-binding, the scale of the mutiny, less than two years before the next parliamentary election, will embolden eurosceptics pushing him to take a harder line on Europe. A total of 130 MPs supported an amendment expressing regret that the EU referendum was left out of the government's agenda. Of those, 114 of the Conservatives' 305 members of parliament voted against Cameron.
Just before the parliamentary ballot, Cameron played down its significance, saying he was "extremely relaxed". However, the opposition Labour Party said the revolt showed Cameron was losing control. "This vote is a further devastating blow to the prime minister's authority", Labour foreign affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander said. "Cameron has managed to turn a Europe issue into a leadership issue."
Cameron had hoped to end party squabbling over Europe in January when he promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and hold a referendum on its membership before the end of 2017, provided he wins the next general election in 2015. But Conservative eurosceptics soon began pushing for a law before 2015 to guarantee the referendum would take place. Some even called for an earlier referendum.
See also Graham Bishop's blog
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