but respectfully regret that an EU referendum bill was not included in the Gracious Speech."This will be voted on Wednesday but what are they backing? There are any number of permutations:
A) An in/out referendum now
B) An in/out referendum in 2017 (Conservative policy)
C) A mandating referendum now (to back a renegotiation)
D) A mandating referendum in 2017
E) A Confirmatory referendum (post renegotiation)
Or perhaps a combination of the above. So by backing this amendment you could either be in favour of renegotiation for a reformed EU or exit. As we've said before, we see where the backers are coming from on this, but this amendment may merely be a prelude to a bigger legislative battle down the tracks.
The real question is not whether, like Gove and Hammond and others, you would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was held today - the question is what level of reform/renegotiation would convince them to argue in favour of staying. On this there is a wider spectrum of opinion within the Conservative party, as there is within the UK generally. On one end you have those for whom only a return to a trade-only relationship would suffice while on the other end there are some for whom a token renegotiation along the lines of Harold Wilson might be enough.
But all that said the vote itself is not meaningless. It is really a response to a fear by Conservative MPs that although they believe David Cameron is resolved to renegotiate a better EU deal that can accommodate UK public opinion, they fear that there have been so many false promises on the EU that their winning policy will not gain the traction with the public it should.
Again, you can see where these MPs are coming from.