MPs from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party on Monday intensified calls for a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union.
Mark Pritchard, secretary of the party’s influential 1922 committee, called the EU a “burdensome yoke” and warned in Monday’s Daily Telegraph that Tory support for the project could “no longer be taken for granted”.
The MP for The Wrekin in Shrophshire claimed the EU was “disfiguring Britain’s independence” and pushed for a “trade-only relationship” with the bloc.
Eurosceptic Conservative lawmakers have become increasingly frustrated by Cameron’s reluctance to repatriate powers from the EU and 120 backbenchers — MPs without a government role — met last week to voice their concerns.
The Liberal Democrats, the government’s junior coalition partners, oppose a loosening of EU ties and Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander on Sunday told his party’s conference in Birmingham that “anti-Europeans” were the “enemies of growth”.
The Conservative’s hold their own annual conference in Manchester next month, with the European issue likely to figure highly in light of the sovereign debt crisis rocking Brussels.
“Conservative backbenchers can no longer be taken for granted,” Pritchard wrote in the Telegraph article.
“Conservative MPs will not continue to write blank cheques for workers in Lisbon while people in London and Leicester are joining the dole queue.”
Pritchard argued that many Britons saw the EU as “a kind of occupying force” which restricted freedoms, imposed taxes and eroded the native culture.
“In less than four decades, and without a single shot being fired, Britain has become enslaved to Europe,” he added.
“Brussels has become a burdensome yoke, disfiguring Britain’s independence and diluting her sovereignty.”
Under his plans, the public would be allowed to vote on whether Britain’s relationship with Brussels should be downgraded from a political to purely trading union.