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Hampshire MP Julian Lewis calls for EU referendum before 2015 to 'neutralise' UKIP threat
DAVID Cameron is doomed to lose the next general election unless he “neutralises” the UKIP threat, a Hampshire Conservative MP has warned.
The only way to defeat Nigel Farage’s rising party is to stage a referendum on European Union membership before 2015, Julian Lewis said.
The New Forest East MP has penned an article urging the Prime Minister not to wait until 2017 before asking the voters whether they wish to quit the EU.
It comes just days after 140 Conservative colleagues said it would be madness to stage the referendum in the next year – before Mr Cameron’s promised renegotiation.
But, Dr Lewis wrote: “For many months, it has been obvious that the UKIP share of the vote in 2015 will seriously reduce the number of seats the Conservatives can expect to win.
“Far from gaining the extra ones we need for an overall Conservative win, we are on course to lose many of the marginals we currently hold, where Labour is in second place.
“Unless the UKIP threat can be neutralised, we stand virtually no chance of winning an overall majority and a much reduced chance of even remaining the single largest party.”
Dr Lewis argued the clear reason was that “core Conservative voters” did not trust Mr Cameron to deliver his promised EU referendum in the next Parliament.
A Referendum Bill, to be voted on next month, will – its supporters argue – be legally binding on a future Labour, or coalition, government, after 2015.
But, Dr Lewis wrote: “It will not prevent the loss of so many core votes to UKIP, which means that we can virtually abandon hope of an overall majority.
“And, if we are not in a majority, the referendum will not be held “before 31 December 2017” – nor, indeed, at any time in the next Parliament.”
Arguing a referendum before 2015 was possible, he added: “UKIP would have lost its raison d’etre.
“And, whatever the result of that referendum, our alienated core voters would have every incentive to return to the Conservative fold.”
Dr Lewis’ article is unlikely to be welcomed in No.10, where Mr Cameron had hoped backing the current Bill would unite his party on the toxic issue of Europe.
The New Forest East MP is an arch Eurosceptic, having quit as deputy director of the Conservative Research Department in 1996, to fight joining the single currency.
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