British Prime Minister David Cameron faces a challenge from a lawmaker in his party to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in October next year, three years earlier than planned.
Outspoken Conservative Party lawmaker Adam Afriyie said in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that he would launch a bid today to force a parliamentary vote in the coming weeks, which if passed would lead to a referendum next year.
He said voters did not trust Cameron’s pledge to win back some of the powers ceded to Brussels and put the new terms of Britain’s membership in the EU to the public via an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
Cameron, who leads a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, is seeking a majority in the 2015 general election, but faces pressure on the right from the anti-EU UK Independence Party.
Afriyie, a businessman who has been linked to speculation about a Conservative leadership bid in the past, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that it was in Britain’s “national interest” to hold an early vote.
“In reality, the British people are unsure whether the Conservative leadership would be able to stick to its promise of holding a referendum after the election, especially if in coalition once again,” he said.
“Only by setting an early date can we kick-start EU renegotiation talks and give the British people what they so clearly want — a say on our country’s future with Europe,” Afriyie wrote.
“That’s why [today] I will be tabling an amendment to the EU [Referendum] Bill to bring the date of the referendum forward to October 2014,” he added.
Afriyie’s plan involves tabling an amendment to legislation already being considered by the British parliament, which would officially pave the way for the promised vote in 2017.
Downing Street said that the amendment would not be allowed to pass “in any circumstances.”
“The PM will not let it stand,” a spokesman said.