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MPs clash over UK’s EU future
8:00am Tuesday 15th January 2013 in News
BRITAIN’S future in Europe has highlighted political divisions between Swindon’s two Conservative MPs.
Swindon South MP Robert Buckland is leading national calls for the UK to remain within the EU as the Prime Minister prepares for a seminal speech on the country’s future relationship with Brussels.
Mr Buckland, who is also secretary of the Tories’ influential 1922 Committee of MPs, has helped to draft a letter to David Cameron, signed so far by about 20 Tory MPs, which says quitting would cause massive damage to Britain, economically and diplomatically.
He is lobbying other Tories to sign the letter, part of which will be published later this week, but Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson is refusing to sign.
It comes ahead of Mr Cameron’s speech in the Nether-lands next Tuesday, in which he is due to spell out how he intends to win back key powers for Westminster, as well as details of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
Mr Tomlinson has said that Mr Buckland only represents a tiny minority of people who are not in tune with public opinion.
Mr Buckland said: “There had been a lot of issues about discussing withdrawal.
“Whilst the debate is certainly worth discussing, I wanted to make the case for staying in because I’m thinking about businesses and jobs, and I believe our continued membership of the EU is very important for that.
“And it’s relatively important for Swindon, as much as the rest of the country, bearing in mind the companies we have that trade with Europe and the wider world.
“I think the Prime Minister needs to hear all strands of opinion within the party and also much wider.
“This is not just about some parley game in Westminster.
“This is about people who I represent, the jobs I want to see coming to Swindon, and this is about me as a local MP doing what I think is in the interests of the people I represent.”
Mr Buckland said he did not have the current total for the number of signatories but said there was a head of steam, although he admitted that Mr Tomlinson had different views on the EU.
He added that he had no problem with a referendum, but felt the question had to be phrased in such a way so as to not put off potential investors in the UK.
Mr Tomlinson, when asked if he would sign the letter, said: “Absolutely not. The vast majority of the UK public are rightly Eurosceptic and are keen to see a major renegotiation of our position with our European neighbours. Robert simply represents a tiny minority which is not in tune with public opinion.”
He declined to comment further.