The Mail on Sunday alludes to it, and here it is in full:
This autumn marks 25 years since Margaret Thatcher went to Bruges and spoke about Britain’s future in Europe. A quarter of a century on, the central point she raised rings familiarly true: the Europe we joined is becoming ever more distant from the Europe we’ve come to be a part of. What was originally a trading bloc of nations has become ever more interfering, bureaucratic and centralised. Many people rightly feel that Britain’s national sovereignty is being challenged. A generation on, governments have come and gone, the political players have changed, but still this issue hasn’t been laid to rest.
This problem won’t go away. We need to sort it out and once and for all, and the only way to do so is to give the British people their say in a referendum – in or out. But a referendum must offer a real choice. A lot is at stake and it’s crucial that we get this right because the question is unlikely to be asked again in our lifetime.
That’s why we support the Prime Minister’s decision to hold a referendum after the next election, by the end of 2017 at the latest. In the meantime, there will need to be a far reaching renegotiation of how the EU works. On everything from cumbersome Brussels regulation of our small businesses to control of our borders, we are determined to get powers back from Europe. It’s wrong to ask whether we should be in or out before we know what being in would mean.
At the moment one of our number – James Wharton MP – is trying to make it the law of the land that it must happen before the end of 2017. He introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the summer to make this so, which is making its way through Parliament.
If passed, James Wharton’s Bill will guarantee the British people have their say in a referendum – and get a real choice. Any attempt to tamper with this Bill runs the risk of wrecking it completely and we won’t support it – it would play right into our opponents’ hands. It would make the prospect of a referendum less likely, and remove the obligation on the Government after the next General Election to hold one. No one individual is bigger than the future of our nation – so we call on Adam Afriyie to withdraw his amendment.
Passions have always run deep on Europe. And too often in the past, the Conservative Party has let Europe divide it. That mustn’t happen this time. For years many of us have campaigned tirelessly to get a referendum – now that one is within our grasp we must not throw it into jeopardy.
Edward Leigh MP Cornerstone
Robert Buckland MP Parliamentary Mainstream
Mel Stride MP Deep Blue
George Hollingberry MP 301 Group
Andrea Leadsom MP Fresh Start
Nadhim Zahawi MP 2020 Group
Brian Binley MP Global Vision
John Stevenson MP Blue Collar Conservatives
Sir Gerald Howarth ’92 Group
David Mowat The 40
The present relationship between the leadership and the Parliamentary Party over the EU issue is a fascinating one – and deserves to be explored in detail (which we will do soon.)
This latest letter, doubtless got up by the Whips, proves a more narrow point: that Tory MPs want the Wharton Bill to succeed, and that Afriyie is almost completely isolated over the issue.
The letter is carefully constructed to include all parts of the Party, and that Edward Leigh, Gerald Howarth and David Mowat, representing the main groups on the right, have signed it is worth noting.