LONDON (Reuters) - More than 50 lawmakers from David Cameron’s Conservative Party are to join a campaign backing Britain’s exit from the European Union unless the British prime minister achieves radical changes in the bloc, according to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
The lawmakers will be part of a new group called Conservatives for Britain (CfB), which will support Cameron’s bid for reform while urging an end to EU membership unless significant changes are achieved, the paper said.
Cameron is attempting to persuade European leaders to back UK demands for reform before holding an in-out referendum on Britain’s EU membership. He has promised the vote by the end of 2017.
“We wish David Cameron every success, but unless senior EU officials awake to the possibility that one of the EU’s largest members is serious about a fundamental change in our relationship, our recommendation to British voters seems likely to be exit,” Conservative lawmaker Steve Baker said.
Cameron wants to restrict EU migrants’ access to British welfare, improve the single market, and win safeguards to ensure countries outside the euro zone are not put at a disadvantage by greater integration.
The Telegraph said CfB had already signed more than 50 lawmakers (MPs) and expected numbers to soon rise to about 100, including some ministers.
“I have been struck by the dozens of Tory (Conservative) MPs who would vote to quit the EU now and who will not settle for anything less than fundamental change,” Baker, who is chairing the CfB group in parliament, wrote in a separate article for the paper.
On Saturday, the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) called for Eurosceptic politicians from rival parties to put aside “personal animosities” and begin the “No” campaign against Britain’s continued membership of the bloc.
Nigel Farage said his party, which won almost 4 million votes in last month’s national elections, would start to “fight the ground game” but warned that unless a coordinated campaign begins now, it would be too late if Cameron calls a referendum early next year.
An ICM poll indicated that 59 percent of Britons supported staying in the EU, and 41 wanted to leave, the Telegraph said.
In an interview with the Observer newspaper, Rafal Trzaskowski, Poland’s Minister for European affairs, said European leaders wanted Britain to stay in the EU, but not at any cost.
“Many people in Europe want to be accommodating,” he said, “ ... but if the demands are too extreme, they are not going to be met.”
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn