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There must be 50 ways to leave your party

More than 50 Conservative Members of Parliament have started a new group to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

The Telegraph reported it as, “a move that will electrify the battle for Britain’s future place in the world.”

The new group, called Conservatives for Britain (CfB), has warned that unless Prime Minister, David Cameron, wins the “radical reforms” they demand, then the group will urge the British public to vote for Britain to withdraw its membership of the EU. Their demands, however, are reported to be impossible to achieve under the Prime Minister’s reform agenda.

On BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said that one of the key demands of the group for a “unilateral red card veto” for the UK would “effectively be the end” of the EU.

According to The Telegraph, “The group has already signed up more than 50 MPs, including former Cabinet ministers Owen Paterson and John Redwood, organisers say. They expect numbers to rise to 100, or more, including several current ministers, within days.”

The move may split the Conservative party in two. On BBC news today, former Conservative Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, a passionate supporter of Britain’s membership of the EU, said it would be untenable for Conservative Cabinet Ministers to be campaigning both for Britain to stay and to leave the EU.

The last in/out referendum was organised by the Labour Party in 1975 and it split the party in two, with Cabinet ministers voting for and against Britain’s continued membership.

Back then, Britain voted overwhelmingly to stay a member of the EU, then called the European Economic Community – or Common Market. But after losing the next General Election by a landslide to Margaret Thatcher, leading Labour MPs – including former Labour Foreign Secretary David Owen – broke away to start a new party, called the SDP (Social Democrats) which later merged with the Liberals.

Following the fall-out within the Labour party over whether Britain should stay a member of the Common Market, the party didn’t win an election again for over 20 years.

When Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, experienced similar issues within his party over Britain’s membership of the EU in the early 1990s, it plunged his government into chaos. Mr Major described three of his Cabinet ministers – fervent Eurosceptics – as “bastards”. The wrangling over Europe caused deep divisions with the Conservatives, and the party didn’t win an outright victory again for almost 20 years.

Could we now be witnessing the end of the Conservative Party as we know it?

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