The UK could leave the European Union within four years.
With three Fylde coast MPs supporting an amendment expressing regret about the lack of an EU referendum bill in the government’s law-making programme.
One hundred and sixteen Conservative Party members, including Fylde MP Mark Menzies, Fleetwood and Lancaster representative Eric Ollerenshaw and Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard supported proposals to add the bill to government plans after it was left out of the Queen’s speech last week.
The 116 Tory MPs who backed it on Wednesday night represent half of all the party’s backbenchers.
Tory members were given a free vote – meaning they were allowed to vote whichever way they chose – but Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden and Wyre Conservative minister Ben Wallace chose not to support it.
The move was defeated by 277 votes to 131 as Liberal Democrats and Labour opposed it, but a growing number of Conservative MPs believe Britain would be better off out of the EU and have been putting pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to give the public a referendum.
Following the vote, James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, near Middlesbrough, was picked to take up his party’s draft EU bill – published by David Cameron earlier this week in a bid to calm tensions from his party about Europe – outlining the terms of a referendum to be held by 2017 on the question “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?”
Speaking of his decision to back the EU bill, MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “The Prime Minister said it was a totally free decision. The Conservative Party has put forward terms to offer a referendum in 2017.
“In another sense it wasn’t needed but the PM has made a commitment.”
Paul Maynard MP added: “I am very aware that many of my constituents are keen to have a referendum on this. We are the only party offering a referendum and it would seem strange to not vote for this bill my party has put forward.”
The private members bill is very unlikely to become law however, with opposition expected from Lib Dems and Labour.