Two Essex Tory MPs back group which could plot Britain’s EU exit

Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for Harwich & North Essex

Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for Harwich & North Essex - Credit: Archant

Two of the region’s Tory MPs are among 50 reportedly involved in a group set to lead the campaign for Britain to quit the European Union.

James Cleverly, Braintree MP

. James Cleverly, Braintree MP - Credit: Archant

Harwich and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, and Braintree’s new MP James Cleverly are said to be among the backers of ‘Conservatives for Britain’ (CfB).

The group will initially support the Prime Minister’s bid to renegotiate terms of membership for the UK.

But it stands ready to lead the charge for exit if the deal the premier secures fails to gain major changes such as regaining control over British laws and free trade powers.

Today, Philip Hammond said the Government was keeping “all our options open” over Britain’s future in the EU.

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The Foreign Secretary said the EU was “not fit for the 21st century” but insisted that it was “fixable” and could be flexible when it “puts its mind to it”.

Leaving the door open for the referendum on membership to be staged next year, he said the poll would be staged as soon as David Cameron had secured a package of reforms.

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Asked if he could campaign to leave the EU, Mr Hammond said the Prime Minister had been “very clear that he rules nothing out”.

Asked about the CfB, Mr Hammond said: “There was always going to be a group of our colleagues who wanted to come out of the European Union come what may. That is not where the Government is. That is not where the majority of British people are.”

MPs backing the group are reported to have met twice in Parliament since the election and MEP supporters are due to hold a meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Outline plans have been drawn up that state the CfB “support the party’s policy of renegotiation and referendum” but “take an optimistic, globalist view of the UK’s future” and “will discuss how to prepare for a possible ‘out’ campaign”.

Conservative MP Steve Baker, the campaign’s Westminster chairman, said: “Conservatives for Britain supports the Prime Minister in seeking fundamental change in our relationship with the EU.

“The Conservative Government has promised the British people an in/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership and we must explore the possibility of leaving if the EU do not agree to radical reform.”

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