Tory MPs split over vote to stay in the European Union

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster MP and Iain Stewart MP for MK South
Defence Minister Mark Lancaster MP and Iain Stewart MP for MK South

MK’s MPs are going head-to-head over Europe as one joins the leave campaign while the other veers towards being a “reluctant” IN supporter.

Just hours after the Prime Minister told of his EU reform deal, Iain Stewart MP decisively announced he wanted out of the European Union.

Four days later, his Tory neighbour in the north Mark Lancaster MP, appeared to sit on the fence over the decision, admitting he was jealous of those with a clear idea of how they will vote.

Despite being a Eurosceptic at heart, the defence minister feared what leaving would do a thriving MK economy, but added that he was “genuinely undecided”.

He said: “My starting point is to put my personal prejudices to one side, ‘hold my nose’ and be a reluctant ‘in’ supporter.

“I’m no fan of the EU, it is a deeply flawed organisation, but at the moment, I am not currently prepared to take that leap of faith into the unknown.

“The ‘Out’ campaign wins on emotion, but we need more than emotional arguments; give some hard facts as to exactly what that ‘out’ journey would involve, what would the terms of trade would be and reassurance that the benefits outweigh the enormous risks.

“Then, like many, I could be persuaded to change my mind.”

Following crunch talks in Brussels last week, PM David Cameron declared that Britain will hold a referendum on June 23.

Since then 120 Conservative MPs have pledged to vote to leave, 135 to stay and 76 are undeclared.

Mr Stewart, MP for MK South, said this is a “once in a generation chance” to leave.

He said: “I have concluded that the moment has come for us to part company with the EU.

“I had hoped that we could stay part of a genuinely reformed EU akin to the vision set out by the Prime Minister in his Bloomberg speech, but I believe that the gap between the objectives of the Euro-elite and what I believe is in our national interests is too great.

“That is why I shall be voting to leave. It is a balanced decision; I am not without my doubts.

“I believe I would regret a decision to continue with the EU in the hope that something better will come along in the future. I do not believe it will.”

Scottish-born Mr Stewart, who has been an MP for MK South since 2005, called for a “civilised” debate over the referendum that is free from scaremongering.

He hoped his statement on Saturday would help inform the debate.

He added: “Whatever decision is made by the country, I hope that we can respect the result and different conclusions that others will have reached.

“For me, the referendum will be the end of the matter and I devote my energies into making the settlement – inside or outside the EU – work.”