UK Politics

EU referendum debate: Key quotes

MPs are debating a bill to hold a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU by the end of 2017.

Here is a summary of the main points made so far.

James Wharton, Tory MP and bill sponsor

It is an honour for me to put forward a Bill that at its heart is the heart of our democracy - that powers should reside with the people. In proposing this Bill I speak for many here, I speak for many millions outside. This is about giving the British public a real say, a real choice between a best possible deal we can get from the European Union and if the public choose to leave if that is what they want to do.

William Hague, Foreign Secretary

The efforts of those who want to build European integration without bringing the people with them have been utterly self-defeating. It is our policy to seek reform so...that national parliaments, the indispensable vessels of democracy, can have a more powerful role and then, as this Bill would do, put the decision in the hands of the British people.

Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary

When today's spectacle of a Tory Party talking to itself is long forgotten, we will continue to make the case for Britain's place in Europe and for change in Europe.

Richard Shepherd, Conservative MP

I have a clear view of what the national interest is - that we should have, as quickly as possible, a vote on continued membership. This is about the most profound matter. This touches on a living democracy. What opponents of this never understand is this is an ancient collection of islands, an archipelago, whose history goes back to the very story of liberty and freedom.

John Denham, former Labour minister

This is a Bill about the private problems and the private political difficulties of the Conservative Party. It's not surprising so many of them are here today but, really, these matters don't affect the rest of us very much - except the damage being done by the antics within the Conservative Party to the interests of this country.

Simon Hughes, Deputy Lib Dem leader

I voted enthusiastically yes in the 1970s and I can't imagine any circumstance in which I would not vote yes in any future referendum. Why do we need this bill when we have already legislated for a referendum any way and when I hope his constituents, like mine, believe the priorities are jobs, growth and investment and not putting the whole of the European investments links at risk.

Dennis Skinner, Labour MP

In 1971, I voted against the then Common Market and I voted for a referendum in 1975. Sadly, the country didn't follow my advice or we wouldn't be doing what we are doing here today. However, there is one thing deficient in this Bill - it doesn't ask for a referendum until 2017. What we need is a referendum before the next election.

Ian Davidson, Labour MP

The Labour Party view on these matters is best described as being in a state of flux. It is presently a caterpillar which will, in a short time, emerge as a butterfly. I believe we will change our position in a relatively short period of time as events change because clearly we are heading for a crisis in the European Union.

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