Eurosceptics up ante for Britain's Cameron ahead of EU vote
Britain's hardline eurosceptic party on Sunday upped the ante for Prime Minister David Cameron, offering a tactical election ploy ahead of a divisive parliamentary vote on an EU membership referendum.
As Cameron joined European Union leaders at a crisis summit on the eurozone, arch-eurosceptic rivals the UK Independence Party (UKIP) said they could step aside for candidates from Cameron's Conservative party run in a future election if they vote on Monday to hold the referendum.
"In the past, I have made sure we didn't stand (in elections) against candidates who vote on conscience and for their country," UKIP Euro MP Nigel Farage told AFP on the sidelines of the summit.
"All I'm saying is we will give serious consideration to similar decisions," he said, holding out an invitation to rebels tempted to break Cameron's Conservative whip.
The leading eurosceptic figure in the European Parliament, Farage's party chalked up a million votes at the last general election in Britain that handed Cameron office in a coalition with euro-friendly Liberal Democrats.
Foreign Secretary William Hague warned on Saturday that the proposed referendum on EU membership would hurt Britain's economy.
Hague said he would like to see some powers returned from Brussels to London, a possible concession ahead of the referendum vote.
Monday's vote in the House of Commons is non-binding but politically significant with up to 85 Tory lawmakers tipped to defy Cameron's order to them to toe the party line.
A parliamentary committee ordered the vote after more than 100,000 Britons signed a petition asking for a choice on the country's EU membership.
© 2011 AFP