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EU Referendum 2016 - Impact on the Conservative Party

While the country decides how to vote in the European Referendum on 23 June 2016, there is no doubt that the UK Conservative Party is going through testing times. The issue of Europe has been a toxic issue for the Conservative Party since the days of Mrs Thatcher. 

Although the Prime Minister has suspended cabinet collective responsibility, the government has an official position to remain in the EU whilst over 150 Conservative Members of Parliament are actively campaigning to leave. We've put together some of the incidents that have shaped the overall campaign so far.

The £9m pro-EU Leaflet

Many conservatives who support the leave campaigns were vocal in their disgust over the decision to spend over £9m of taxpayers money sending out a pro-EU government leaflet to three million households in the UK. This sparked a social media campaign for people to 'return to sender' and many did to the cost of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party. Some conservatives stated that the government had promised it would not be using its resources during the campaign, to which they replied they hadn't as the official campaign period hadn't started yet.

Find out more here about the leaflet.

The most controversial claims

Claim One: It's really all about the next Conservative Leader.....?

Following Boris Johnson MP, then Mayor of London, joining the Vote Leave campaign, the Prime Minister insinuated that Mr Johnson's motives were about securing his own political future and not purely about the future of the UK. 

Although publicly most conservatives are backing Mr Cameron to stay as PM after the referendum, it is more widely thought that Mr Cameron will not be able to continue in office if the UK votes to leave the EU, and maybe due to bad blood not even if the UK votes to remain.

Claim Two: There will be World War Three....?

In a speech that many say was edited overnight due to a backlash in the morning papers, the Prime Minister said that leaving the EU would result in genocide and possibly world war three. Europe as a continent would go back to violence without the UK. Colleagues, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove dismissed this publicly as utter rubbish.

Claim Three: Why did you give us a referendum in the first place if leaving is so harmful to the UK?

Many have compared the speeches given during the time Mr Cameron was trying to secure a renegotiation deal with later on in the campaign. During a speech at the CBI, in November 2015 he said that he would rule nothing out, including supporting the UK leaving the EU if the organisation was not 'flexible' enough. The 'end of the world' rhetoric from the PM now seems to make this look fake. 

Many believe that the referendum was only offered in a panicked move ahead of the 2015 General Election due to the rise of UKIP, who the Conservatives believed would take votes away from them. It is also thought that Mr Cameron genuinely thought he would get more during his renegotiation with the EU, and that it would be enough to secure an easy win.

Claim Four: Leaving the EU will cost each UK household £4,300 per year by 2030

The Treasury, led by Chancellor George Osborne, delivered a sobering speech about the economic effects of leaving the EU. In a very large report, longer than some budgets, he attempted to set out how the UK will be permanently poorer using a very complex equation. Many critics asked how the Chancellor could be trusted to predict the economy in 2030 when his six month forecasts were often recalculated. 

Read more here about the treasury report.

Vocal Backbenchers

Many conservative eurosceptic backbenchers have been quick to give the Prime Minister a tough time about both his renegotiation and handling of the campaign. Many commentators say that the criticism from his own side has at times been harsher than the Labour Party.

Jacob Rees- Mogg MP - asked a question at Prime Minister's Question where he claimed that the 'the thin gruel had been watered down even further' and that the PM had two weeks to salvage his reputation as negotiator.

The Unexpected Resignation

Iain Duncan-Smith MP resigned from his position as Work and Pensions Secretary due to measures within the Chancellors budget. Although not linked to the EU referendum, Mr Duncan-Smith had been a big supporter of the Vote Leave campaign and has become increasingly vocal as a backbencher. He recently called on the Governor of the Bank of England to consider his position and claimed he would happily debate on television head to head with the Prime Minister.