The “civil war” in the ruling Tory party over Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU) intensified on Thursday after 116 party MPs, including a number of senior figures, ignored repeated pleas from Prime Minister David Cameron and voted against the Queen’s Speech which is traditionally passed without a vote.

In an unprecedented move, the Tory rebels brought in an amendment expressing regret that the Queen’s address, setting out the government’s legislative agenda, did not contain a Bill which would have enshrined in law Mr. Cameron’s promise to hold an “in-out” referendum on EU in 2017. They went ahead even after Mr. Cameron rushed out a draft referendum Bill. It is to be introduced by a party backbencher as a private member’s Bill.

Though the amendment was defeated, the scale of the revolt was seen as a direct challenge to Mr. Cameron’s personal authority as he struggles to hold the party together on an issue which threatens to destabilise the government.

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