FORMER Cabinet minister Owen Paterson is expected to call on David Cameron to initiate the exit process for the UK from the European Union in a major speech this week.
The call by the leading Eurosceptic, who has become a focal point for rightwing dissatisfaction with Mr Cameron on the Tory benches, comes as the Prime Minister faced criticism from both wings over his EU strategy.
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Mr Cameron is preparing a major speech on renegotiating membership terms of the EU before Christmas, but his plans to limit free movement were criticised by both sides.
Tory former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke, a leading pro-EU voice, suggested his approach was to blame for the poll surge that saw Nigel Farage’s party win the Rochester and Strood by-election last week.
“I do think the tactics of the two major parties of government - the serious parties of government - of trying to imitate Ukip since then have actually made them more credible and has gifted them two by-elections,” Mr Clarke said.
But former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit, a leading Eurosceptic, claimed that the Prime Minister has not handled misgivings among the public over Britain’s relationship with the European Union in a “sensible way.”
In 2006 David Cameron described Ukip members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly”.
Lord Tebbit said: “I don’t think that he has handled the misgivings of a huge number of people outside Westminster, I don’t think he’s handled their misgivings in a sensible way.
“The last way to persuade people to come back and support you is to abuse them as nutcakes and loonies and all the rest of it. That never made sense to me.”
A source close to Mr Paterson said that the speech “will include” a reference to invoking the Lisbon Treaty clause for an exit.
However, in better news for Mr Cameron another Tory defector to Ukip, Douglas Carswell, who won back his Clacton seat for the anti-EU party, said it was “unlikely” for there to be any more defections before Christmas.
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