Two sources who would know have told members of our political team that the chances of having a referendum on EU membership this parliament are very low indeed.
One ruled it out altogether, the other said the “number one priority” of coalition policy on Europe was not to have one.
David Cameron pretty much guaranteed that today when he said there would only be a referendum “if a new treaty passes powers from UK to Brussels” adding:
As Prime Minister, I do not think the issue will arise.
Given the ferocity of Number 10′s whipping operation during the backbench debate on the issue earlier this year, this is perhaps not a surprise. But the message will be gutting for scores of Tory backbenchers who have made this the main issue on which they now lobby their party leader.
Even Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions minister, was saying this weekend there would be a referendum “if there are substantial changes that affect Britain’s position” (subtly but importantly different to the official position of “only if powers are transferred from London to Brussels).
The question journalists should now start asking the government is not “Will we have a referendum?” but “Given that there will be no referendum, how can you keep your party, not to mention the millions of voters who also want a referendum, on board?”