No issue has divided the Coalition’s backbenchers – or, more accurately, the backbenchers of one part of the Coalition – quite like Europe. Whilst not responsible for the largest rebellion of the parliament – that record goes to the House of Lords Bill – the subject has triggered more rebellions than any other issue. Moreover, those rebellions are larger on average than backbench revolts on other issues: roughly twice as large.
Today’s vote on the European Arrest Warrant would need to be a whopper to break records for this parliament. The largest European rebellion to date has been the 81 Conservative MPs (and one Lib Dem) who on 24 October 2011 voted for a referendum on the EU, along with around 14-19 who abstained. Not only was this the largest rebellion on the subject during this parliament, it was the largest rebellion against the whip on the subject ever. We are not expecting a rebellion that large today.
More possible is that the revolt will top the second largest European revolt of the parliament: the 53 Conservative MPs who voted in favour of a reduction in the EU budget (on 31 October 2012).
The last session saw more than 110 Conservative MPs vote for an amendment to the Queen’s speech regretting the absence of a referendum bill, but this was – under pressure – made a free vote for backbenchers, and so shouldn’t be compared to today’s whipped vote. The largest EU-rebellions in the last session against the whip consisted of 33 Conservative MPs.