Possibly the majority of Conservatives oppose British membership of the European Union. Even more likely is that the majority of Conservative voters do. The anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) attracts a great deal of its support from people who have previously voted Tory.
The case against the EU is made with wit and venom by Libertarians such as Devils Kitchen every day. Those amongst the Tories who publicly support the EU- like Ken Clarke or Chris Beazley- are roundly abused by their own side.
We are told that if the Irish reject the treaty of Lisbon in their referendum next month- possibly even if they accept it- then the British Conservatives will rescind the previous ratification and block its adoption.
No they won't.
Firstly, Ireland will ratify.
Secondly, for David Cameron will not commit such political capital to the cause. It would be pollitically suicidal and he knows it. Mr. Cameron, like Labour, only believes in "what works".
While even the most die-hard supporter of the EU would admit its myriad faults, the fact is that in a world where size really does matter, where China and India are taking their place at the centre of global councils, the only way that smaller European powers can project influence is through neighbourly co-operation. If the EU did not exist, we would have to build something like it. The EU therefore "works".
More and more of the figures around David Cameron regard the entire anti-EU lobby as not much more that "closet racists and fruitcakes, mostly", and many of the most senior people around Cameron have had serious jobs in Brussels. Ed Llewellyn was Paddy Ashdown's bag man long before he was David Cameron's- and his pragmatic views will trump the visceral nonsense spouted by the Conservative right.
Anti Europeans in the current Conservatives are a bit the Selsdon Man was for the Thatcherites: many might have supported the controversial ideas, but in the run up to the 1979 election, they were circumspect about saying so. After the election, the pressures of power eliminated the Seldon plan as a coherrent option- only John Redwood now ploughs the lonely furrow, long overtaken by the cynicism of practical politics. Were the Conservatives to be elected, they are now, in my judgement most likely to tack towards a far safer position than that of general opposition to the EU- and Redwood will be left even more isolated.
The Treaty of Lisbon, then, will be ratified.
I suspect it will be a long time before further institutional change is demanded: even Turkey accepts that it will not join before 2024. Meanwhile the position of the the British government will change: it will focus on trying to maximise the benefit from EU membership.
The right wing hard anti-EU wing of the Conservatives may declare that it feels betrayed, but they can not now say that they did not see it coming. Only if UKIP can make a breakthrough into the House of Commons would the Conservatives even consider a turn back- and that looks pretty unlikely.