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The group's co-chairmen are David Campbell Bannerman, a Conservative member of the European Parliament who had previously served as deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, and Steve Baker, a backbench Conservative member of parliament at Westminster. Other leaders include Nigel Lawson, the group's president, and Norman Lamont, both former cabinet ministers now in the House of Lords.
The group was founded early in June 2015, shortly after the dust had settled on the British general election held on 7 May. On 8 October 2015, Conservatives for Britain announced its support for the Vote Leave campaign in the referendum on British membership of the EU, stressing in a statement the importance of establishing "a professional, mainstream cross-party campaign that can fight the referendum if the EU fails to allow fundamental change".
The Daily Telegraph reported on the new group's formation under the heading "50 Tories plot Britain's EU exit". The Guardian greeted it with the headline "Meet the new 'bastards' – the Tories' 50-strong awkward squad", referring to a famous outburst by John Major in the 1990s.
On 11 June Campbell Bannerman was reported as predicting that most Tory members of the European Parliament would join the group, but he stressed that it was not at that point an "Out" campaign.
In 2016 the group's co-chairman in the parliamentary Conservative party was Steve Baker, who described the group thus:
Conservatives for Britain is a group of Conservative Party members who: Consider the UK’s present relationship with the EU to be untenable; take an optimistic, globalist view of the UK’s future; support the Party’s policy of renegotiation and referendum based on the Wharton Bill franchise and question; wish to explore what objectives the negotiations must achieve to ensure that they meet the PM’s objective, “to reform the EU and fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with it” (PM, Hansard, Col 1122, 23 March 2015); and will discuss how to prepare for a possible “out” campaign, to be activated if it is apparent that negotiations will not achieve the objectives.
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