UK & World News

  • 12 March 2014, 15:27

Ed Miliband To Make EU Referendum Pledge

Ed Miliband has effectively ruled out an EU in-out referendum, saying there would only be a vote in the event of a significant Brussels power grab.

The key initiative from the Labour leader is what he calls a "new lock" which means no in-out referendum unless there is a transfer of powers from the UK to the EU.

However, he pointed out there were no current proposals for such a transfer of powers so it is unlikely any Labour government would introduce an EUmembership vote.

In a speech in central London on Wednesday morning he said: "Now, there are no current proposals from other countries for such a transfer of powers. And I do not believe this is the direction in which Europe should head. Indeed, I think some powers should come back the other way.

"But we cannot be certain about the emerging shape of Europe. So today I am announcing that the next Labour government will legislate for a new lock.

"Not simply a referendum on any treaty change proposing a transfer of power, because there have been too many referenda like that in other countries which have been ignored, but a lock that guarantees that there will be no transfer of powers without an in/out referendum without a clear choice about whether Britain stays in the EU."

Labour has been under pressure to address the referendum question from the moment David Cameron promised that a Conservative government would offer the British people a vote in 2017.

The opposition will hope their new position is robust enough to withstand an onslaught from the Tories, who have pledge an in-out referendum in 2017, this side of the election and beyond.

Mr Miliband accused the Prime Minister of acting "from a position of weakness not strength, party interest not national interest" that was "dangerous to the prosperity of our country" by announcing the referendum.

He said: "Our priority would be different. Instead of this approach, we need one driven by the national interest, which keeps the country's focus on the biggest issue facing us: the future of our economy and the cost-of-living crisis, which understands that Britain's future lies in the EU."

Speaking during a trip to Israel David Cameron said that Labour's position on an EU referendum left the British people with a "very clear choice".

He said: "At the next election they can elect a Conservative government that will renegotiate Britain's position in Europe and give people a guaranteed in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

"If they get a Labour Government they will get no referendum, no choice, no reform, nothing. It couldn't be clearer."

Labour's policy brings it in line with the Lib Dems, only promising a referendum if the UK is asked to hand more power over to Brussels.

The Conservatives hope that the move will help them to win more Eurosceptic votes.

It will also use the positioning to try to prevent swing voters switching to Nigel Farage's UKIP. Tory strategists want to send out the message that a vote for the right-wing party is a vote for Labour and no referendum.

However, there has been some backlash from Labour's own Eurosceptics. Backbencher Graham Stringer said: "I think it's a shoddy compromise really, between those people in the Parliamentary Labour Party who want a referendum because the vast majority of the electorate want it, and those people desperate not to have a referendum."

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