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Ed Miliband on Europe

John Rentoul

sayno 256x300 Ed Miliband on EuropeThe next question is whether Ed Miliband will match David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on EU membership by the time of the 2015 election. He could have pre-empted Cameron’s promise, which was advertised several months in advance, but he chose not to. I suspect that there was a vigorous debate with Ed Balls, who has been more open to the idea of a referendum.

But I can see that Miliband’s own pro-EUism would have been reinforced by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, who may even have quoted Napoleon: “When the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.” Cameron’s referendum promise may not have been a false move, exactly, but the Tories have continued to tie themselves in knots over hypothetical questions about Europe and there was a case for Labour not getting involved. Not least because it keeps Labour’s divisions on Europe and everything else (of which Toby Young reminds us) hidden.

Miliband confirmed his position in his speech to Progress yesterday:

It is wrong now to commit to an in/out referendum and have four years of uncertainty and a ‘closed for business’ sign above our country.

He was not “ruling out a referendum”, as was reported by some: he was saying that it would be wrong to commit to one now. Ed Balls was clear about not ruling out a referendum on Sky News this morning.

So the question is, will Miliband match Cameron’s promise if the pressure of refusing to “let the people have a say”, to which I refer in The Independent on Sunday today, becomes too great?

There is a respectable pro-EU view that the EU has changed so much and is in the middle of changing again with the further integration of the eurozone, that it needs to renew its democratic mandate. And that a referendum defeat would scupper the antis for a generation, again.

But there is a cynical political-management view that a Labour government with a small majority or in coalition with the Lib Dems trying to win a mid-term referendum to stay in the EU against a demented Eurosceptic Tory opposition is asking for trouble.

Over the next two years, I suspect that Labour’s divisions over Europe are going to become rather better known.

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  • http://twitter.com/JohnSydenham John Sydenham

    The EU has become important because the Eurozone is a game changer. It leads to European political union. Anyone who cares about the future of Britain will see this as the most important issue facing us today.

    Does Miliband want Britain to survive as a separate country? Does he even see this as important?

    If you do not think the Eurozone sees political union as the solution to its problems consider these statements:

    Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor said:

    “we need a political union first and foremost” (BBC News).

    Francois Hollande, the French president said:

    “Political union is the step that follows fiscal union, banking union,
    and social union. It will provide a democratic framework for successful
    integration.” (Le Monde)

    Mariano Rajoy Brey, Spanish prime minister:

    “We need to fix these objectives – fiscal union, banking union,
    political union…And we must set a time scale. We are giving a message
    that we really want greater European integration. We can’t say something
    is this first, then something else, without saying where we’re going,”
    Rajoy said at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. (Reuters report).

    What the European Commission says:

    José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission said:

    “This is why the Economic and Monetary Union raises the question of a
    political union and the European democracy that must underpin it.”…

  • Pacificweather

    The reason the Prime Minister does not want a refendum is that he has not yet decided on the outcome he would like or, more accurately, he has not been told the outcome he would like. Once that decision is made all he has to do is select his ridiculous statement for the electorate. We all remember PR or even AV would put the BNP in Parliament. Getting a stay in vote is easy as the status quo is the simple to make the most attractive option. The out vote requires something more cunning than straight banana stories but I am sure the press is up to it. Overcoming the economic arguments will require a selection of stories as there are many economic interests on both sides.


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