Ed Miliband on Europe
The 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.Tagged in: ed miliband, eu, euroscepticism
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