At PMQs, Ed Miliband should call for an EU referendum – in 2015

23rd January, 2013 10:55 am

The genie is out of the bottle and it can’t be put back in. Britain will have an EU referendum in some form at some point – and Labour will be forced to promise one in the 2015 manifesto.

Labour didn’t choose this fight – and now is the wrong time to be having the debate, when the focus should be on the economy – but if the party believes (rightly) that the prospect of 4 years of uncertainty is bad for the British economy, believes that uncertainty over Labour’s position will force a decision sooner rather than later and truly wants to act in the national interest (and seize the initiative, and the democratic case, back from the Tories) then Ed Miliband should stand up at PMQs today and call for an EU referendum.

Not in 2017 though – that’s too far into the future and will only serve to ramp up uncertainty and hyperbole. Miliband should call for a referendum on election day 2015 (as we know the date in advance). Better that British business – and our ailing economy – should have to deal with the only two years of job-threatening uncertainty than the potential prospect of four. That means securing the highest possible turnout for the EU referendum. Tactically at 2015 election would be a disaster for Cameron, both because he’d struggle to oppose a 2015 referendum, and UKIP would undoubtedly get a boost out of a Europe-focussed election campaign with Cameron making a pro-EU (party dividing) case.

If Miliband coming out for a 2o15 referendum were presented as a u-turn (which would be more than likely considering the right wing media) then better to have that u-turn today when the focus is on Cameron’s speech than a few weeks before the election when Labour’s manifesto is revealed, and it becomes “a thing”.

Ed Miliband is a pro-European Labour leader. At some point he will be called upon to make the case for Europe. Why not start today by calling for a 2015 referendum and pledging to campaign alongside Cameron and Clegg to stay in – and challenging Cameron to go sooner, rather than allowing Britain to become detached from Europe before the vote is even held.

  • Andrew Smith

    Radical idea but it makes a lot of sense. The reality is that we should have called for it before the Tories did. If we win election in 2015 it would be politically impossible to not have the referendum after three years of build-up.

  • harry g jackson

    good thinking but cameron will just say no because it won’t give time to renegotiate the relationship with europe

  • PeterKenyon

    Dear Mark

    What genie, what bottle? Jobs and growth… all Labour should be focused on. Forget distractions.

    • woolfiesmiff

      I guess you missed the ONS figures yesterday the jobless total fell again by 37,000

      Growth is entirely hampered by EU and stupid UK taxes

      • JeevanJones

        Wow, this is incredible. Do you actually believe that?

  • JoeDM

    That would make Ed look very silly indeed. It looks like he’s missed the boat on the referendum.

    Personally I’d like to see an In/Out Referendum on the same day as the next General Election.

  • JoblessDave

    This suggestion would lead to the (hard to deny) accusation that Labour are more interested in petty party politics than rational debate and the long-term good of the country.

  • Chug

    “The question for now is should we have a referendum, should we commit to a referendum, should we promise one. I’m saying very clearly to you, ‘no’ is the answer,”

    Ed Miliband on Andrew Marr earlier this month. So it would be a u-turn from his appearance on that show, but then he’s half u-turned already by failing to rule one out when on Today.

    The fact is that if he now starts advocating a referendum (in 2015 or 2017) he’ll look like a follower.


    • Robert_Eve

      He is a follower.

  • markkw

    Daft, in 2015 the referendum will be between current EU treaties or leaving, and the polls show healthy majority for leaving. Best hope for Europhiles is a renegotiated settlement based around common market. That is not going to be on the table in 2015.

  • Chilbaldi

    “Britain will have an EU referendum in some form at some point”
    Wrong. Britain will have to have a referendum on the result of any *negotiations* of our EU obligations.

    • George Anderton

      Yes but it will be an in or out referendum. In to the negotiated new position or out altogether. Do you not understand what Cameron has offered.

    • Jeremy Poynton

      You may not be aware, but the Lisbon Treaty (thanks, Gordon, you *************) makes it clear that the only way to repatriate &/or renegotiate powers is to invoke Article 50, leave the EU, and reapply for membership under different terms. That no politician has dared say this shows how venal they all are.

  • doggywoggy

    Ed juat now in PMQs said that labour do not favour holding a referendum at all. Ed has just put labour on the wrong side of history and by sticking two fingers up to the British people is showing that unlike the tories, labour do not trust the British People at all.

    • Jeremy Poynton

      As Labour have said before – we don’t get their message, and it is not that the message is wrong, rather, we the people are wrong for not understanding them. Miliband’s arrogance is extraordinary. But then, he does come from a very privileged background.

  • AlanGiles

    I suspect that if there were to be a referendum in 2 years, not only would there be a Dutch auction between Labour and Conservative about who was going to offer most, which would mean that virtually no other issues got discussed prior to the election (so either party could sneak in some very contentious policies unnoticed in the manifestos), it would make the already delicate situation with the economy even more acute and dangerous. We might end up with Hilco offering to buy our debts!

    Seriously, if the two main parties are just going to fixate on the EU, I feel Labour are probably playing into the Conservatives hands – you would have many UKIP voters taken in by the Conservative offer, and pro-EU LibDems would probably return to their party.

    I don’t doubt the sincereity of both pro and anti EU campaigners, but I don’t feel this is a major issue for the next election, or frankly a vote-winning one.

  • JoeDM

    “Growth is entirely hampered by EU and stupid UK taxes”

    Exactly. We need to free the economy from the declining EU and look to the growing global economy for our future.

  • Elliot Kane

    I think Ed missed a golden opportunity, today.

    All he had to do was stand up and say, “The Labour Party entirely agrees with the Prime Minister. We stand ready to assist in negotiations and fully support the idea of a referendum on EU membership.”

    He would have completely undercut Cameron at one stroke. Cameron would still have led the way (Inevitable, as Miliband has missed numerous opportunities to do so himself), but by showing he puts country above petty politics, Miliband could at least have looked mature and competent.

    As it is, it looks like Miliband doesn’t realise that a failure to match Cameron’s offer will turn the next election into a de facto referendum on the EU. As of today, ‘Don’t Wanna!’ is no longer a viable political position on an EU referendum. If Miliband has yet to realise that, I’m sure there are many very smart people in the Labour Party who do.

  • Mike Homfray

    No. It would be wrong to offer a referendum when we will not implement the consequences . Labour need to be clearly and calmly making the case for Europe

    • Jeremy Poynton

      The EU has made the case for the EU. It is clear. It is a disaster. Not to mention that it is a tyranny; a tyranny of bureaucrats, but a tyranny all the same. How else can one describe a federal constitution that none of us have ever had a vote on?

    • Matthew Blott

      Says it all

  • Jimmy Sands

    I don’t understand this argument. Cameron’s referendum is going to be on his proposed renegotiation. What would ours be on?

    I think the wisest course is to sit back and watch this unravel.

  • mike

    “If Miliband coming out for a 2o15 referendum were presented as a u-turn”

    You must be an idiot to not understand that this would be a u-turn and a u-turn only. What circumstances or events could occur that would justify it not being regarded as such?

    Ed Miliband had to decide whether or not he agreed in principle that the public should have a say in the biggest constitutional and existential event of our time. He chose early and he chose wrong.

  • Robert_Eve

    Agree that the vote should be sooner.

    The sooner we vote the sooner we can leave.

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