Balls says Labour would be “pretty stupid” to rule out an EU referendum

11th February, 2013 6:31 pm

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post to a regional lobby lunch last week, Ed Balls said:

 “As long as we don’t allow ourselves to be caricatured as an anti-referendum party, which we’re not – we’ve absolutely not ruled out a referendum – I personally think that for now this is quite a comfortable position for us. If we allow ourselves either to be the ‘status quo party’ on Europe, or the ‘anti-referendum party’ on Europe, then we’ve got a problem. But I think we would be pretty stupid to allow ourselves to get into either of those positions.”

Of course Ed Miliband recently said “my position is no – we don’t want an in/out referendum”.

  • David B

    Well the position is clear – clear as mud

  • Chilbaldi

    With all due respect to Ed Balls, he is wrong.

    Two possibilities. One, he has fallen into the trap of the Tory media who framed the referendum situation exactly like this, in a ridiculously biased way. Two, he is empire building ahead of a possible future leadership shot for him or Yvette.

    • Alex Otley

      Nonsense. Labour looks out of touch by not offering a referendum. If Labour goes into the next election opposing a referendum, the Tories will run with it. Labour will be the party that protects wasteful Eurocrats etc. Bad bad bad policy.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I agree. Given that Cameron’s euro-speech could have been predicted “a country mile” ahead, for a couple of months at least, I find it odd that the Labour strategists did not capitalise by having Ed make some commitment before Cameron did. As it is, Ed is now playing “catch up” on a popular matter.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    With all due respect to Chilibaldi,

    Lots of parties and within parties individual luminaries are offering referenda. I should therefore expect a referendum soon after 2015, whichever government is in power. Of course, it is open to Labour to deny entirely that a referendum is wanted by anyone normal, but that would seem to be slightly “hopeful”.

    Perhaps it would be better for Labour to work out how it would vote in the event of a referendum? And not to ignore the possibility.

    Of course, most British people don’t seek a referendum, instead being more concerned with day-to-day matters. But if offered a referendum, and with nothing else to have to choose from, the evidence says most will be happy to see such a referendum.

    So, Labour, get your position prepared.

    • Chilbaldi

      How about the referendum we have planned already for 2015, aka the General Election?

      We live in a representative democracy after all.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Well, it would seem that most parties are passively in favour of a referendum:

        The tories now with Cameron’s vague multi-IF, AND, AND, IF logical torture that just might have a referendum in 2017.

        The Lib Dems, explicitly from 2010, and on an In / Out basis.

        The UKIP, clearly. (Like with the SNP, I’m not too sure what the UKIP or SNP will stand for in 2018m after the EU and Scottish referenda are lost. Will they self-implode?)

        The SNP, to gain negotiating head-room in Europe.

        I am unsure of the positions of the minor parties and independents.

        So, we will probably have a referendum if some combination of those parties form the next government.

        I believe that while most normal people don’t really consider Europe to be a huge issue, if they are offered a referendum on Europe “for free”, they will find that attractive. And thus I believe Labour should have a position on Europe, and a campaign plan for a referendum, because it just may be forced upon them.

        • rekrab

          If we are to indulge in the what “If’s” ain’t it just a tad strange for the Westminster government to proclaim trade disaster for Scotland if they split, while suggesting a split from a bigger trade partner, Europe would be fine?

          Jaime, are you an antagonist?

  • JoeDM

    Mmm…. The Mili-shambles over the EU Referendum continues.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Meanwhile, in the real non-Tory troll world, nobody cares 😉

      People like you were braying and gloating just a few weeks ago that Dave’s “brilliant coup” over a (jam tomorrow) referendum would put the Tories ahead in the polls.

      What happened??

  • Daniel Speight

    “As long as we don’t allow ourselves to be caricatured as an anti-referendum party…

    That is the of course the danger.

  • Redshift1

    I don’t think Miliband’s and Balls’ statements are actually incompatible.

    Given Miliband’s reasoning was that Cameron is causing 3 years or more of economic uncertainty by promising a post-2015 referendum (totally unnecessary since if he really wanted one he could it now, since he’s in power); that isn’t to say it has been ruled out. We could promise a referendum, but at a later date or not on in/out. We certainly wouldn’t be agreeing with what Cameron sees as good points to negotiate over.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Of course they aren’t incompatible – at least by anybody apart from a Westminster commentariat that don’t, by and large, “do” nuance or detail 😉

  • Dave Postles

    It’s pretty stupid to be even discussing it when another 1k jobs are at risk at Republic. Retail is going down the tube – people’s livings are being destroyed. Just respond: it’s not the time to consider this side issue.

    • rekrab

      Absolutely Dave, all these side garnished issues are deflecting from the main meat on the plate.

    • Redshift1

      Construction has been even worse. They’re just short of a 10% sector-wide contraction since Osborne’s spending review!

  • uglyfatbloke

    Labour was absolutely the anti-referendum party in Scotland – though that was not a caricature – and it was disastrous. It’s going to take a while to recover from that, so Ed (Balls) is spot-on in his analysis.

  • Elliot Bidgood

    Yesterday I went to a debate hosted by People’s Pledge about the possibility of a referendum, chaired by Will Straw. Owen Jones was one of the panellist, and he warned about precisely this kind of nonsense from the Labour leadership – not only the risk of being seen as anti-referendum party refusing to give people a voice, but being seen to haggle over minor details and nuances in our position on a referendum, in contrast to the ‘Thatcher’ clarity of conviction Brits will tend to prefer and which Cameron seems to offering. Can we please just sort out our stance and be clear please?

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