UK Labour too considers EU referendum, timing unknown


Britain's opposition Labour party is preparing to change its policy on the European Union by pledging to hold a referendum on the country's membership of the bloc at some point if it is elected in 2015, the Times newspaper reported yesterday (26 February).

Citing an unnamed source close to the Labour party, it said Labour leader Ed Miliband would seek to reform Britain's EU ties and back holding a membership referendum, but not by 2017 as Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged.

The report said Miliband was open to changing the bloc's founding treaties and would use any treaty change as an opportunity for a referendum. An announcement was expected in the next two weeks, the article said.

If an election was held today polls suggest Labour would win since they enjoy a lead of around 5 percentage points over Cameron's Conservative party. The next national election is still 15 months away, however.

Labour has yet to publicly state whether it wants an EU referendum, but has been critical of a promise by Cameron, it re-elected, to hold an in/out vote on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017.

If he wins the next election, Cameron has said he would try to reform Britain's EU ties before offering such a vote.

When asked about the Times report, a Labour spokesman declined to confirm or deny it.

"We will keep our position consistent ... We have always said that any decision about a European referendum will be based on the national interests," the spokesman said.

"We do not believe committing now to an in/out referendum in 2017 is in Britain's national interest."

Some opinion polls show a slim majority of Britons would vote to leave the EU if given the chance, with many frustrated at perceived interference from Brussels in domestic politics. That frustration has been reflected in the growing support in polls for the anti-EU UK Independence party (UKIP).

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Miliband's backing for a referendum on EU membership would be the "single most important determinant of whether Britain leaves the European Union" because it would dramatically increase the chances of a vote taking place.



Barry Davies's picture

Theconlablibdum party will never allow a referendum, they know it will go against what they want.

David Smith's picture

@Barry Davies: ...and UKIP are not scared that such a referendum will go against what they want?

A Londoner's picture

I suspect that the high rates of low wage EU migration into the UK must be pushing people into the withdraw camp. Our present net migration rates amount to an extra million people every five years plus any children they might have. David Cameron's much vaunted renegotiation is clearly irrelevant to the immigration issue.

The irony is that the problem is self-inflicted given that the UK has been pushing hard for EU expansion to the east. Until 2000 or so EU-UK migration flows were in balance and immigration and EU membership were separate issues but British policy has linked them and made withdrawal that much more likely.

David Smith's picture

@A Londoner: You mean the migrants who willingly do the work those who complain about migration refuse to do, even though unemployed (or just, unemployable)?

Barry Davies's picture

Well Dear Frau Merkel kicked him in the teeth regarding his much vaunted German supported renegotiations of the eussr stranglehold on our governance. Maybe he will be wondering just how he can now say he will renegotiate before 2017 just as long as we re-elect him, not that we actually elected him anyway.