A major donor to the Labour Party is to urge Labour leader Ed Miliband on Wednesday (18 February), less than three months before a national election, to commit to holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives have pledged to renegotiate Britain’s ties with the EU and hold a referendum in 2017 if they win the election.
Labour favours reforming the EU but has said it will not offer a referendum unless there is a substantial further shift of powers from London to Brussels.
Most opinion polls put Labour either narrowly ahead of or level with the Conservatives ahead of the May 7 vote, which is set to be one of the closest in modern British history.
“If Ed Miliband becomes prime minister in May and renegotiates without committing to a referendum, he will inevitably weaken the UK’s bargaining position,” businessman John Mills, who donated 1.65 million pounds to Labour in 2013, will tell a conference on alternatives to EU membership.
In remarks prepared for delivery to the conference, he says the other members of the EU will be more likely to take renegotiation seriously if there is a substantial risk of Britain leaving the EU if voters are not satisfied with the outcome.
“Whether they want to remain in the EU or they want to leave, there are many in the Labour Party who are united in their belief that the British people must be given an EU referendum to put this issue to bed once and for all,” Mills will say, according to extracts released in advance.
Labour is committed to keeping Britain in the EU. It has said that leaving would be damaging for the country, and that the uncertainty created by the possibility of a referendum is bad for business.
A potential British exit from the European Union came to the top of the political agenda in January 2013 when Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain must use the upheaval created by the eurozone crisis to forge a new relationship with the European Union.
Cameron pledged he would offer Britons an in/out referendum on EU membership if he was re-elected in a 2015 general election.
The UK Prime Minister said he would campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, but only if was able to reform, saying “Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union.”
Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party has also considered an EU referendum but said it would only do so if there was a substantial further shift of powers from London to Brussels.