Actually, Ed Miliband does support an EU referendum

by Stuart Ingham

We have seen plenty of panic that the Labour leadership have backed themselves into a corner on the issue of an EU referendum and will have to wiggle out of their opposition before the 2015 election. The panic is based on the idea that we can’t possible go into an election promising the public no say on the EU when our rivals are doing so.

This line of argument has been repeated by the full spectrum of Labour commentators from Dan Hodges to Owen Jones. It is clearly the trap that David Cameron hopes he has placed Ed Miliband in. Its power to unite disparate voices is remarkable.  It is especially remarkable as it appears to completely miss a rather pertinent point- Labour doesn’t need to sign up to an in/out referendum to give the British people a voice in European affairs. There is, after all, almost certainly going to be a Labour supported referendum anyway.

How can I say so with such certainty?

1) In January 2011 the coalition passed a “referendum lock” that triggers a referendum if any treaty change is made within the EU that alters British powers and competencies. (This was his previous attempt to hold the fruitcakes at bay)

2) Ed Miliband supports the “referendum lock” meaning that there is no danger of it being reversed

3) The only reason David Cameron thinks he can renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU is there is going to be a coming treaty change to increase Euro-area integration.

We have a Labour supported law guaranteeing a referendum in the event of a treaty change and a debate that is only happening in the anticipation of a treaty change. Labour are committed to a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU- the only difference between Labour and the Torys is we think a “no” vote should be an instruction to politicians to renegotiate better terms and not to leave the EU. We are not laying our flag on the wrong side in a battle between democrats and technocrats; or populists and defenders of the wisdom of the elite. We remain supporters of representative democracy with recourse to plebiscite in matters of constitutional importance.

When we discuss how the decisions made in the past few days will play out in the election, we should be calm and remember that the Labour party will be promising an EU referendum.

Stuart Ingham is a member of the Labour party

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4 Responses to “Actually, Ed Miliband does support an EU referendum”

  1. Nick says:

    So Tories – yes
    Labour – yes

    How about in a year?

    Ah, we can’t let the public decide.

  2. Who needs a referendum, anyway? “Miliband has ruled one out! Miliband has ruled one out! Forever and ever and ever!” Thus shrieked the BBC. Even though the man from The People’s Pledge on The Daily Politics had not heard him do any such thing. Even though David Cameron only feet away had not heard him do any such thing.

    And even though Douglas Alexander tried valiantly to explain simple concepts to Martha Kearney, including that “We never say never,” but merely continued to hold, in no change whatever to previous policy, that such a thing would not be appropriate at the present juncture. So, never absolutely ruled out, as it had been repeatedly and emphatically by Cameron and Hague until mere hours ago.

    The BBC might have thought that Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair were the appropriate people to interview. But the Labour Whips Office, when not campaigning for Departments of State to take the Morning Star, managed to put up at PMQs the figures of Ian Lavery and Dennis Skinner. They asked about other (and very timely) things, but they made the point by standing up and speaking at all. Seated alongside each other, they had first been elected 40 years apart. The aberration in the middle is now well and truly that: an aberration.

    David Cameron is not going to be holding a referendum until the end of 2017. Or, rather, he is not going to be holding a referendum at all, because he is not going to win the 2015 General Election. Nor need Ed Miliband hold one. Already committed explicitly to two more specific powers for repatriation than Cameron is, and also implicitly committed to the repatriation of agriculture and of fisheries, he could and should simply legislate to those and many more such effects.

    Backed up by Ed Balls, by Jon Cruddas, by John Cryer, possibly still by Dennis Skinner now that there are not going to be boundary changes after all, and certainly by Ian Lavery’s 2010 intake and by that of 2015.

  3. Rachel Walker says:

    What are politicians paid for? Maybe to weigh up the pros and cons of a given situation and select the best outcome for the largest number of people. Maybe?

    Deciding on a referendum is like asking the public to pin the tale on the donkey. I would suggest that most of us really only know the political news that the BBC deems important for us to know. And if EU membership is anything like NHS privatisation, then that is very little indeed.

    Personally, I would vote to stay in Europe, but this is based solely on the idea that if the Tories want us out, it is because they want to diminish workers rights, job security, health and safety, and abolish the minimum wage. Someone who instead feels strongly that foreigners are coming here and stealing all our jobs, well they are more likely to vote ‘out’. Arbitrary decisions, both votes. Aren’t the people who go to the conferences, sign the treaties, and debate the issues, in a better position to tell us the right course of action?

    Politicians should be guiding us to the right decision, but we don’t trust them, in part, because all they seem interested in is the chess game they play with each other.

  4. swatantra says:

    I agree with Rachel.

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