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