Posts Tagged ‘in/out referendum’

C’mon Ed, back an in/out EU referendum for the day of the next election and destroy the Tories

30/09/2013, 07:00:54 AM

by Anthony Bonneville

Europe remains the Tories’ Achilles heel. Polling conducted by YouGov for Labour Uncut reveals that 1 in 5 2010 Tory voters have defected, with 60% switching to UKIP.

These figures will worry an already jittery Conservative party. No matter what David Cameron seems to do, no matter how much he genuflects before the altar of Euroscepticism, it’s never enough. Core support keeps leaching out to the right.

As I’ve set out in my chapter in Labour Uncut’s recent book, “Labour’s manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why,” this peculiar spectacle presents an enormous opportunity for Labour.

On Tuesday evening, the night before David Cameron gives his leader’s speech, Ed Miliband should set aside his widely aired reservations and announce that Labour now backs a straight in/out EU referendum for May 7th 2015.

Such an intervention would transform the political landscape. All that has happened so far this parliament would be rendered instantly irrelevant.

On the pro-European side, a broad coalition would be assembled bringing together unions, business organisations and civil society groups, a true example of One Nation politics. Labour and Lib Dems would stand united on the most important issue of the next general election.

It would force quiet pro-Europeans (distant cousins of the quiet bat people) to come out and say it loud: “We need to stay in Europe!”

For Labour, which has had a difficult recent relationship with business, this would be a rare chance to redraw the dividing lines of political debate.

Labour would be the party standing with business. The Tories would be left making the difficult case that business people did not know what was good for their own firms. For those who recall the damage done to Labour’s 2010 election campaign by the letter from businessmen criticising the party’s national insurance policy, the irony would be rich.


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To EU or not to EU: that is the question

28/01/2013, 08:34:43 PM

by Sophie Lambert Russell

In October 2011 David Cameron, along with Ed Miliband, voted against and straight in or out of the EU referendum so why now the change?

Support for the Conservatives is falling; with many disillusioned Tory voters leaning towards UKIP, now arguably the third most popular party in the UK (according to YouGov in the Sun last week anyway). In a rather desperate attempt to claw back support, Cameron has performed yet another U-Turn: possibly the most talked about of his time in office.

Unsurprisingly the Tory right have welcomed this move but others have criticised the prime minister for being weak and driven by the eurosceptics in his party, not by the interests of the country. Undoubtedly the Conservatives will appear united for a short while but this will not last, the backbenchers will not be placated for long by the referendum pledge and will soon ramp up the pressure, creating a more divided party than ever and forcing Cameron’s hand.

However we mustn’t jump the gun. Cameron’s promises of a referendum comes with so many ‘ifs’ and yesterday’s speech left crucial questions unanswered. He is likely to have a bigger fight with other EU members than within his own parliament. Ed Miliband characterised the in/out referendum as ‘a huge gamble designed to keep his fractious party together’ and he is not wrong. We need to work with EU members, not dictate from upon high as Cameron wants to do. Although Merkel said that she is willing to discuss a reform both France and Germany have made it clear that the UK cannot “cherry-pick” the EU laws which suit them and I am not in the least bit surprised.

It seems to me that when it comes to Europe, Cameron wants to have his cake and eat it too and while there is no problem with being ambitious there will be a lot of resistance along the way. The question of what will happen if the EU leaders do not give Cameron a new deal on the UK’s role in Europe still remains unanswered.


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Cameron’s EU policy is not about getting the best deal for Britain – it’s about keeping his own party quiet

24/01/2013, 11:00:15 AM

by Mark Stockwell

When we think of the great speeches in recent history, one perhaps stands out above all others: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in March 1963. Nearly fifty years later, Barack Obama consciously channelled the spirit of that magnificent, spine-tingling oration in Monday’s inaugural address. It is, if you like, the gold standard by which major speeches are measured.

In his big set-piece on Europe on Wednesday, David Cameron seems instead to have sought inspiration from the man after whom MLK was named – the 16th-century German monk, Martin Luther, whose ideas and writings provided the theological underpinning of the Reformation.

Cameron must surely have had Luther in mind when he talked of Europe having “experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.” It is an allusion he must have hoped would not be lost on the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, herself the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Judging from her response to the speech, indicating that she was open to negotiating “a fair compromise”, these hopes have not been entirely in vain.

Quite how this reference was greeted in some of the other chancelleries of Europe – in staunchly Catholic Italy, Spain, France or Poland, for example – is another matter. Other European leaders have been rather less complimentary in their responses, with the French in particular indulging in the sort of wryly-amused sneering in which they can legitimately claim to be world leaders.

Presumably Cameron feels this is relatively unimportant: the EU’s centre of gravity has shifted emphatically to Berlin as the eurozone crisis has unfolded. The prime minister no doubt believes it is primarily there, rather than Paris or Brussels, that the fate of his renegotiation strategy will be decided.


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On a day of political ineptitude, Cameron was forced into his mistake; Ed had a choice

24/01/2013, 07:05:30 AM

by Peter Watt

I am a pro-European.  I believe that the EU is basically a force for good in the world and that the single market is good for Britain.  I believe that there are some issues that can clearly only be dealt with internationally like climate change, human trafficking, food safety or terrorism.  I believe that British citizens are better protected by much of the social legislation emanating from Brussels.

But I also believe that the EU desperately needs reform in areas like its agricultural and fisheries policy and I do think that there has probably been a bit too much undermining of our national sovereignty.  On the last point by the way, I am quite prepared to accept that this may well be emotional rather than rational!

I also think that the advent of the euro and the continued expansion of membership, means that there already is a two or three or even a four speed Europe.  I don’t believe that Britain should or will ever join the euro but I hope against hope that the euro survives.  And I suspect that the steps taken to secure the future of the euro will continue to radical force changes in the relationships between members of the EU and between those inside and outside of the eurozone.

And I strongly believe that most people don’t give a flying fig about any of this.  The central issue of the day is clearly the economy and jobs.  We all know that David Cameron was forced to make his speech yesterday by the euro-obsessives in his party; it is a sign of his relative weakness.  But voters may not care all that much about the EU but increasingly many voters are disillusioned with political parties that they think are out of touch, unresponsive to their needs and self-interested.  They feel this about the town hall as much as MPs and their expenses.  And they certainly feel it about Europe, the EU/EEC/common market/the French/the Germans/the Greeks.  So David Cameron may well have been forced into this position of an in/out referendum by 2017 against his wishes, but in doing so he potentially taps into a rich vein of anti-politics sentiment.


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Today, Ed Miliband was damaged by Cameron’s speech, but the pain is coming for the Tories

23/01/2013, 05:50:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Judgement is a precious commodity. If a politician is seen to have it, they receive the benefit of the doubt from the media and colleagues alike. Their moves are viewed as part of a grand strategy, their competence taken on trust.

When they are seen to lose it, everything is questioned, loose threads are pulled and more often than not, much unravels.

Today, both Ed Miliband and David Cameron demonstrated desperately bad judgement. Both will pay a price. The immediate damage is to the Labour leader’s position, but over the coming months Cameron will be the one who suffers most.

For Ed Miliband, it is now a matter of when not if. When will he do a U-turn and commit Labour to an in/out referendum? The three options he has available leave him little choice.

Inside the leader’s inner circle there might have been some that still believed Labour’s current position of neither backing nor ruling out an in/out referendum was sustainable, but reality will be dawning. Witness Miliband’s own reaction in the heat of PMQs today when he seemed to rule out a referendum, only for Douglas Alexander and John Denham to walk back the commitment within hours.

Having no line to take is no way to run a party. Labour politicians trying to defend this position will be mercilessly skewered.

Alternately, permanently ruling out a referendum, as Miliband looked to have done, has the merit of certainty, but brings the certainty of unpopularity. Refusing to let the public have a say on such a contentious issue hardly locates Labour on the side of the people.

Which leaves supporting an in/out referendum as the only viable option.

Back in October I argued for a Labour commitment to a referendum to make the political weather and cast Cameron as weak when he was forced follow suit. Now Miliband will follow Cameron and will be the one to look weak.


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Actually, Ed Miliband does support an EU referendum

23/01/2013, 04:41:36 PM

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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A renegotiation and referendum for what – a “line to take?”

23/01/2013, 01:29:10 PM

by Kevin Meagher

So was it really worth the wait? There’s been less speculation about the second coming than there has about David Cameron’s Europe speech over the last month.

To be fair it was carefully crafted and fluently delivered. And half of it could have been said by any mainstream Labour or Lib Dem politician. Yes, the EU needs reform and must focus on competitiveness and address the democratic deficit. Amen to that. shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander was quick to point out as much on his tour around the broadcast studios this morning, calling, specifically for reform of the common agricultural policy and EU budget.

And three quarters of Cameron’s speech could have been delivered by Iain Duncan-Smith, Michael Howard or William Hague. There was not much new, with heavy emphasis on John Major’s call, two decades ago, for “variable geometry” in reshaping the EU.  So a trip down memory lane and a restatement of that peculiarly Toryish view of Europe with the promise of a renegotiation and referendum bolted on?


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Sunday Review: the EU phantom menace

20/01/2013, 08:00:22 AM

by Anthony Painter

In the space of three years, the prime minister has moved Britain from the EU’s cautious awkward customer to the self-destructively preposterous. Let’s be clear, this has absolutely nothing to do with some irresistible popular clamour for a referendum on our membership of the EU. It is entirely self-inflicted. Realpolitik has been ditched in favour of pusillanimous capitulation. This whole thing is about the neuroses of the Conservative party. This is not leadership; it is fear – of a phantom menace.

In fact, there are three phantoms that appear in this whole sorry saga. The first is a speech – a phantom speech. It’s has been long in the gestation and from the unconfirmed sightings that have been reported, it is an utterly vacuous statement of the bleeding obvious about jobs, growth, competitiveness, and the democratic deficit .

So the EU has to change. We are very lucky to have this pointed out – who knew? Douglas Alexander had it absolutely right in his speech at Chatham House this week when he argued:

So significant are the potential consequences of this speech that it is tempting, indeed reassuring, to presume a degree of strategic thought or high public purpose in its preparation. The truth, I fear, is both more prosaic and more worrying. This speech is about politics much more than it is about policy. And its origins lie in weakness, not in strength.

The second phantom, is the monstrous ghoul that is the federal super-state waiting to sink its teeth into these poor defenceless northern European islanders. This is the one that has Tory eurosceptics waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Their problem though, if you look at the argument in its elements, is more with the “state” element than anything else. Tory eurosceptics believe the alternative to EU regulation is no regulation. On this, like so much else they are entirely wrong.

Regulation would in fact just carry over, as we would still need to access the European markets. To gain access to the EU on a free trade basis, anything we imported or produced for the domestic market would have to be EU regulation compliant. And why would business want two regulatory standards?

Even if we decided not to trade freely with the EU, then we would still need to ensure clean beaches, toys without toxic chemicals, workplace safety, fisheries that weren’t over fished, proper information for consumers, farming subsidies, and fresh water standards. A world without regulation of the eurosceptic’s dreams is an apparition. Even if it could be achieved it wouldn’t last the first scandal over food poisoning, cod shortages, lead poisoning, horsemeat in burgers, or horrific increase in deaths in the workplace.


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