Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

Labour rules out EU referendum without new treaty

  • No referendum likely under a Labour government - Miliband (Photo: Cabinet Office)

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband is to rule out an in/out referendum on EU membership before 2020 unless a new EU treaty proposal bids to transfer more power to Brussels.

The promise will be part of a speech on Wednesday (12 March) by the Labour leader, whose party holds a slight poll lead over the governing Conservatives.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, Miliband will hold out the prospect of an in/out referendum if a new EU treaty transferred more powers from national to EU level as part of a 'referendum lock' bill.

"It is unlikely there will be any such proposals for a transfer of powers in the next parliament, but the British people must know that the history of the EU – as well as uncertainty about precisely what a changing Europe and further integration in the eurozone might involve – means a further transfer of power remains possible," he will say.

"The next Labour government will legislate for a new lock – there would be no transfer of powers from the UK to the EU without a referendum on our continued membership of the EU," Miliband adds.

With two months to go until the European elections, at which the anti-EU Ukip party is expected to make a strong showing, Labour is anxious to avoid the charge that it is the anti-referendum party. Opinion polls indicate that an 'in/out' referendum would be too close to call.

However, business leaders have expressed fears that the uncertainty over the UK's future in the 28-country bloc could make the country less attractive for businesses.

Labour's new position is similar to that of the Liberal Democrats, regarded by most as being the most pro-European UK party.

In January 2013 Prime minister David Cameron announced plans to re-negotiate the UK's EU membership terms followed by a referendum in 2017 if his Conservative party wins next year's general election. The Conservative party has also attempted to push through legislation guaranteeing a plebiscite by 2017 only for the bill to be rejected in January by Labour and Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords.

Although German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed support for re-opening the EU treaties to deepen the integration of the eighteen eurozone countries, there is little appetite in most capitals for a fresh round of treaty change just four years after the Lisbon treaty came into force.

In an article in the Financial Times, also published on Wednesday, Miliband stated that, if re-elected, Cameron's government "would be dominated by an all-consuming and damaging obsession within his party about whether Britain should leave the EU.

Cameron, for his part, tweeted that "by his own admission, Ed Miliband says it's unlikely there'll be an in/out referendum on Europe under Labour."

"Only the Conservative Party can guarantee and deliver that in/out referendum," he added.

UK referendum bid defeated

The UK's parliament has rejected a call for referendum on the new EU's Lisbon treaty, a move representing a victory for Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown which has argued in the face of bitter opposition that there should not be a public poll. Britain is now expected to ratify the treaty in parliament by summer.

Exclusive

Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

The German former secretary-general of the European Commission held some 21 meetings which were registered in the lobby register. But no documents appeared to exist summarising what was said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Polish deputy minister targeted judges in hate campaign
  2. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  3. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  4. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  5. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  6. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  7. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  8. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us