Friday

20th Jan 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey