Ed Miliband: Britain 'sleepwalking' into EU exit


Ed Miliband: "I will not let Britain sleepwalk towards exit from the European Union"

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Britain is "sleepwalking" into leaving the EU, which would undermine the UK's economy and leave it "voiceless and powerless," Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader argued that pro-Europeans could not turn a "blind eye" to the EU's failings.

A new approach should be based on "building alliances for change," he told the CBI conference.

But the Conservatives accused Labour of "opportunistic posturing" and not being "remotely credible" on the EU.

The prime minister, who is due to take part in EU budget talks this week, is also facing pressure within his own party, with Tory MP David Davis making a speech calling for a referendum that would allow the government to forge a new, looser relationship with Brussels.

Mr Davis said he would bet a "large sum of money" that the UK would leave the EU within a decade, without "maximum possible change" in the relationship with Brussels.

'Dangerous moment'

Last month, Labour MPs joined Tory rebels - including Mr Davis - to defeat the government on its strategy to push for a freeze in the EU budget, instead pushing for a real-terms cut between 2014 and 2020.

The prime minister insists that a freeze is more realistic, but he has threatened to use the UK's veto if the 5% rise proposed by the European Commission is not drastically reduced.

David Davis: "The federalist course the Eurozone powers have chosen is not one Britain should follow"

Labour's decision to vote for an EU budget cut was seen as evidence that the party is repositioning itself on Europe towards a more Eurosceptic position, but Mr Miliband said he "passionately believes that Britain is stronger in the European Union".

He warned the UK faced a "very dangerous moment" in its relationship with Europe and Mr Cameron, who has previously faced pressure from his own MPs to back an in/out referendum after the next election, was not working in the national interest.

Mr Miliband told the CBI conference in central London: "For more than three decades our membership of the European Union has seemed to be a settled question. Not any more. Public scepticism about European union has been on the rise for some time.

"Some cabinet ministers in this government now openly say that we would be better off outside the EU.

"And many of our traditional allies in Europe clearly think that Britain is heading to the exit door.

"Those of us, like me, who passionately believe that Britain is stronger in the European Union cannot be silent in a situation like this.

"I will not allow our country to sleepwalk toward exit because it would be a betrayal of our national interest."

Mr Miliband stressed the importance of being part of the single market for British businesses, which do 60% of their trade with EU members.

"If we left the EU it would be the United States, China, the European Union in the negotiating room - and Britain in the overflow room.

"We would end up competing on low-wages and low-skills: an off-shore low-value economy, a race to the bottom," he said.


The Labour leader argued the case for the EU was not served by ignoring the institution's "failings", adding that said the case for continued involvement had to be made "in a new way", rather than treating it as an "article of faith".

Instead, he argued for an approach based on "building alliances" with like-minded countries, based on plans for jobs and growth, reforming the EU budget, completing the single market and changing rules on competition.

But David Cameron described himself as a "good European", a "sensible, pragmatic British politician", who had "the people of Europe on his side" for campaigning for a tighter EU budget this week.

The prime minister told the CBI it "wasn't credible" to have cuts at home but then see the EU budget "going up and up", which he compared to "picking the pockets" of Europe's citizens.

Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio and one of the most pro-European members of the government, accused Mr Miliband of acting "opportunistically", by voting with "extreme Eurosceptics" over the EU budget.

And Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said: "In a speech to business, Ed Miliband had the chance to detail how he'd deal with the deficit that Labour left behind. Instead, what we got was opportunistic posturing on Europe which isn't remotely credible."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Why are all speeches to be given reported in advance - whichever party is speaking. Why would anyone bother listening to the actual thing when it's all over the press in advance?

    Is this not cart before the horse?

    Miliband's comments are not particularly interesting anyhow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    tense is wrong, already sleepwaled into leaving in all but name, The UK clearly isn't joining in the EU project in the same way as most others (rightly or wrongly), its on the periphery, not much more of a member than Norway (EEA), Switzerland (EFTA) etc.
    While Govt might give a in/out referendum, they will not have a referendum on being a proper member so at most the UK will stay half in half out

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The UK is an Island, floating in a world of trade.
    We don't need an EU anchor holding us back.

    We also don't need a band wagon jumper like Ed. It would be a cold day in hell before I'd ever vote for a weasily worm like him to run the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Perhaps there is a place for the European Union, I agree. But not in it's current wasteful state.
    Perhaps what is required is an an alliance of European countries based on agreements about defence, free trade agreements and human rights, but certainly not whereby there is unquestioned movements of labour from one country to another and bureaucrats sitting in Brussels inventing laws regardless,

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I am totally opposed to sleepwalking out of the EU. We should run out wide awake! We joined the Common Market not the European Union. Personally I believe Politicians that allowed us to hand over powers to the EU were committing Treason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    UK 'sleepwalking' into EU exit

    We wish

    Our ruling aristocracy like Milibland and Cameron will fight tooth and nail to keep the British plebs in a state of euroserfdom

    Iceland Switzerland and Norway are the way forwards for capable independent educated societies

    The EU is perfect for less educated societies, a corporate USSR for the less able of europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Let's just have a referendum, let the people decide, then we can all get on with our lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I disagree. The government has failed to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the public about membership and it's pros/cons, instead focusing on things like last weeks elections. We pour billions into Europe but most people don't see a benefit. Lets have an adult dialogue on Europe and then a vote at the end rather than meaningless posturing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    More drivel from the pouting teenager who now runs the Labour party. If I was a Labour supporter I'd be utterly ashamed. As I'm not, I can just laugh at his desperate antics. Of course we should leave Europe. What on earth do we get out of it? Absolutely nothing, despite the inflated and laughable claims of the europhiles. Every other European country should do the same and reclaim independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    ask yourself why the countries outside the EU want to be part of it ? Why is there a "waiting list". Well I'll tell you...there are economic benefits to being in the EU even with difficult times we are in right now. being outside the "circle of trust" looking in is not going to help this country. We don't have a commonwealth strong enough to support our economy and we don't have an empire any more

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Let' do it. Let the facts come out.
    How much we pay vs the benefit we get.
    The country is wrecked, let's stop patching & start over. In a broken country, at least we'd soon find our places.

    Well, we could also try to ride the tide in EU instead of complaining by the sideline - but that might be too much work for this lot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Unfortunately for you Ed, we are supposed to live in a democracy, and if the people want to leave the EU (which the polls overwhelmingly support) then that's what we'll do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    More posturing by a wannabee. Let's not sleep walk out of Europe, let's Gallop. The EU is proving daily that is unfit for purpose, just a club run by the French and the Germans where everyone else has to pay through the nose to be part of it.Why should we pay more to this corrupt, inept, useless organisation?The member at the most are incompetent and their dislike of the UK is obvious Get out NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Why ever not?
    We sleepwalked further and further into the EU, when all we ever voted for was a 'common market'. The UK electorate were never offered the referendum promised by Brown and Blair and now Cameron.
    I'm not saying we shouldn't be in the EU, only there is no mandate from the UK electorate for us being there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    To be successful the UK needs to become a trading centre, a nodal point where the EU, the Commonwealth and the USA can come together. We have special relationships with all three...

    Heck, Napoleon once called us a 'nation of shopkeepers' - let's do it properly and flourish once more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Although this is just posturing by Mr Milliband, this does need serious thought. The membership of the EU has been fairly good for the UK, but it is the amount it costs us to do it that is the problem. If we did not have to fund the ridiculous gravy train that it is- we might get something out of it. Just sort out the internal greed, and the 'coverall laws'- and it might be a good thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    If MilliBalls and his mates are so concerned about us 'sleepwalking' to the exit, I suspect their plan is to deny us any choice in the matter. Like with the economy who's ruin they helped preside over they believe they know better than anyone else.

    Ask the electorate Ed, go on, try it, it's called democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Enough sleepwalking, a fast walk would be more appropriate.

    I am not opposed to European co-operation, but this mess is a disaster. Time we were out of this farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Quite right, forget sleepwalking, let's start running...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Good old Ed - if there's a bandwagon, he'll jump on it.

    I'd really like to believe that this is something other than shallow posturing, but I can't.


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