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 40.

    If things continue there will not be a Euro or EU for us to leave. Both are in disarray with the Euro lurching from one crisis to the next. Unfortunatley the EU appears to be following course. They appear resolute in bringing about their own demise. Expansion at any cost is still their mantra. Why would anyone admit a country that by its own admission is currently a financial disaster zone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "Why is there a "waiting list"...there are economic benefits to being in the EU"

    These countries on the "waiting list", are they wealthy countries with a knowledge-based or manufacturing economy that will enhance the EU?

    Albania is the poorest country in Europe & they want to join, Jersey is one of the richest & they don't.

    That tell you anything?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    "It always amazes me how people who yearn for the past so eagerly, seem to have learned so little from it" You are so correct michael, look what happened last time someone tried to create a federal united states of europe, the poor citizens of eastern europe suffered with horrendous social unrest, now we have the same for southern europe instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Personally I believe Politicians that allowed us to hand over powers to the EU were committing Treason
    Our Labour and Tory Euro Quislings

    Their "agreements" with Europe are Ultra Vires and not enforcable without a mandate from the British people which would require a referendum

    The current UK position, half in half out is because the EU now wants control of Camerons buddies in The City

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Since joining the EEC (and later, the EU), the UK has reaffirmed its position as a trading centre, increasing our wealth and prosperity. When we joined we were a crumbling former empire on a steep decline.

    Yes, we pay more in than we get back directly. However, without the EU we isolate ourselves economically and go back to 1973.

    If the EU has overstepped its original remit, that's another issue

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    When I voted to join the EEC in the 1970's I was under the impression we would strengthen economic and trading ties to Europe, not have our strings pulled by Brussels and our borders starting in Turkey. Give the people the pros and cons and have the referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    11.Rob H
    "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.."

    Yes, the economic benefit of the EU is you get funded by the UK!
    Unfortunately the UK seems currently unable to fund itself, so that kind of buggers that up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.


    "...The UK is an Island, floating in a world of trade..."


    I'm sure one or two others see us as a "floater" too.

  • Comment number 32.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Miliband and co should watch out they dont sleep walk into OBSCURITY

    I know its a difficult concept for the 3 parties to understand including Miliband, Cameron and whats his name, But they the ones living in cloud cuckoo land. Kenneth Clarke is arrogant and deluded when it comes to EU,.

    I love to hear what their excuses are if UKIP comes 1st at European election and it wont be weather.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    So, Ed Miliband calls for "building alliances for change,"

    Is this the same guy who allies his party with Tory euro-sceptics, calling for an EU budget cut.

    While at the same time, is in an alliance with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EU that are calling for a budget increase?

    Common Ed, right now your hypocrisy is a joke for all to see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    #22. michael

    Not a Little Englander, just someone who can't for the life of me see what we get out of the EU. I love Europe. I've been there many times. I don't, however, want to be part of a eurostate and I can't see why any of the other countries with their proud histories would want to be either. We're all too different and that's the beauty of Europe. We should celebrate our differences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    One or two overseas manufacturers have also noticed this and, have or are planning to up sticks and move production elsewhere.
    5 million unemployed anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Why do all these other Countries outside the EU want in? To get their noses in the communal feedbag, that's why.

    And who pray, is topping up that feedbag?

    We do not need to be a member of the EU to trade with them, and doubtless, we would continue to do so perfectly happily. Perhaps it would give us the incentive to look to the rest of the World a little more intently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Milliband...oh dear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I have to say I find it shocking that no-one feels able to mention any of the positive aspects of the EU or they are taken for granted and would have happened without the EU (they didn't) and will continue to be available to us if we left (they won't). I think sleepwalking is the right analogy. Those wishing the sleepwalking on or arguing for a total break must be very careful what they wish for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I am sure there are some clever people somewhere who can carry out an impact study on what would happen, not just economically, but in other areas, if we were to leave the EU. As someone who can always be swayed by strong evidence, I feel that such a study, carried out independently, would be of great benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    What is Ed Miliband on?

    This guy has no integrity with his comments about Europe and will make the UK look, weak and indecisive. Not only have we the problems with being unpopular and the potential fall guy of EU. But with the Fickalty of this guy we are looking ridiculous.

    The sooner he is out as leader of Labour the quickest we are going to recover from his unbelievable judgement calls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Too late Ed. The 'Little Englanders' have already taken over, as can be seen by most of the comments. It always amazes me how people who yearn for the past so eagerly, seem to have learned so little from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    No one knows more about sleepwalking than the nasal nerd.
    He sleep walked his way through years of Labour profligacy and mismanagement and now pontificates about cutbacks in the European budget.
    Typical opportunistic navel gazing from a dedicated left wing aparachik


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