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 60.

    We are "allowed" to have a vote on a Police Commissioner - big deal! but nothing important like shall we stay in the EU or not? i'm glad we live in a democracy :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    42.Trout Mask Replica
    More of a pertinent answer surely is that our net contribution to the EU is approx 12.5% of our deficit, add in overseas aid and we could wipe out 25%. Both are very serious amounts of our deficit. If we are cutting our UK budget we should cut our EU budget the same % and tell them to lump it

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Comment number 22. michael
    A typical arrogant Guardian/Mirror/New Statesman reading Pro Europhile .

    What you mean are:-

    THE EU benefits of british workers being replaced by foreign workers. But that doesnt effect management/unions as the only people never outsourced R managers & Shop stewards!

    EU benefit where UK apply the free market in EU , but rest of EU doesnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    We aren't sleepwalking out of the EU shambles - we are fully cognisant of the urgent need to take control of our own destiny. Until we do that the profligate and corrupt EU will continue to drag us down.

    Look at how well Iceland is doing since it set itself free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Let's stop the uncertainty now and have a referendum on EU membership and the EU courts.

    These are issues that most people care about and will vote on (unlike PCC elections). Why doesn't the government let the public decide on the issues for which most have a strong view, eg nuclear weapons, House of Lords, monarchy, sentencing, immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    It's impossible to question the failings of EU membership without being classed a Euro Sceptic who wants nothing other than full withdrawal. It's exactly the same as somebody who questions the merits of uncontrolled immigration and is immediately branded a racist. Debate the good/bad of EU membership and re-shape our relationship.
    If people saw less corruption/waste, there would be more support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    We should be sprinting toward the exit. Sleepwalking there won't get us out fast enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    im getting more anti eu by the day with the 3 countries bullying or bouncing smaller ones

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    having just read the worrying article about the conservatives ditching planning permission i was thinking they were looking pretty bad. However, this shows that however bad they are, they are a select bunch of geniuses relative to Millibad/labout. If there is a point in history where linking ourselves to EU seems a bad idea.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Wake me up when we're out of it completely!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The EU has some wonderful features - free travel, free labour market, continent-wide regulations (HGV driving regulations etc.) which dramatically improve our economies and give opportunities to many.

    There are some negatives too, such as the ECJ deviating from its original mandate, but we need to concentrate on changing the format, not just quitting the EU and ending up Europe's Billy No-Mates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I was a firm supporter when we joined: free trade, no customs barriers, farming where the climate is best, industry where the technical knowledge is strongest etc.

    Instead, what have we got? Bureaucracy gone mad, transitional reliefs like the CAP that last forever, vested interests overriding the common good, a human rights law that puts the rights of criminals above victims etc.

    Time to leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

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

    You mean the same Iceland, Switzerland and Norway that have to apply EU law but have no say in setting it? The same countries that are members of the Schengen system (unlike the UK)?

    Assessment of different EU options:

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    What all the politicians chose to ignore is when we voted in the original referendum on membership it was for a common market, not a European union. We the British people were and have never had any vote on the change of status

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Instead of Milliband's blatant political opportunism, could we please hear what his actual policies are on the matter?
    Are they becoming more sceptical solely with an eye to the next election and then they'll go all EU cuddly again? Are they going to 'do a Blair' and sell out on another £3bn of rebate for 'chat' with France on the CAP?
    I think we are entitled to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    The UK should decide what position it wants within the EU - it's not a yes / no question.

    I suggest we want free trade, common standards of goods and some common laws. Having Europe speak as one voice can also be positive and be more powerful in a global world than small nations.

    The need for other areas should be questioned and if appropriate left for those who choose to take them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Is it just me or does Ed Miliband lacks leadership skills, integrity, gravitas, and charisma?

    Am I right?

    What is he doing as leader of the Labour Party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    14.Auden Grey

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


    "Can you run the kids to school?" "Nah. waiting for a referendum".

    "Coming out for a pint?" "How could I possibly say when I don't know if we'll get an EU vote?"

    What strange people...

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    " AliensAteMyBabysitter
    I'm anti-EU because it is expensive and they dictate some of our laws"

    And if we left the EU they would STILL dicate those laws but without us having any say in how they are set (unlike now where we do). As for expensive, it's about 1% of GDP GROSS and certainly better value than much of the 15 times larger amount spent on benefits in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Quite right Ed, we shouldn't sleep-walk out of Europe. We should be running for the Ausgang as fast as our legs will carry us.


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