Lord Heseltine attacks David Cameron's EU strategy


Nigel Farage: "Lord Heseltine fears what the public will say"

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Lord Heseltine has criticised the prime minister's European strategy, saying an "ill-advised" referendum would jeopardise the UK's business prospects.

In interviews with the Financial Times and the Times, David Cameron's adviser on growth says offering a referendum on EU membership would be a "punt".

The Tory peer also warns the policy would "drive away inward investment".

Mr Cameron is expected to announce this month that the Tories will offer a referendum after the next election.

It is thought he will make the announcement in a speech on the UK's relationship with Europe.

'Unnecessary gamble'

While Lord Heseltine, a former deputy prime minister, is known for being pro-European, many Conservatives are not, and are pressuring the government to commit to a referendum on the question of whether the UK remains in the EU - a so-called "in-out vote".

Lord Heseltine said: "To commit to a referendum about a negotiation that hasn't begun, on a timescale you cannot predict, on an outcome that's unknown, where Britain's appeal as an inward investment market would be the centre of the debate, seems to me like an unnecessary gamble".

He told the Financial Times: "Why put your factory [in Britain] when you don't know - and they can't tell you - the terms upon which you will trade with us in future?"


Lord Heseltine's intervention reminds us of the sort of division the Europe issue can cause in the Conservative party.

David Cameron believes there is significant public support for renegotiating the UK's EU membership and many of his MPs agree.

But there will be others who think that Lord Heseltine has a point when he worries about the possible impact of a referendum on business investment in the UK.

Unlike the days of previous Europe tensions for the Tories, the party is, of course, now in coalition.

Added into the mix, the internal debate in the government ahead of David Cameron's speech on the EU looks set to be a heated one.

Mr Cameron has faced pressure to hold a referendum on Europe at some stage during the next Parliament and has been criticised by some in his own party for not doing more to distance the UK from the EU.

He wants the UK to remain within the EU but believes there is a need to redefine the relationship in light of moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency.

Falling exports

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister should take Mr Heseltine's comments "very seriously".

"It's devastating for the prime minister that you've now got Lord Heseltine saying that he's essentially operating in the party interest, not the national interest.

"If you're an investor thinking about putting your money into Britain, you're not going to be doing that if you think Britain's about to leave the European Union."

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage told the BBC that Europe was not essential for British business.

"Outside the European Union, there are nearly 50 trade agreements that the EU has with other parts of the world. They are not bound by the rules, they are not part of that union, that is how business operates.

"We're living in a global economy, and important as Europe is as a marketplace, it is now down to 38% of our exports, and likely to fall further. The UKIP argument is we must embrace the rest of the world for trade, not just Europe."

Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott said he was not in favour of having referendums "on fundamental decisions that have already been taken".

He added: "The Conservatives can't have it both ways. If they want to come out of Europe... they should come out and say so. They should stop playing this referendum game which is a way of covering up their own deficiencies."

Ed Miliband says Lord Heseltine's criticism is "devastating"

Senior Conservative backbencher Bill Cash told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the UK would be edging towards leaving the EU "if things continue the way they are".

He said proposals for the EU's future were "moving in the direction which is completely unacceptable to the British people".

Gunther Kirchbaum, who chairs the European affairs committee of Germany's Bundestag, said: "I'm deeply convinced that to get out of the European Union would also mean to lose influence. Businessmen in Britain are really concerned."

In recent days senior politicians in the US and Germany have warned against Britain leaving the EU, while the leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, Richard Ashworth, warned that the UK appeared to be "snarling like a sort of pitbull across the English Channel".

On Friday, Chancellor George Osborne suggested in the German newspaper Die Welt that the UK may leave the EU if Brussels failed to reform.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Obama, Merkel, Ashworth and now Heseltine. All of whom are supposedly advocates of the democratic system and the right to free speech and are concerned over Cameron *potentially* giving the people of the British Isles a say in their own future in the EU. Smacks of absolute hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.


    If the EU still wants British products they will still have to buy them from Britain whether the UK is in or out of the EU. I mean, I like Toyota cars but I am not going to refuse to buy one because Japan isn't in the EU. The EU is bankrupt and countries like Turkey have now cooled off from wanting to join...and rightly so, they are laughing at their Greek neighbors now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    After the voting-reform referendum, full to the brim on both sides with misinformation, schoolyard politics and marked by a total lack of sensible debate, I have no idea why people are so keen to put such an important long-term issue to a referendum. In principle it sounds great, in practice it will be utterly depressing I'm sure, and riven with utterly uniformed votes, again on both sides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Cameron is more interested in his survival as leader of the Tory party than he is in the interests of this country. Hesletine is absolutely right to warn of the dangers of yet another ill judged, on the hoof Tory policy that will not only damage our industry and commercial viability but also destroy our international reputation and credibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Oh so those at the top still think actually giving the public a say or vote on a actual important issue is 'inadvisable' and they are still coming up with the classic excuses, if you ask me a quick sharp and short referendum is good, it would decide the issue and markets would be able to build with it. All this dithering is destabilising everything.

    IN / OUT referendum NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Like it or not we need to be part of the EU. We were once a powerful and proud nation. Now we are just a minnow, the Bulldog no longer has any teeth, so we cannot posture about like we do not need to be part of the EU. Our future security and that of Europe needs to be unified, especially as the economic power shifts Eastward away from the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I don't want to pull out of Europe and millions of others don't either, regardless of what some posters on here say. The elite right want to pull out, to make it easier to exploit British workers and drag us back 100 years in pay and rights. I guess China has them worried. And they are using nationalistic rhetoric to do their best to make it happen. When did the British people become so dumb?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I have yet to see any arguments for staying in the EU that hold up to real scrutiny,the old business/jobs talk is just scaremongering from the Europhils.We import much more than export to the EU,does anyone seriously believe that German.french and other companies would want to give up there lucrative markets here,I do not think so.Also the money we would save could be used for the British people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    You anti Europe lot are such a good laugh, introspective and dim

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Heseltine is absolutely right. We need our leaders to fully engage positively and take the lead in the EU for the benefit of all Europes citizens not sit on the side lines sneering and sniping for the sake of domestic political brownie points. As for being ruled from Brussells, better that than Bejing which is a very real prospect if the European leaders do not get their act together soon!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    It is good for Hazletine to speak out It might start a debate we also have to find out the veiws of America China Japan which invest a lot in our countryand the rest of the EU How will it affect our utilities will we still be able to use French planes My beleif is that to leave the EU would benefit only a very few but would be disasterous for most

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    No need for Heseltine to panic. There will be two answers on this referendum but he need not worry. "Should the UK be a part of the EU?".... "Yes", or "Yes". There won't really be a no on the paper. Don't be silly. It will be an exercise in futility, and if we give the slightly less preferable answer, they'll pump us with information and run it again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    politicians are elected to represent the people.....a referendum is a democratic process the people of the UK demand. Being part of Brussels is not on the British agenda. Norway opted out of the EU and are now the richest country in Europe................go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    The argument about inward investment is flawed. What inward investment is he referring to? Is he referring to the pay day loan companies that has flooded the UK market ? or is it the chain of tax dodgers lining-up UK high street? or more specifically, is he talking about the financial services sector that caused UK to dole out billions of pounds for their rescue? Time to exit EU is now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    mikeb Maybe you should check on his background before classing him in the same league as Cameron, Osbourne, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Most of anti EU brigade don't have jobs that depend on us being at the heart of europe, The very lage company I work for employ over a 1000 people in the uk
    and have already said they will move to main land europe if they uk leaves the eu but the anti eu brigade don't care about peoples jobs do they.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    rest assured there are plenty of people with deep pockets like the daily mail (which I buy regularly) who loathe the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    America is demanding Britain stays in the EU, big business is demanding we stay, and so is the right-wing press. It's like 1975 all over again. However, unlike last time, most British people have now experienced forty years of life as a member and are therefore in a far better position to make their judgement this time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Heseltine you're so wrong - like the PM would have a strategy. Duh!


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