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 68.

    It's a good political soundbite 'Get out of Europe' and it may have been better if we'd never gone in. But if we ever retract, will we do all the difficult bits as well, including sending home all the European 'immigrants' and their families and forcing the (fit to work) British unemployed to come off the dole, maybe move a few miles down the road, and do the jobs immigrants are doing at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The government needs to rule out a referendum now so that this silly little debate can come to an end as it's already damaging our standing overseas. The real debate on Europe will be about who we persuade those of a Eurosceptic persuasion not to vote UKIP at the next election so that those with views on Europe which clearly aren't in the national interest can be kept on the political sidelines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Who cares what Heseltine or even what dictator Barack ‘special relationship’ Obama ‘thinks’? Surly, what counts is only what the British public think and want! After all, the majority rule in a true democracy... or are (you not so subtly) trying to tell us something David?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    There will only be a referrendum if the Tories win the next election.

    So this is a cynical attempt to make the next election about EU memebership without saying so, and using the next two years to malign europe so we will vote tory to get a referrendum.

    Other parties are available!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Agree with Cameron's strategy.The public want to know they will get a vote. But there has to be time for some negotiation with the EU and this will focus their minds. I hope we stay in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    I see some comments below saying it is inward looking to want to leave the EU and we shouldn't. Europe is done. The world as far as Britain has traditionally be concerned never ended at the southern tip of Greece. Getting out of the wasteful, financially unaccountable, inefficient EU would mean that we could push ahead with commonwealth ties. The US and EU don't want that. It would challenge them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    This illustrates one of the many problems with our "democracy" all too often a policy which aligns with the wishes of the majority of the electorate is dismissed as 'ill advised' The BBC are supporting this currently by giving virtually no air time to anti EU opinion.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    You Euro sceptics make me laugh. You really think the whole of the UK agrees with you - they don't, despite being fed hate-filled anti-Europe claptrap by the AUSTRALIAN Murdoch press and its ilk.

    True, there are few flag waving EU supporters - most people are actually balanced and can see there is both good and bad in th EU, like most things in life. Your one-eyed hatred is frankly pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I can't make my mind up who is the bigger idiot, VAT Man (Cameron) or Tarzan (Heseltine)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Cameron will have so much power if he wins again then these cuts will look like small fry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    As we are in a democracy, the people will have the opportunity to have their say. We were promised a referendum and I'm sure many people would like this sooner rather than later. Please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Looks like the battle has started for real. Lets have the real honest facts on the benefits for staying in or not staying in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Let them get their way. Let them celebrate UK independence. Let them wave their flags in a demonstration of victory for the greatest nation on earth. A nation that bows to no other. A nation that sets the rules, not follows them.

    Then let them watch the country deteriorate as it's left on the back burner whilst the rest of the world moves forward.

    Think of your grandchildren before yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The arrogance of know best politicians

    40 years of being at the so called heart of Europe influencing decision has not worked. The central core of the EU remains France & Germany with their bureaucratic, statist ways. If the political objective of being in the EU was to control the French & German creation of a powerful superstate, it has failed. Our politicians have failed, lured EU jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Those on board the gravy train will not want to see it derailed.We even had Kinnock on the TV last night,both he and his grasping other half are on the EU payroll,telling us that it is good for us.Enough said,bring on a democratic vote on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    A straight In /Out vote will not serve anybody well.

    However, anything else (a renegotiation) would be difficult without negotiation taking place as to what could be accepted.

    Let Cameron set the date of a referendum. If a third option is wanted then this will set a deadline for any negotiation & focus everyone's attention.

    Certainly we cannot have an open-ended timescale for any negotiation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I have no problem with EU trading and interlinked economies.
    However,,,,,,,,,,I do object to unelected parasites who's salaries are larger than the US president forcing unwanted laws onto the UK.

    For that reason alone I say GET US OUT NOW!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The key issue re Europe is not to "throw the baby out with the bath water". From a business and single market perspective we need to stay in Europe, we also need to maintain political influence within the EU. It is the other aspects of the EU (transfers of legal powers, etc) that antagonise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.


    If the daily mail were really anti EU:

    Where is their campaign calling for a general strike until a referendum is held?

    Where do they report that the EEC was Hermann Goering's policy and it's principles were set up (since unchanged) in a conference in 1942?

    The false daily hate mail's anti EU stance is to cause conflict amongst us whilst the real agenda is driven on through!


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