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 88.

    Heseltine summed it up in the first paragraph. The UK population do not know enough to make such an important decision as this. Most people will vote for what they personally want without knowing the facts, this will be a complete disaster in itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Why indeed I have asked the same question many times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    good boy

    The british public did have a post legislative referendum in 1975 to let the public decide whether we should remain in the European Union. There was 67% in favour of remaining on a 65% turnout. Our reason for joining was that the UK was exposed after the Suez crisis and we realised that we were no longer a super power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    We had a referendum - we are in the EU.

    If we had another and left the EU, would those that won let us have another in 20 years time to go back in?

    Of course they wouldn't! They are cowards and want to put up walls.

    We ARE part of Europe - we used to be able to walk there! It is part of our culture. We should be building it into a strong world economic force, not hiding behind a rock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    The argument of some pro EU seems to be that we need to align ourselves to a big economic block that can negotiate on equal terms with China & America

    This has merit but unfortunately it is not the aim of the EU bureaucracy & elite They have become sidetracked by the lure of power, privilege & wealth Their main aim is to create a European political superstate with no democratic accountability

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    More BBC on sided propoganda how come we have heard nothing from the other side. Its all doom and gloom if the people vote to leave the EU.
    The referendum on this matter is long overdue and the rest of the world and the UK establishment should abide by the result.
    Anything else is simply UNDEMOCRATIC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Famous Old Pro European in Stay in Europe Shocker!!!

    The more the Germans, the Americans, the BBC and the Socialist Elite keep trying to scare us, the more we will want out.

    At least we British had an Empire. It's called the Commonwealth now. Now the Marxist Socialists want one. The Germans have always wanted one, and the Americans just want to keep us as their man in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The EU loves those nations that agree with what Brussels dictates. People hark on about the only way to influence EU policy is to be at the heart of it. Well, the UK has been arguing its case at the heart of the EU and because we don't always agree we are called 'troublemakers' and are sidelined. We've had years of this nonsense and I don't see any harm in having a change and leaving the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The problem with the EU is that it is corrupt.
    Accounts have not been signed off in 18 years there is profligate waste of resources there is no democracy & Britain is overall a net contributor to this setup which sees Germany taking care of industry France mopping up a 3rd of the money in CAP handouts and the best is yet to come. An army of migrants from Romania & Bulgaria are due to come here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    It's daft, when the EU is already in a state of considerable flux, to start posturing about the nature of future relationships. Cameron is in hock to the political nutcases in his party! We should wait, and watch and have an informed debate

    Mind you, I loved the German MPs! Expressed in gentler terms than in the past it was still unmistakably..."resistance is futile. You vill be destroyed!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Heseltine attacking a tory leader from a europhile position? Surely not. And this is news? Not only news, but your lead story BBC? What's your lead story going to be tomorrow? "Sun rises"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Heseltine - if you want to negotiate with the EU the clock is ticking. Stop complaining to us and start negotiating.

    The longer a referendum (and democracy) is denied the stronger an Out vote becomes.

    The UK needs this referendum; not further delays or debate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    They key issues for Europe for myself are:
    1) Laws, Legal Power transfer of rights to EU
    2) UK Infrastructure and fast change in communities cannot cope with new influx
    3) We cannot afford additional benefits to non workers
    4) Increase in Crime due to changes in this country. This country is the most violent
    5) Life maybe better if my job is not threatened by yet more people outside UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The future is in trading blocs - what hope for a small island off mainland Europre if we fly in the face of common sense by removing ourselves from one of the most successful trading blocs in the world? It would reduce us to a third world country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Clearly Tarzan doesn't believe in the democratic principal, rather he believes in autocracy as a method of government. If we lived in a democracy we would have left the EU Jackboot years ago. It is only because of the paternalistic invertebrates that we have allowed to be elected over the years that we are under the heel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I was an admirer of Micheal Heseltine until one day he said that he started his business empire by delaying payment that he owed to his suppliers. I am selfemployed and make a point of paying my bills honourably. I would take what this man says with a pinch of salt, as other posters have said it's about money and democracy here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @40 Christine. How dare you, not everyone seeking true facts about the benefits of being in/out of the EU are 'dim'. This is part of the problem, too much animosity on both sides instead of a reasoned argument supported by facts to ensure a genuinely informed democratic vote by the people of this country

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Have you seen the disaster unfolding in Spain/Italy/Ireland/Portugal and Greece? And you seriously think the EU is an economic force. They couldn't handle this crisis and you want to be part of the Titantic? If you want to think about your grandchildren then get out before it sinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Have said this before.......

    The Governments CON/LIB/LAB don't want to leave the EU and are not about to give us a referendum on doing so. The BBC does not want us to leave the EU, that's why we only really get a one sided debate.

    What the CONs are saying is reform, which really means pick and choose what you want from the EU but stay in it, the British worker will be really screwed then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    An awful lot of Politicians are desperate to deny the UK's citizens the right to have a referendum on membership of the EU - I wonder why that might be ?


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