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 108.

    Tories will rip themselves apart like they did in early 90s...they put off sorting out the EU problem at the time of Maastricht Treaty. Dave & Gideon will get very little concessions from the EU and the only reason they are waving a referendum under our noses is in the hope they get re-elected in 2 years. If the EU is such a big issue,sort it out ( renegotiate or referendum ) NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Adam below, sounds like he wants his own way and anyone with a different opinion must be locked up or made to shut up. This is exactly why we want a referendum so that people like Adam are not allowed to run this Country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Arent we supposed to be a democracy? yes we have to trust those we elect (even though this govt really wasnt democratically elected) to make decisions but this is such a profound issue the public needs to have its voice and power heard and enforced.
    the mroe politicians attempt to bodyswerve isssues like the this, the more suspicious I am of their motives, which are generally shifty in my opinion

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Interesting debate, but not sure there is a measurement of what the consequences would be should Britain leave. I also wonder why Cameron should make the annoucement now and yet say there can't be any referendum this side of the elections. To me it sounds like cheap politiking. Anyway, I dont think Britain should be compared with Norway, a country with a small population and a lots of gas/oil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    63 Kevin..

    Why do you assert ( quite wrongly ) that the EU is finanicially unaccountable...

    The budget is audited year on year by an independent body, who use a very strict and fastidious accounting method, quite unlike anything seen in most countries..

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    People are angry and frustrated right now and are looking for things to blam. Even so,I'd tend to think of the EU as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. The debate that has been held on this issue is a pretty poor one,filled with emotive rubbish and devoid of much sensible reasoning,so it welcome to have reminder a from Heseltine and others of the dangers of EU withdrawal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Asking the public to vote after months of nationalistic propaganda from the press? Sensible debate and weighing up the odds will be out the window. Like sheep, the public will vote against the EU, driven by nothing more than a press editors point of view. I presume Honda and Nissan will start winding down now and move to Poland?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    If there is an in/out referendum on Europe, then as someone who passionately believes in representative democracy, I'll seriously consider not voting. Since I haven't been elected to any public office, I believe I'm qualified to make such a monumental decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    A lot of people are missing the point that the UK is something of a bridge between Europe and the US: our influence in Europe makes us important to the US and vice-versa. Without this pivotal role we are not useful to either and further marginalised globally. Alone we are very very weak

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    So, I'm not a Conservative MP; and, on this topic, I'm wishing (a little bit) that I was. Why? Keeping the word I remember the core of the Conservative Party leadership expressing in past decades on Europe. Fear. Fear that English will be removed as an official language of the EU; why keep it if the UK opts out? Realism. We'll always drive on the left and have different plugs for electrical goods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Most of the people who are for the EU don't realise what it actually means. They think politicians and the like do it for our own benefit. But ask yourself how does a democracy work when your decisions are being made by different people in a different country? It's a communist ideal. The losing business argument doesn't wash either because countries can't afford to not trade with us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Hezza is right.

    Cameron, right wing Tories (and UKIP) are WRONG and even dangerous to our economic prospects and European peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I think Cameron is pulling a stroke here.

    He'll deny us a referendum until just before the next General Election and then offer one straight afterwards if his party wins - if he does that the Tories will definitely win in 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Cameron & the Tory right are gambling the future of our country for the sake of short-term votes & power. If we have a referendum, uninformed & geed up voters will vote with patriotic "Great British"emotions without finding out or acknowledging the true benefits of staying in a Europe which despite having flaws, is rationally our best option for economic prosperity & global political influence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    At least if will give me an excuse to leave this country when i get made redundant thanks to the 'majority' deciding the UK would rather be out of Europe. That and the 1200 people at my company that would probably go down.

    People need to realise the world is changing and we are no longer the great imperial power that we were. We need to be in europe, together, not

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    64.Liquidfire "Agree with Cameron's strategy.The public want to know they will get a vote."

    Cameron is only interested in serving himself. If that means trying to identify with some supposed public opinion before putting his own spin on it, increasingly with the help of quangos like the ONS, then so be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    We don't need to be part of the EU and never have done! I can't think of anything it has done for us that we couldn't do better ourselves, it's a massive waste of our hard earned taxes. Stopping British people going to work in Europe you are having a laugh aren't you, that also means they wont be allowed here, what a result!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    The trouble with a referendum is that the right wing press will spreadin misinformation to get us out of Europe and the gullible pulic will fall for it hook line and sinker.

    The fact is that poor areas rely on European grants for investment in infrastructure while the Tories have no interest in these areas as there are no votes there.

    All their investment goes into winnable constituencies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Where the problem exist in the EU is the democratic deficit. The people of Europe should not allow themselves to be hustled into a form of dictatorship, which is isolates individual nations. The current economic mess is being employed by the bureaucrats to achieve integration in a way that people would not accept. Freedom should be a driver of decisions not simply business opportunism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    @25. corncobuk 
"I thought our elected representatives carried out the will of the people, that`s how democracy works isn`t it?"

    No, modern democracy is about electing competent representatives to take responsibly for our government. That means making sound judgements and decisions that improve and benefit the common good and not to just follow the whims of uninformed public opinion.


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