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 148.

    The fact of the matter is, a referendum was one of the pledges which Cameron made and which he was elected on so it should be put to the country as a referendum as promised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    There is no way that even Cameron would be stupid enough to leave the EU. He knows that the majority of people in the UK want a referendum but he isn't stupid enough to give us one. This is a simple move to hang on to power at the next election. Frankly, it's disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    We will sooner or later have to leave the EU. It is unfortunately the only way Europhobes will understand the necessity of being part of it. Counter intuitive I know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Oh dear - Mr Cameron looks at Mr Clegg and hums the tune to "Stuck in the middle with you". Quite appropriate - as he looks at his squabbling party ....Clowns to the left of him Jokers to the right...here I am ...stuck in the middle with you!
    Or perhaps he's thinking of Henry V "Even as men wrecked upon a sand, that look to be washed off the next tide."

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    What the Brits don't understand and especially the tories. The EU is not like you can have your cake and eat it at the same time. The EU is about compromise if UK is unwilling for compromise they will be shown the door including the single market. Other states in the EU are getting fed up with the British paranoia attitude and rightly so!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    We are a little country with no industry of our own most is owned by companies that come here because of the gateway into mainland europe are the anti eu brigade so dumb that think these companies will stay here if we come out of the EU. the rich tories don't care it will be the working people who will suffer if the lunitics get the their way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    5. Space Wow the BBC's propaganda machine is set to full at the moment isn't it.


    What complete rubbish.

    You just object to any article that might give an opinion that you dont like.

    Nigel Farage (who is not exactly pro EU) is one of the BBC pets and is a regular on a huge number of programmes. So are rather a lot of Tory anti EU MPs and former MPs who take the BBC purse

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    And twenty years from now we'll still be EU members.

    All that'll change is there'll be another single issue Political Party carping on about some other inconsequential non issue to take our minds off unemployment, welfare rights, and the deficit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    It's truly amazing how many people on this forum this morning are in favour of a communist ideal such as the EU. Thankfully most forums (including the BBC) denounce it and rightly so. Why would you want unelected bureaucrats run the UK? Either you're poor, brainwashed sheep or you have communist ideals. Communism/Socialism is fine but i, along with the majority don't support it. Thankfully!

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I was born and brought up in Scotland have lived in England for 30 years our two sons were born in England. For 15 years I worked extensively across Europe and despite what Cameron or any politicians do my sons will be brought up to be pro-European for social and cultural reasons. No-one seems to acknowledge the benefit of the latter point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I hate this idea that everyone's opinion is equally valid...it's not. Everyone's opinion is valid but not equal. For example top economists and business leaders rightly have more influence on the economy than say a lorry driver. Or a person who is a professor of dentistry for 40 years hold more weight with there opinion on dentistry than someone who removes teeth with string and a door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Whatever happened to freedom of expression! my post has no bad language, nothing untoward but truth and yet its still being moderated, apparently. What's happening BBC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    It is precisely due to UK opt-outs, working practises and separate currency that we maintained years of inward investment.

    There are justifications on both sides of the EU debate, nonetheless on aggregate UK avoided the more severe economic consequences seen in EU, though our debts are just as bad.

    Heseltine is the same self-serving pseudo-statesman since the Westland affair, ignore him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    The Common Market that Ted Heath signed up to in the seventies has evolved in to a European beaurocracy which has too much power and influence over nation states. This is what is so unpopular.
    Free trade, yes. All the rest of it you can poke.

  • Comment number 134.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Having read the European Constitution and its various amendments when they were published I can say that all of the things that people hate about EU influences on the UK were entirely predicable. The scaremongering about trade is just that - if your product is good and the right price then people will buy it - it has absolutely nothing to do with politics or political alliances .

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Still bitter about not getting the top job, then, Lord H?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Europe??? An old analogy works for this... Better to be inside p*ssing out than standing outside having to p*ss in... Switzerland found to its cost what sitting on the outside of Europe means, currency manipulation...

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Make no mistake the main objective of the EU is to create a European superstate & behind that is a political desire to control Europe.

    The economics of this superstate would follow the French economic model not British

    Whilst the EU has doggedly pursued this avenue taking more & more national powers away they have completed avoided beefing up democracy in the EU or political accountability

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.


    But that's the point Gerard. We DON'T live in a democracy! If we did the invertebrates we have had all these years would have taken us out years ago. We haven't lived in a democracy for years. This is why they are building an expensive rail line that will only take 20 minutes off a journey from London to Birmingham. That is why we have wind farms. We just DON'T have a democracy here.


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