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 168.

    @142. Hastings

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


    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


    You think the BBC wheel out that bunch to even out the EU debate?


  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Every day we pay the EU £15,000,000. Think what we could do with that money. Invest in schools, hospitals, roads etc. What do we get for our £15,000,000? Businesses that are overburdened by red tape, we have lost control of our borders, we have lost our fisheries, we have lost our democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    The EU is basically the Fourth Reich, and I for one want no political part in it. K

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Why restrict it to the EU? Why not have a referendum on VAT, hanging, the monarchy, benefits, BBC programmes etc? Why not get rid of government and let the people decide every little thing? Would that be democracy, or idiocy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Some time ago, in the run-up to an election, Heseltine said "Socialism is bust". The EU is a socialist experiment and he wants part of it???

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    The British people want a referendum. If the rest of the EU think it is so important that we stay in then they should address the rules which are turning public opinion against it - limit unprecedented financial migration, curb abhorrent EU spending by greedy fat-cat MEPs and their support staff, amend human rights legislation to favour the victim not the criminal. Then you'll win the public vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    @121 "and a small group of business men who have their own interests in abolishing EU directives on worker rights"

    You have no idea how wrong you are. Yes, we want an end to the endless directives that make the UK hopelessly uncompetetive, but it has nothing to do with workers rights. Many UK businesses have been rendered non-viable by the requirement to comply with ill-concieved EU regulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I'm not a big fan of the EU and the direction of some of its policies, but do believe that we must remain a member if this country is to have any sort of economic future.

    UK, like the rest of the membership, has a veto which it ought to use more often when some of the silly aspects of EU bureaucracy, expenditure & law making raise their heads. If that doesn't happen it's our fault, not Europe's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Yes, let's put our complete trust in the Government to do what they (think they) know is best for all of us - they've done precisely the same thing so many times before and got away with it, why should we bother to show any interest in "the freedom to choose" now? What's on the telly.....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    What value a referrendum?
    If we leave the Eurosceptics will run the tory party for the next fifty years, if we stay they won't accept the publics right to be pro europe and will spend the next fifty years grumbling inside the party.

    Meanwhile the rest of us will have to live with the mess they have made!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Yes let's have a vote on it,but put all the pros and cons out for public knowledge and make sure people vote,fine people who don't ,we want 90 per cent turnout not 25 percent,how many jobs would be lost if we left the EU I don't know,but if all the EU workers left the uk how many jobs would become vacant ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    In the science and technology market (where the UK should be expanding into), revenue is more limited by supply than demand. There are not enough highly skilled individuals within the UK, so people are employed from all over the EU.

    The fact I hear so many different accents is the sign of an agile economy. Our team (made up 50/50 domestic/foreign) generated millions for the UK economy last year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Heseltine is another who sold this country down the line and like Kinnock should be put out to grass and ignored. I wonder how much he receives from Brussels to spout such tosh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Europe's argument is this , stay in good , out bad . There is no acknowledgement of europes failures and putting them right ie waste , bureaucracy , franco / german power , CAP , unaudited accounts , legal powers , lack of competitiveness etc. The british already consider themselve on the fringe and not in the clique of eurozone countries who made an almighty mess of the euro .

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    The only reason leaving the EU would not work is because they failed to get trade deals with the rest of the world. It will work if they get more trade deals so in other words do your job Cameron and get to work make your pre cautions we are leaving the EU.

  • Comment number 153.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    137.lazard-diankson "Whatever happened to freedom of expression!"

    There is none and some people would like to see you have less. It's all about influencing public opinion. You have the right-whingers marking up their posts and marking down the left-whingers and vice versa. There will never be a balanced view and nobody will ever change their views so it's quite pointless really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    There is no way that Cameron et al will take steps to leave the EU or hold a meaningful referendum. We are seeing a bit of posturing in order to re-unite the Tories. Meanwhile Labour hope to creep back into power, pro Europe and an open door immigration policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    I think many people in this country can identify with the Austrian Chancellor's difficulties with our Dave. Interesting to note that Dave is using the promise of a referedum after the next election as a carrot to the electorate. Does he really think we are all donkeys?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.


    So you want your kids to die in yet another European War. That is the result of your myopic choice. And you should recognise that there is far more at stake than bent cucumbers. Try to engage your brain.


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