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 188.

    @ 153.NemoMeImpuneLacessit

    So the coalition has a little more work to do in order to get your vote I take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I don't believe the Tories will honour a referendum as a IN or OUT choice, and is only a ruse to get re elected, the only party that will give us the tax paying public the choice is UKIP, all this posturing is to take the wind out of Farage's sails.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    If people are not informed enough to vote on Britain's role in the EU they certainly are not informed enough to vote in general elections either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    The battle to stop an undemocratic superstate from within has failed

    Do the pro EU think we will have more power when we a majority voting on issues were Britain's interests differ from France & Germany We will be effectively silenced

    As a large market for the EU we just may have more economic & political power negotiating bilateral deals with the EU from outside unconstrained by biased rules

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Does Cameron seriously think that this country could survive as an independent nation? I think not. This is vote catching, by promising a referendum on the EU, AFTER the next election. Then, if he's re-elected. he'll more than likely change his mind anyway.
    C'mon....you know what politicians are like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    we should stop pussy footing about over Europe and leave now,it has been nothing but a costly exercise in the way of local jobs going to migrant workers and communities at breaking point over housing shortage and hospitals overflowing not to mention the cost of welfare bill and violent crime is on the increase

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.


    I recommend a visit for you and the family go to The Theatre Royal Stratford East to see the latest production of Joanne Littlewood's - Oh What A Lovely War ( 1 Feb 13 - 15 Mar 14)

    The same establishments run Europe's states now as did then with the same stupidly myopic nationalistic outlook - and without the EU THE SAME EVENTS WILL MATERIALISE! & YOU will have caused them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.


    Well said, someone with commonsense!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Anyone who says the cringeworthy phrase EUSSR or compares it to either Nazi Germany is definitely someone to ignore. There are many legitimate and sensible reasons to argue against the EU but comparing it to Stalinism is certainly not one of them. I also get confused about how people are able to keep a straight face whilst comparing it to two different political philosophies in one sentence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    If Scotland votes for independence, then England will be run by the conservatives for the next century and either leave the EU or be thrown out. Result - little England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    113. engineer-neil

    ' I'm a businessman in Britain and I'm not in the slightest bit concerned'

    Well you should be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Janus, the two-faced god of the new year, has played a cruel trick on the Europhiles.

    Most of them are anti-US and have foolishly tried to flirt with the EU as a foil to Britain's US relationship.

    But the State Department's pronouncement now has them in a spin, trying to grovel in two directions at once as they hit the U Turn button!

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    A referendum in several years time makes perfect sense. It allows time to negotiate but concentrates EU minds to achieve a result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Even George Osborne probably agrees with Heseltine, after all, he recently admitted that: "More than half of all British exports go to the EU," "We sell more to North Rhine-Westphalia than we do to India. British companies employ 200,000 people in Germany with 400,000 Britons working for German companies in Great Britain." ... But most sceptics still peddle the old lie that we don't need Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    I am not sure how the benefits of membership stack up against the costs but in general I think I am probably for staying in the EU.

    However one thing I am very sure about is that I want to stay out of a United States of Europe which is the way the Eurozone is going.

    I definitely want to pull out of the Human Rights Convention where European Courts tell us what our laws should say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Put armed personnel at passport control and arrest and immidiately deport all illegals. That way we won't have to listen to platitudes from liberals on the European Crime Prevention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    The EU has always been the Tories' bogeyman. In an attempt to re-unite a party, David Cameron will attempt to placate the members of the extreme branch of his party by promising referenda. But any critical thinking person who is not blinded by his or her own dogma and xenophobia, nostalgia for a dead empire, or mass media lies, will realise he can do nothing if he wants to avoid disaster to the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    How can Lord Heseltine be considered objective in his criticism when we all know his pro Europe? We joined something very different when it was the EC now its become an interfering club DICTATING how we enforce our own laws, removed any border controls and we pay out our money to support some incredibly crazy ideas. At least the PM is standing up to these over paid unelected people for the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    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 not qualified to make such a monumental decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Part of me thinks this is a ploy.
    Things aren't improving, we're still in the red. Something is going to give sooner or later, so how do the condems make it look like they didn't make the situation worse?
    Have a referendum, the people decide to leave Europe. Things get even worse (as they were going to anyway, regardless) They can blame the situation on the people's decision, we lose more rights.


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