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 368.

    Lets have a referendum on an issue where few of us really understand the arguments for or against? Heseltine is right, there is far more at stake here than the anti-europe campaign would have us believe. Can we trust Cameron and co to make the right decisions on europe? The record is not encouraging is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    It's so sad to see Cameron being pushed around by his loopy Euro sceptics. Here is a Prime Minister making a complete fool of himself on the world stage. The last thing Industry and business in the UK want is the uncertainty that even talk of a referendum brings.
    Lord Heseltine is so right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Chancellor Faymann - "said that he felt there was a difference between the way Mr Cameron talked to the European Council and the way he talked in his own country."

    Cameron is a duplicitous spiv? Never!

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    UK 2018 vote to pull out of the EU is successful UKIP and Tories ecstatic

    EU 2019 inward investment is up. EU jobless total down by 2 million.

    UK late 2019 unemployment has risen by 2 Million. UKIP blame the EU for stealing UK jobs.

    Tories say It's all Labours fault

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    EU leaders are right, we can't cherry pick with our vetos. If we do, then others will and the EU becomes more of a circus than it is now. I am anti-EU, but agree that if we choose to stay, we may have to take the muck with it - such as the European Court of Criminals' Rights. Let the public have a informed choice - no paranoia - then act accordingly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Something that the Faragistas have never acknowledged is the dangers associated with leaving the EU.

    It is easy to wave the flag and blame perfidious Europeans for all the ills in our economy, but until you can provide any evidence of how as an economy or a society we would be in any tangible way better off by leaving the case is not proved.
    It would be irresponsible and dangerous to leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    This the Law of the Jungle,as old and as true as the sky;
    And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,but the Wolf that shall break it will die.As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back,For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

    There are many in Europe who do not want Federalism team up & counter,whilst trading.

  • Comment number 361.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    if we left the eu what would be the first to go , workers rights , the right to protest , the right of free speech . ukip and the tory dictators would love it if the british people were misguided enough to leave . they would have the ordinary briton as slaves to their offensive greed .

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    What worries me about this is that many people seem to think the answer is an "In or Out" referendum. I believe we should still be a member of a common market, which is what we voted for in the first place. It is all the other things which have been signed up to by various Governments which have landed us in an almost impossible position, from which we should escape as soon as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    Hondas decision to axe 800 jobs because of lack of demand in Europe demonstrates the potential problem if we leave the EU, Hondas action was caused by the EU's ludicrous austerity policies reducing demand for expensive goods like cars. If the UK leaves the EU then the loss of free access to the EU for UK exports will reduce demand across the whole range of exports to the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    #331 said - "we fought two world wars over incestuous cousins its about time we rid ourselves of this S...."

    Good god now they're wheeling out the World Wars. And people seriously believe in giving these people a referendum? I didn't realise until today how much of a dumb country we live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Cont from post 328

    Although I don't see the need for a referendum, if there is one, I'll vote to stay in, for the greater good of Britain. But I believe it's a real shame that too many people have such a cynical view of our elected representative that they don't trust them to make these important decisions on our behalf and instead demand on being given a say on everything in referendums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    If the EU is so fantastic at spending our money for us, why can't they sign off ANY of their accounts? It's never audited. All those billions and billions. Year after year. Never properly accounted for - and no one to turn to to demand an enquiry.

    Just a thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    The Tories are arguing about Europe again!

    Can't help thinking that some of them believe Henry V is still King of England.


  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    I always find the pro-European slightly depressing. At every crisis or debate, they rush to the barricades to reel off doomsday scenarios as to leaving or reforming the EU.

    Why can they not stand up for what they believe in? Make the case for deeper integration and federalisation.

    The political cowardice of pro-European politicians is deeply saddening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    @ Ed Martin-and Milibands party has the unfortunate distinction of sinking the UK economy every time theyre elected,usually via emptying the coffers in cynical vote grabbing welfare-fests.If theres any truth to the myth we gain wealth from EU,which I doubt given the year in,year out trade deficit with it,its little wonder Labour are keen.Especially given the partys endemic economic incompetence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Germans etc repeat same daft warnings but sound more shrill & desperate than ever. In or out UK will always help keep peace in Europe but needs more global free trade same as USA. They say that by 2050 UK will be largest European economy. UK proved right to stay out of EZ. If EU won't change we should leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.


    If the EU situation was given more media coverage in UK we would be better informed as a nation

    The media of this country spend most of their time distorting reality
    The have an agenda and they peddle it

    That is why we very rarely have referenda that is unless David Cameron has a like minded friend in the media who he is back scratching with say

    Rupert Murdoch

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Leave EU - end of...


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