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 788.

    @747 Geoff Hudson
    "People will still want to buy from us."

    And what will they buy exactly? Japan has a massive electronics manufacturing sector (although even that isn't stimulating it's economy atm). China manufactures EVERYTHING! Show me one UK manufacturing sector not in trouble that can sustain us, once outside the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    All those arguing against a referendum are only doing so for one reason. It's typical of the EU types really - absolutely no understanding of democracy. Rightly or wrongly, the will of the people must prevail, not the will of the politicians who think they know best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    I have mixed feelings about the EU, slightly more pro- than anti-. But what scares me is the millions of readers of 'newspapers' which constantly peddle outright lies about 'Europe' (as if the UK was geographically in mid-Pacific, or somewhere). I don't claim to have all the facts at my fingertips, but I dread the thought of something so important being decided on such gross misinformation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    If there are just a few little Englanders wishing to leave the EU, what have the pro EU lobby to fear in putting UK membership to a vote, surely they expect to win by a landslide, or could it be that the opposite is the case. The UK electorate has never been asked if it wishes to be a member of a federal Europe. The only vote the UK has had was for a local trade agreement called the common market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Forget the put downs and try some concise reasoned arguements against a federal system

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    Little Englanders and bigots get a life.

    The net cost to the UK payments to the EU is about 1% of the total yearly Government expenditure.

    This cost measured against the benefits is tiny.

    The Tories hate the EU because of the social contract. They prefer employees not to have any rights so that their friends can sack people easily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    765. engineer-neil
    If this European state that you dream of really is going to be a land of milk and honey then maybe it's time for you to pack your bags and go live there. Close the door on the way out.
    Nope. I am a true Brit and I am staying here: In England, in the EU. I am exactly where I want to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    Heseltine is right of course, but DC is in a difficult position because of his weak leadership.

    He has UKIP, the right wing media, right wing MPs and gullible voters on the one hand. They want us out of the EU. On the other hand he has his own common sense, moderate Conservatives, the business community and the rest of us.

    DC will go where the votes are rather than leading us back to sanity.

  • Comment number 780.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    Personally I couldn't care less if we are in or out of the EU in the same way I don't really care if the UK Government is Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or a mixture of all three. I don't think for the average non-politicised (wo)man it makes much difference.

    The only way to survive 21st century Britain is to adapt to whichever bunch of clowns are in charge, get on with life and be happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    it is right that the richer countries pay in more than we get back . if we didnt these poorer nations would be ruled by extremists ( treaty of versallies ) and we know where that leads . but we should ensure that the people of those countrys pay their taxes (greece ) .

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    I am appalled at the UK being frogmarched into a European superstate that we never have been asked about. This is the longest running coup d'etat in history as faceless Eurocrats usurp power from nation states.
    While I have welcomed many of the progressive changes to the rights of citizens, I can't abide the loss of soveriegnty we've endured.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    ...are you suggesting we let the greek people starve .

    I was merely pointing out that using GNI % as a measure is flawed.

    I would cut Greece free to sort their own problems out. They're suffering from being tied to a single currency whilst their economy is weak, Germany's is strong. What's good for Germany is not good for Greece - hence their problems. Bailouts isn't the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    Here's a plan. Why don't we vote for MEPs who will fight for Britains interests in Europe instead of the 'we don't want to be here' bunch we have now?
    They are as much use as a glass hammer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    It is up to the public to decide "through democratic rights" I personally don't care if your pro Europe or not, put it to a vote lets see the outcome. One thing pro-EU-ers are forgetting is, if we leave, others WILL FOLLOW, so then this single market will collapse anyway. The commonwealth, India, China, Brazil are bigger markets in 10 years the EU is on its last legs, "Dictatorships are dead"

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    I am a dyed in the wool Labour. If Hessltine was the leader of tories I could be presuaded to shift my vote, this guy always talks sense. Without the EU my business will be in the mire. All my products go to the EU, it's my biggest customer with the USA a distant 2nd. Cameron is a fool and is doing a great job of destroying this country. Just carry on making a fool of us in the eyes of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    I don't know about how others feel on here, but I'm 62, & I really do feel as if I am re-living the Thatcher/Major era in terms of poor political judgement, over-severe austerity measures, privatizing the public sector, eurosceptisism, and, saddly, social unrest in Northern Ireland.
    I personally have lost confidence in this 'ideologically driven' Coalition Govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    @741 We haven't had a referendum on the EU for 40 Years .

    CORRECTION - we have NEVER had a referendum on the EU. We had a referendum on the EEC ( and no-one born after 1957 has even had that !).

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    212. WorkingClassWorker wrote: Whatever did we do before these unelected bu-euro-crats took over?


    To start with the European Parliament is elected.

    Secondly, before we joined the EU, we were going down the pan.

    Despite the arguments (often exaggerated) and despite the recent Euro crises, Europe (including the UK) is MUCH stronger now than 50 years ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    I have been unable to take seriously anything Michael Heseltine says, since he led the Palace Revolution against the greatest leader in the history of the universe.


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