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 1108.

    'In the style of Renton in Trainspotting'....

    Some people blame the labour party for the mess we're in..... I don't. They're just......

    The labour party did not sell off our countries utiliies, destroy the mining industry, sell off rover for peanuts..... Actually Mrs Thatchers government did. Now our utils are owned by Germans.

    And he thinks we should listen to him!!

  • Comment number 1107.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    Breaking news :

    Right wing torys stab Cameroon in the back. (again)

    2015 election - it will be sooner than that - take note Clegg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    Tory back benchers are always wrong, about everything. That's why we should stay in, and at the heart of, Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1104.

    Heseltine always was a Wet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1103.

    We export MORE to places like Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Aus, and LESS into Europe. As for America, to export there is a logistical nightmare"

    And being in the EU makes exports to these markets more difficult because of what? Leaving the EU would magically resolve difficulties in exporting to these markets in what way exactly? EU negotiating with them is more effective than 1state

  • rate this

    Comment number 1102.

    1082 commonsense1

    Hatred of foreigners??

    Oh yes it is. Try a trawl of local London to discover what goes on in peoples heads. Outwardly respectable but seething inside. When they get drunk it all starts spilling out

    Xenophobia is very alive & kicking. Working class blokes & Tory toffs. They would rather pursue racist agenda in favour of anything to our economic benefit. Raving bonkers

  • rate this

    Comment number 1101.

    German goverment representative:
    "By the end of the 21st Century, Europe will account for only 4% of the global population," he added. "We have to stand together."
    How much more of a compelling argument do people in England (!) want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1100.

    1088. Follyist
    Being out the EU might make some sense if we actually made goods with which to trade. As it is we are net importers, and being outside will leave us more vunerable to the - EU, USA, China, etc - absolutely at the mercy of their regulation,

    Er as the customer we set the standards by which they make goods for our markets not the other way round, think you have this back to front.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    1066. You
    1034. You
    I like Lord Heseltine's hair, he's got my vote.
    Sorry Mr Lord, changed me mind, don't like german mps telling me what to do.
    Gladys at no 43, well, her best friends daughters cousin, is going out with French guy. He's a lovely man. Stay in vote from me again then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    Britain should not take exit route. Britain should stay and put pressure and influence the other EU nation with confidence. We must let them understand that we Britain are one of the Power house in Europe.
    David Cameron try to threat EU. That strategy will not work there. Right now Britain needs to create more jobs inside the country. David Cameron must stand up. Not the exit way..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    548 - "...UKIP a nothing party that will become an irrelevance once the economy stabilises"

    Once the economy stabilises? Are you kidding?
    We have more (engineered) debt than we can possibly pay off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    Businesses drive business, not political bodies entrenched in their own self-worth.

    Based on Quality, delivery timescales and Incoterms/Duties/Taxes, if my company determines that it's best trading partner for a given scenario is Italian, German or even Chinese, then that's where the business goes.

    UK has paid EU pounds for penny benefits, and has wasted hundreds of £Billions much needed here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    1065.Rebecca Riot
    Bigotry..xenophobia..fear of foreigners..ignorance..prejudice...runs through Britain top to bottom. Manual...to toffs.
    You can hear it in the working mens pubs and you can hear it in the Tory toff clubs
    What are these 'Tory toff clubs' that you heard this stuff in Rebecca? Surely a decent proletarian like you should not be frequenting these dens? Or was it just for research?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    I have just listened to the Oakshott interview with the BBC presenter and for someone who has no democratic mandate, to pontificate that an election held 53 years ago is mandate enough to warrant staying in the EU is absolutely staggering. Thank God that he and the rest of his creepy colleagues in the LD party will probably disappear into the history books at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    @1054"Mr Heseltine....might well claim many years' experience of dealings in Europe but, as so much of it is corrupt, we can do well without more back-handers, Leaving Europe to its own devices will not harm our trading relationships with it. Business will go on as before"
    Examples of corruption, only occurring in EU, please? And business would certainly NOT go on as before should we leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    I've never understood why none of the parties pass the poison chalice of the EU to us. We are supposedly the people they are here to serve and should we be given a free vote to decide in or out, then whether it turns out to be for the best or not doesn't matter, as it would have been OUR decision and then the responsibility of the party holding power to live with that and move on. Problem solved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    The main reasons for the public request for this referendum is:
    1. Immigration out of control
    2. The lack of legal control and Human rights law

    Take these out and most people are happy to trade in europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    1065. Rebecca Riot "Bigotry and xenophobia...is...behind this demand for a referendum from the rabid right. This mental illness runs through Britain top to bottom."

    Yes, you are spot-on RR. It shows to what degree this country has, for centuries, been led by the nose, kept divided, infantilised and steeped in malleable nationalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    6 Minutes ago
    I would be infinitely more interested in a referendum on re-nationalising the utility companies! That is something I really care about!!



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