Ed Miliband 'backs return of EU powers' but warns PM over strategy


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Ed Miliband has said a future Labour government would seek to return some powers from Brussels to Westminster to make the EU "work better for Britain".

The European Union must become more "flexible" and responsibility for areas such as industrial strategy should return to member states, he suggested.

He also told the BBC he backed holding a referendum if further powers were transferred to Brussels in the future.

But he said an in-out referendum now would have "big costs" for the country.

He was speaking ahead of a long-awaited speech in which David Cameron was due to set out his view of the UK's future relationship with the 27-member union. However, the speech was postponed due to the Algerian hostage crisis.

He is expected to call for a renegotiation of the UK's existing relationship and to guarantee a referendum on its outcome after the next election.

Asked about the circumstances in which he would back a referendum, Mr Miliband said his party would not hand over any more powers to Brussels without first consulting the public.

'Real damage'

If Labour were re-elected, he said he would not repeal the coalition government's so-called "referendum lock" - a law passed in 2010 which means a public vote would be triggered if substantial further powers were delegated to the EU.

Start Quote

The debate here is between essentially those who say 'reform Europe to change it to work in our interests and I fear the prime minister's strategy which is leading us towards exit which will cause real damage to our economy”

End Quote Ed Miliband Labour leader

He said "urgent changes" were needed in the EU and Labour would seek to repatriate certain powers - including funding for industry and infrastructure that are part of the EU's regional policy - to ensure the EU "worked better for Britain".

"Regional policy, the way a national government can have an industrial policy, I think there are areas where Britain needs powers back," he told the BBC's Radio 4's Today programme.

But he said Labour would not seek to limit co-operation in other areas, for instance by opting out of the European Arrest warrant.

He did not say during the interview whether he would rule out a referendum in the future to approve any return of powers to the UK from the EU.


A group of Conservative MPs called on Wednesday for powers over employment and social legislation to be returned to the UK and safeguards in other areas such as financial regulation but others want to go further and leave the EU altogether.

The fact that the UK would not be joining the single currency in the foreseeable future, including under a Labour government, was evidence that Europe was becoming more "flexible", Mr Miliband argued.

But he insisted the desire for greater flexibility was not the same as having a "looser" relationship and he said uncertainty over the UK's continued membership of the EU would deter foreign investors and reduce the UK's influence, he added.

"The debate here is between essentially those who say 'reform Europe to change it to work in our interests and I fear the prime minister's strategy which is leading us towards exit which will cause real damage to our economy."

He said the prime minister had voted against an in-out referendum in a parliamentary vote in 2011 but had been "dragged" towards a scenario in which such a scenario could happen by a "neuralgic" Conservative Party.

'Walk away'

"Committing now to a in-out referendum has big costs for Britain," he added. "Putting up a big flag 'saying exit, Britain is about to get out - is that a good negotiating strategy? I have to say I think it is a hopeless negotiating strategy.

"The idea that people are more likely to accede to your demands if you say 'you are actually going to walk away and Britain can be sort of written off', I don't believe that is going to help us."

The BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson said Labour's support for the government's "referendum lock" was significant as it committed the party to holding some form of referendum over Europe if, as expected, the eurozone crisis leads to a big change in the EU.

He said it was also noticeable Mr Miliband was not willing to rule out a referendum in other circumstances or even to include a commitment to that effect in his party's next election manifesto if the "pressure really builds".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    who can ever trust this shower again....no working class person can vote labour...by allowing mass immigration they have undercut the lowest paid..they are a disgrace to the working man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Other than David Attenbrough and maybe Top Gear The BBC is full of left wing rubbish why on earth do they go for sound bites from Millipeed and Balls Up they have nothing original to say they have even started using Americanisms "Financial Cliff" I cannot believe what I hear from these clowns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Mr Miliband you are an embarrassment to the labour party please leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    What a load of vacuous nonsense.
    Politicians will say anything to get elected & once in the inertia sets in as well. There will be no referendum membership of the EU suits the government & business but not the electorate who have to pay for it through taxation & paving the way for politicians to participate in the gravy train in Brussels.
    It was all a con from 1973 when Ted Heath taking us in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I think he's a bit confused.com

    But if he isn't I certainly am! He's opposes what the government are doing but will do the same thing (with a couple of minor differences)?

    Not quite sure I have any idea what Labour stand for at the moment, all seems to be huff & bluster!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    #13 The 'joke' is that if there was a general election tomorrow Milliband would probably win. Cameron didn't win because we wanted a Tory govt but because he seemed a marginally better bet than Brown. Clegg is now utterly discredited and Cameron hardly popular. Milliband will win simply by not being Clegg or Cameron.

    I can't remember such a depressing choice of potential leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Labour will promise you anything and everything to get your vote at the next election.

    Mind you so will all the other parties. That's politics for you.

    However, please remember that neither of the "big two" want the UK to leave the EU so if that is what you want don't vote for either.

    Bonne chance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The last thing Britain needs is a referendum on matters relating to the EU.
    We have a part representative parliamentary system and it is their job to make decisions, they are paid plenty to do so.
    A decision overly influenced by tabloid trash and their porn, hacker, tax evading owners will be a disaster for the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Listening to Milliband this morning, I for once found myself sympathising with the BBC interviewer.

    Milliband just can't give a straight answer. By rights, Labour should be stonking ahead of the Tories, but they don't look like a govt in waiting.

    The Tories aren't brilliant, but they're not that bad, and Labour are crap.

    UKIP are more likely to win the election for Labour than Labour are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Unfortunately for David Cameron he is forced into this dangerous posturing by the right wing of the Tory party and the brainwashing of large parts of the population by Rupert Murdoch.

    Ed Miliband has thrown away a perfect opportunity to speak sense for the first time in his life by his fear of the reaction of the man in the street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Well, this is a fine example of Leadership. First rubbish the the views of the Government and then say, "well, we think you are probably right". Poor "Red Ed", he never gets anything right! The Joke is he thinks he can become Prime Minister. People might vote for him out of curiosity, not for his ability. What a "Silly Billy Millipede".

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Problem is, Milliband still sees the problems of immigration in terms of detail, regarding it as essentially a good thing.

    The problem is the policy itself, not dealing with the detail. He won't deal with the EU issue which causes most of the growing hatred against the EU.
    The stuff about holding referendums if there are significant changes is rubbish. The politicians will always say 'not yet'

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    #10 What about Cameron's promises to provide more helicopters to the guys in Afghanistan and replace the 40 year old death trap Nimrods? Almost the moment he got into power he smashed up the new Nimrods with bulldozers and extended the service life of the ones he criticised for Libya?

    You can say anything you like while in opposition because you don't have to deliver on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Notice he said 'seek' to repatriate certain powers. This is not a promise or a commitment, just "we'll think about doing but once we are in power we'll forget all about it".

    A bit reminiscent of Blair's 'promises' that suddenly became 'aspirations' when in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Please can Labour sort out their leadership?

    We have enough issues with the current rabble, but it is really disheartening to know that the alternative is equally bereft and also tainted by their roles in the last Government.

    The two Eds are on the back foot, criticising and opposing virtually everything for the sake of opposing, w/o proposing owt (that isn't the only role of "Opposition", Ed!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    But he's not going to give us a referendum !!!

    Just more Labour spin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Labour had no regard for the British people when in power and signed away everything. This is only a change as per immigration etc as they are desperate to get back into power ..... what a thought .... who can ever forgive them for the damage they have done to our country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I'd rather there was a referendum on the BBC licence fee. An utter waste of £145 a year

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    big deal..

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    It was the last Labour government that signed the Lisbon treaty and handed ever more power to the EU. Now they think they might want some back? It seems the Labour party are making thier european policy up as they go along. I have always failed to understand how the Labour party squared centralising power with the EU with promoting region and local government through devolution. What are they for?


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