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.

'Flexibility'

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
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    Blackie 1947 - "Other than David Attenbrough and maybe Top Gear The BBC is full of left wing rubbish"

    Since Clarkson is a roaring Tory, friend of Cameron, and member of the "Chipping Norton Set", he might well be seen as an exception to your rule. In addition, I would personally have difficulty in describing Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson as "left wing rubbish"!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 42.

    So, Mr. Miliband is sitting on the fence over Europe.
    Typically opportunistic.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 41.

    'ang on,didn't he spend 10 mins or so at pmq's lambasting the govt for saying we may have a referendum on europe but the uncertainty would cause us more economic woes?Yet today he's saying the same thing?I think he's just fallen off the Millieband-wagon.You just don't know where labour stand one day to the next.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 40.

    // blackie1947
    Other than David Attenbrough and maybe Top Gear The BBC is full of left wing rubbish//

    All the BBC needs to be is impartial and reliable, but it's proven that it can't be either.

    There needs to be a review and rethink of many aspects of UK life, from the EU and the NHS through policing to the utilities etc, and including the BBC.

    It's biased, incompetent and bloated.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 39.

    So Labour back a referendum on the EU.
    Just like Tony Bliar did.
    The result.............no referendum.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 38.

    @35. ronnieboy1

    #26 yes true but its certain people who be shouting from the rooftops about what a shower labour are and what a bunch of incompetent liars they are. to me the tories and labour...its 0-0 draw lets get somebody in with some sense...

    --

    No chance, the common people voted to keep the elitist two party FPTP electoral system.

    Opportunity well and truly missed.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 37.

    Weird, the amount of things they would do differently if they were in power to what they actually did when in power last time.

    You have convinced me, where do I put my cross?

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 36.

    Does anyone in the Labour party (or any UK party, to be fair) have any conviction for anything other than petty political point scoring, vague "promises" to seduce voters (promises that will change with the wind) or a strong desire to vent synthetic rage over anything or on any occasion that someone does not believe their "back-of-a-fag-packet-just-made-up-right-here-right-now" statistics?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    #26 yes true but its certain people who be shouting from the rooftops about what a shower labour are and what a bunch of incompetent liars they are. to me the tories and labour...its 0-0 draw lets get somebody in with some sense...

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 34.

    Listening to him on the Today program - he was just embarrasing - couldnt answer the very clear questions put by Jim Naughtie, it was like listening to Tony B Liar all over again.

  • rate this
    -23

    Comment number 33.

    Ed Miliband (not Milliband) is a very shrewd man; a true intellectual who will romp to victory in 2015. He has the ability to out-think Cameron at every turn. On the subject of the EU, his parliamentary party are united, as it is on most policies. Miliband has grown remarkably in stature over the past two years and the 'right' will do well to take note.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 32.

    Labour made the mistake of not listening to the public last time he was in power and he is already making the same mistake again, europe is a masive shop front and people will buy and invest where the option is best not whever you are in europe or not.The vote should take place sooner rather than later and let the public decide we are not as thick as the politicians would believe and not corrupt.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 31.

    Oh really. The party who for decades have been partnership with the Fabian society (who afterall have always desired the creation of a world state) is suddenly going to give some powers back.

    Pull the other one.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 30.

    These politicians are a joke. They forced us into this 'federal' arrangement we never wanted and never voted for. New Labour in power gave away even more than they will admit and the consequences are creeping out of the woodwork.
    Never trust these idiots ever again.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 29.

    Who needs the return of Yes PM, now that we have MPs who are far more transparent and patently not up to the Job. Maybe if we paid far more to them we would get a calibre of people who would actually think before opening their mouths and would actually realise that we sit at home and laugh at them.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 28.

    "The fact that the UK would not be joining the single currency in the foreseeable future, including under a Labour government..." - Miliband"
    ---
    Can we have that written in blood please? I'm not sure I trust you any other way.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 27.

    // YoungMisterGrace
    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.//

    Don't be so condescending. If anyone's being brainwashed, it's the EUphiles. Like many EUphobes, I love Europe, and know it rather well, unlike the average BBC journo, or Clarke etc.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    All Labour have to do is keep quiet and wait for the next election where they will be elected into office simply because they are not the coalition government.

    The absolute last thing they should be doing is opening their mouths and reminding the electorate how incompetent they were the last time they were in power.

    The EU debate is just a media sideshow.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 25.

    This guy is a joke and is not to be trusted. Continues to criticise the coalition over the stance to be taken over Europe and then states he will take the same course of action, regardless of how he intends to disguise the plan. Labour gave more power to the EU in order for Blair to try and set himself up with a cushy number plus, ensure responsibility for the UK was firmly placed with the EU.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 24.

    I listened to Milliband's interview this morning. He's a chip off the Blair block - totally incapable of giving a straightforward honest answer to a simple question. But what did come across loud and clear is that Milliband has no vision, no idea how to get the country out of the mess created by Labour and no empathy with people who are worried by the coming influx of Bulgarians and Romanians.

 

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