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 203.

    187. MikeS
    160. Paulmerhaba - "Dave makes a speech I cry, Ed makes a speech I laugh, where to go from here."

    To the polling booth and vote Labour - laughing is better for you than crying.
    Decided to join the none of the aboves, winning every election gives me a feeling of euphoria for about 30 seconds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.


    I agree, but labour has got to be a better option to the slaughter this current mob are dishing out to everyone except their mates

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    BBC recently - "David Cameron postpones a long-awaited speech on the UK's relationship with Europe due to the on-going hostage crisis in Algeria."

    Dodgy Dave is now so spooked by Ed Miliband, he's ducked out of this one. Makes a change - it's usually Wednesday and ducking out of PMQs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Find it very sad that our UK Politicians are bitter enemies.It does not have to be that way.
    But...they,and our national media...want it to be that way.
    Wonder which Party gains the most votes.......
    And which newspaper gains the most sales?
    And which of them have anything to lose by being on our side?

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Read UKIPs manifesto, they want to impoose EU austerity on the UK, The economic policies in their Policy site could have been written by Van Rompuy or Barrosso or Merkel. They're closet Eurocrats, who would love the EU if only it wasn't run by foreigners. They want to leave the EU & then impose the same economic rules on the UK as the EU imposes in the Eurozone. they're the frying pan party

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    So he's cancelled it because of a terrorist attack in Algeria.

    I'm surprised he even bothered mentioning a reason. Cameron would have used any pretext to avoid reading out what is, effectively his resignation speech.

    The man is a spineless poltroon

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    I think Ed Miliband believes the British public have memory spans of of a school of goldfish.

    Believe anything he (or any other Labour politician) has to say?

    Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    "£58M per day is too much for us to pay to be a member of a dying club."

    And I'm none to happy about being forced into the 'let's bail out the banks' club to the tune of £25k to £40k (figure dependent how much they can currently scam out of their customers/victims before they are brought under control)

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Unfortunately we cannot discuss Cameron's views as his speech has been postponed because of the kidnap crisis. Problem between trying to appease the EU or the terrorists. And the same would apply if Milliband was chief appeaser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    If Cameron is saying we should stay in the EU then he is saying the first honest thing of his premiership and I for one agree. We should stop playing with fire.
    Millions of jobs and new jobs depend on Europe. Europe, UK and USA are not islands but need each other because the Asian block threaten to swamp the West. Russia also will be an economic power due to vast Siberian reserves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    #191 im not saying cameron is any better..to me they are all the same ..rubbish.....but labour is supposed to help the working man not kick him in the guts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Once again, we do have the power to control our own borders when it comes to non-EU countries, yet let more non-EU nationals through than we do EU nationals.

    Sadly this is very true,and only goes to show how impotent politicians are in the face of big business,who are ONLY concerned with cheap labour in order to make money.
    Parts of London are like being in Africa/Asia--it must stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.


    Fair enough, but Cameron does not believe in the working time directive and the protection it gives to employees how will that help the "working man"

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Just goes to show there's no real difference in any of the parties. No matter what colour rosette they wear their policies are all the same. They are only there to serve themselves, maximise their incomes and "other employment" opportunities whilst they look forward to that big, fat, inflation proof pension. Might as well vote for the best dressed one!

    No such thing as an honest politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Ok, Cameron uses Algeria as an excuse for not giving a wonderful speech on the EU. I doubt we missed anything of relevance. All he was going to say is that he wants Britain to stay in the EU and that he will effectively make the EU British and that from next year all continentals will have to drive on the left. His backbenchers in tears of joy, the tabloids applauding, HYS comments full of pride.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    What was the problem with # 168?

    Cameron's exact words here:


    from your own article, so why is it being censored?


    Yes, he pandered to the banks - tories never do that.
    But Dave "I'll match Labour spending £ for £" Cameron would have behaved very differently - yes, indeedy

    That's the difference between the Tory Lites and the Tories

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    160. Paulmerhaba - "Dave makes a speech I cry, Ed makes a speech I laugh, where to go from here."

    To the polling booth and vote Labour - laughing is better for you than crying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    This is simple.

    Neither Cameron, Clegg or Miliband have any intention of ever letting their employers (us) have any decision making power over Britain's EU membership.

    None of them trust you.
    All 3 want to pat you patronisingly on the head with a "we know what's best for you".
    All three are scared of direct democracy

    There is only ONE thing you can do if you care about this issue.

    Vote UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I despair, where does the electorate turn to with its vote
    Firstly, the Tories and LibDems have made themselves totally unelectable.Now this clap trap from Labour?And who are UKIP really?

    Well they're all neo-liberal parties & the EU is the ultimate neo-liberal club. UKIPs only real objection to the EU is that its run by foreigners, The largest anti neo-liberal party is the Greens

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Ed has learnt something from Bliar-----say what you know the PEOPLE want,but if & when you get power do what YOU want.
    UKIP is the only party that is really in tune with the British people,the rest just tell you what they think you want to hear.
    £58M per day is too much for us to pay to be a member of a dying club.
    Referendum on in/out NOW.


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