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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  • Comment number 323.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Labour gave away powers to europe and then invited europe and rest of the world to live here. Resultant population pressures helped create the asset bubble and credit crunch, so then, they gave all our money to the banks. All this happened on Labour's watch!
    They lost a lot of long term committed supporters over all this, people I know who had voted labour for years. Enjoy the wilderness Ed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    So What have the Romans ever done for us eh? Making us all agree common human rights and environmental regulations, not allowed to stuff kids up chimneys 24/7, no US GM food and beef pumped full of growth hormones - what's the world coming to when I can work in Germany and get emergency hospital treatment anywhere in Europe if I am on holiday? I want to be free to swim in sewage and work for 50p

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Milibands father was a highly repected Marxist intellectual, and like the Marxist historian Hobsbawm, drew a distinction between large nation states which have a progressive future and potential and smaller states which tend towards reaction...rather aposite currently..

    Will the polis get a say....like Milibands father, who made a dynamic contribution to UK life..

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Hilarious Labour scared their EU is wonderful surrender everything, actual practice, may not be popular? Now he is more or less on Cameron's side word for word! Dancing on the head of a pin. YOU had the chance to do what you now say! You promised us that referendum on the transfer of powers of the Lisbon treaty. Gorgon sneaked in the back way to sign the surrender to. Then denied us the vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.


    A typo explains alot to you

    Hows about chewing the fat on plurinationality in a historiographical contex, and how history is seen teleologically as a progress to national unity, with the sovereign state it`s ultimate expression

    Or mabye, disaffected citizens ( sic ) striving for a primitive independence and enjoying a precious if anachronistic sovereignty, no immigrants eh ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    How could you vote for any of them?
    We have all seen the mess that labour can cause.
    Tories bought their votes and sneaked in the back door.
    Lib/dems sold their soul for the tory shilling.
    None of them in their present format can be trusted, and they are providing more proof of it every week.
    They all seem to have a personal agenda to lose themselves votes

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    So far the debate has been cheap politics by tits for cheap newspapers with tits. Maybe we should have facts taught at school on the subject of Europe so people can make their own mind up rather than parrot red tops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    "The UK pound has continued to weaken against the euro, falling below the 1.20 level for the first time since early April 2012."


    We're likely to lose AAA too. All this froth's to distract.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    @293. StVitus

    287_ "If you want evidence of mad Socialist loons take a look at France!"

    .....or Sweden that has had a socialist government for over 30 years and one of the best standards of living of anyone in the world....


    The socialists were kicked out in 2006 and Sweden's current government is a centre right one.

    As for standards of living - both countries are in the top quartile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    306. ruminations

    No I do not consider my view balanced, that's for others to judge either way. Whether its balanced or not is irrelevant, it's my view....

    ...And it's 'Patriot' not 'Patriat' which explains an awful lot, balanced or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    308 Takeley Socialist .... yes.... you were alluding that I was a tory which I found very offensive

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Used to think that the EU was a good thing. Irksome but generally good. The last 5-10 years have changed my mind. EU is slow, complex, lumbering, uncompetitive & rapidly becoming irrelevant. The rest of the generally more dynamic world is where to focus our attentions. Wake up UK-move on from reliance on the EU for export markets. A tiny slice of the BRIC markets would dwarf the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    190 "Just goes to show there`s no real difference in any of the parties. Might as well vote for the best dressed one"

    That`s a brilliant idea; Next time, I`m going to do just that!
    Mr Farage wears nice ties....

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    so because it was AFTER that makes it better?
    yes i was talking about iraq your right , He lied
    Dont tell me, Arthur Scargill is your hero

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    304. @ Martin No I am talking in a contemporary sense not a post Idealistic one and you know fully well what I was alluding to.
    Disingenuous point if any.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Claim back what powers?
    I would stake my life on it being powers to benefit the gov't rather than the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    295 Mappa..


    Erm....you keep insisting that a man born in UK can`t be a patriat because his father was guilty of a thought crime, namely having a perfectly legitimate political persuasion...

    And I s`pose you consider your view as being balanced..

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    I (and many others I know) will ‘never’ ever vote for Lib, Con or Lab again. Some say they are not going to vote and others (including myself) will put our trust in UKIP... and I personally will never again vote for them either should they lie, deceive and let us down like the existing bunch of selfish Con merchants!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    303 The Takeley Socialist Surely your thinking should be the same as mine.....We should all be equal... You kind of prove my original point don't you think


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