Cameron accused of letting Britain 'sleepwalk out of Europe'

 

David Cameron will be accused by Labour of allowing Britain to "sleepwalk" to the exit door of the European Union as he faces virtual isolation at a summit to discuss the EU budget.

Ed Miliband will tell the CBI's annual conference today that rising Euroscepticism in the Conservative Party and the country makes this a very dangerous moment for Britain and British business. While insisting that Labour remains a pro-European party, he will admit that the EU's failings need to be addressed and that Europhiles must remake the case for the Union rather than turn a "blind eye" to its problems.

The Labour leader was accused of opportunism last month when his party joined forces with Tory Europhobes to defeat the Government by calling for a cut in the EU budget for 2014-20. Today he will suggest that was a temporary alliance, saying: "Those of us, like me, who passionately believe that Britain is stronger in the EU cannot be silent in a situation like this. I will not allow our country to sleepwalk toward exit because it would be a betrayal of our national interest."

Mr Miliband will argue that Mr Cameron does not want Britain to leave the EU but portray him as too weak to stop it happening. He will accuse the Prime Minister of infuriating the Tory sceptics by wielding phantom vetos which undermine UK influence in Europe.

The Labour leader will also warn that withdrawal would leave Britain "voiceless and powerless, on the outside looking in at forums like world trade talks." But he will tell Labour's pro-EU wing: "The answer is not just to make the same old case for the EU more loudly. We need to argue the case in a new way, not simply assume it as an article of faith."

Mr Cameron will repeat his demand for a freeze in EU spending when European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday. But with Germany now backing a small increase in spending, the summit could break up without agreement. Although other nations also have their own demands, the UK might be blamed for such a failure as member states lose patience with Mr Cameron's demands for some powers to be returned to Britain.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, backed the Prime Minister's stance on the EU budget but warned against a drift towards withdrawal, saying reform was best achieved from within. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show it was "potentially very damaging" for British business to "suggest reopening in a fundamental way our relationship with the European Union." Meanwhile David Davis, the former Europe Minister and a prominent Tory sceptic, added to the pressure on Mr Cameron by calling for a double referendum – one to approve a list of powers for the UK to seek to seize back and then an "in/out" public vote once they had been negotiated.

He said the first referendum should be held within a year, before the next European Parliament elections in 2014. He predicted the support of 70 per cent of voters on a 90 per cent turnout. "We have got to, somehow, dramatically change our relationship with Europe. Not a little bit of a power here and a little bit of a power there. We have got to bring back lots of powers," he said.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, hinted at some flexibility in Mr Cameron's negotiating stance at the summit and did not talk up the prospect of securing a freeze. "We will go for the lowest European budget that we can get," he told Sky News.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage