Ed Miliband: Referendum on Britain's EU membership will damage business
The Labour Party leader also said Britain was 'sleepwalking' into an EU exit
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 19 November 2012
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has warned that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will prevent businesses investing in the country.
Mr Miliband dismissed calls for a vote on Britain’s future in the 27-nation bloc during an address to business leaders in London today. He claimed that Britain was “sleepwalking” into an exit from the EU and that doing so would scupper hopes of an economic recovery.
“The question for now is should we have a referendum now? My answer to that is no,” he told delegates at the CBI annual conference.
“To spend our time now debating whether to exit the European Union would threaten recovery. Think about a business considering coming to Britain. What would they think if there was a referendum now?”
The leader of the opposition accepted that pro-Europeans could not turn a “blind eye” to the EU’s failings.
His comments came ahead of key European budget talks where Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to call for a freeze in EU spending. However, with Germany backing a small increase in spending, it is feared that the summit could break up without agreement “I will fight your corner for Britain to remain in the EU And I will fight your corner to reform it,” Mr Mr Miliband added.
“An ambitious Britain has always been an outward looking Britain. An inward-looking Britain, can never be an ambitious Britain. Reforming the European Union will be difficult, will require building alliances, will have its frustrations. But I am certain it is better than leaving.”
Herman Van Rompuy, memorably ridiculed as having “all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk” by the Eurosceptic Ukip leader Nigel Farage, has threatened to keep Europe’s leaders in Brussels for as long as it takes over this weekend to reach a budget deal.
When Mr Van Rompuy became the European Council’s first full-time President, many Labour MPs were disappointed that the post had not gone to Tony Blair.
But the former Belgian prime minister has impressed many in Brussels with his calm performance at the helm during the continuing turbulence in the Eurozone.
His reputation for achieving consensus dates back to his time in culturally and linguistically divided Belgium. It will be sorely tested when 27 EU leaders – each with their own priorities for EU spending – gather in Van Rompuy’s home town in two days’ time.
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