Ed Miliband: Tories are drifting towards EU exit

Cameron is tipped to make a much-delayed keynote speech on Europe early next year

David Cameron was today challenged to silence his Cabinet colleagues over a referendum on Britain's relationship with Europe.

Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister should clamp down on senior ministers voicing their opinions on whether the UK should pull out of the European Union (EU).

The Labour leader told MPs: "Why does he let member after member of his own Cabinet brief they are open to leaving the EU, including most recently the Education Secretary?

"The drift in his party and the direction of his policy mean we are sleepwalking towards exit."

Foreign Secretary William Hague previously said an in/out poll was "the wrong question at the wrong time" and would create economic uncertainty, while Education Secretary Michael Gove reportedly believes the UK should reclaim its sovereignty and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said the current balance of powers is "not right".

Mr Miliband's comments came after Mr Cameron updated the Commons following last weekend's European Council summit in Brussels - the seventh this year.

The Prime Minister is tipped to make a much-delayed keynote speech on Europe early next year.

Last week he claimed he was using a tantric approach to the address: "It will be even better when it does eventually come," Mr Cameron said.

But Mr Miliband said it was time to end "the dither and delay", and challenged the Prime Minister to "stop following his party on Europe and start leading them".

He claimed Mr Cameron was "stranded between the party interest and the national interest", adding: "The problem is no-one else in his party is holding back."

In his statement, Mr Cameron told MPs the concessions he had won on the structure of the planned banking union would be important to promote growth and jobs in Britain.

He said: "We are taking action in Europe that will help with growth and jobs and tackling unemployment here in the UK."

The Prime Minister said Britain and others had demanded proper safeguards in the banking union for countries outside the new arrangements.

He highlighted the new voting system which will mean the eurozone cannot impose rules on countries like Britain not in the single currency.

Mr Cameron said: "There is also an explicit clause that says no action by the European Central Bank should directly or indirectly discriminate against those countries outside of banking union.

"This is vital for our financial services industry which must continue to be able to provide financial products in any currency."

The Bank of England and European Central Bank will have a memorandum of understanding to ensure they work "co-operatively and openly" in the supervision of cross border banks.

And he added: "These safeguards set an important new precedent in terms of giving rights to countries that choose to stay outside the euro.

"In winning this argument we have demonstrated how a change necessary for the eurozone can lead to a change for countries outside the eurozone which can help us to safeguard the things that matter to us in Britain, in particular the integrity of the single market."

The Labour leader said the EU summit failed to deliver a plan for growth, but welcomed the supervision the ECB would have over the eurozone.

He added: "The most important issue is not necessarily who supervises which banks but who takes responsibility for bailing out failing banks in the euro area.

"That is what will deliver the firewall we need between bank and sovereign risk."

And Mr Miliband pointed out the summit succeeded only in setting a timetable for "setting a timetable".

"That is less than was promised," he told the Commons.

PA

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