Ed Miliband rules out EU referendum: Eurosceptics accuse Labour of 'shoddy compromise'

John Mills, the home shopping entrepreneur, insisted there should be in/out vote 'regardless of future events'

Ed Miliband has faced a backlash from Labour Eurosceptics after effectively ruling out a referendum unless Brussels makes a grab for fresh powers, something he made clear was "unlikely" before 2020.

The Labour leader said his priorities for government would be dealing with the "cost-of-living crisis", the NHS and creating jobs, "not a damaging debate about leaving the EU".

Although he stressed his determination to reform the EU if elected in 2015, and pledged a legal lock that would guarantee an in/out vote if Westminster was asked to hand over more control, he was attacked by one of his MPs as a "shoddy compromise" that would be "impossible to sell" to voters.

Labour backbencher Graham Stringer was scathing about the stance.

"I think it's a shoddy compromise really, between those people in the Parliamentary Labour Party who want a referendum because the vast majority of the electorate want it, and those people desperate not to have a referendum," he said.

"I think the public are very clear that they want a referendum. This is so ambiguous as to be impossible to sell on the doorstep."

Read more:
Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power

Party donor John Mills, the JML home shopping entrepreneur and chair of Labour for a Referendum, insisted there should be an in/out vote "regardless of future events".

He said: "While Ed Miliband's pledge of an in-out referendum is a welcome one, there is often disagreement over what constitutes a 'transfer of powers' from Britain to the EU.

"The British people still feel short-changed, for instance, by the absence of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which sent substantial powers to Brussels without public consultation.

"I want to see a Labour government in 2015 and, as the party that trusts the people, I think we should recognise that the growth of the EU's influence over Britain in the past 40 years warrants a referendum regardless of future events."

Labour former minister Gisela Stuart told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "What Ed Miliband has now said quite clearly is that he does see circumstances, which may arise sooner than we think if there are treaty changes in relation to the euro which will be required, that will mean a transfer of power."

Labour MP John Mann said he still hoped Mr Miliband would go further and commit to an in/out referendum.

"Certainly I've polled very (extensively) Labour voters in my area and, without question, they're more hostile than they were to the European Union - significantly more so - and I think that we need to be in touch and we need to be trusting the people," he told BBC Radio 4's World Tonight.

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw, seen as a Eurosceptic in the Labour ranks, said: "This offers reassurance not only to business and millions of workers whose jobs depend on Europe but also allays the fears of those who are uncomfortable with moves towards ever closer union."

Mr Miliband's intervention, in an article for the Financial Times, puts an end to speculation that the Opposition could match David Cameron's promise to hold a decisive poll by 2017.

Within minutes of the piece being published, the Prime Minister responded that the only way of securing an in/out referendum was to back the Conservatives.

Mr Miliband, who will flesh out his position in a keynote speech later, acknowledged that people had "concerns" about the EU and said Labour's "agenda for change" would seek to return "more control to national parliaments".

"It is important to emphasise that there are no current proposals - from either the EU or any member state - for a further transfer of powers from Britain," he said. "Therefore it is unlikely there will be any such proposals in the next parliament.

"But the British people know that the history of the EU, as well as uncertainty about precisely what a changing Europe and further integration in the eurozone might involve, means that a further transfer of powers remains possible.

"So, in a speech today, I am announcing that the next Labour government will legislate for a new lock: there would be no transfer of powers from the UK to the EU without a referendum on our continued membership of the EU. This would not just be a referendum on the narrow question of whether to allow a transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels; as we have seen in other countries, such votes are too easily ignored.

"This position, setting out the conditions in the next parliament under which a Labour government would hold an in/out referendum, offers the British people a clear choice at the next election."

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander acknowledged that a referendum was "possible but unlikely" under the Labour policy.

"It is an agenda for reform in Europe, not immediate exit from Europe," he told the Today programme.

The legal lock proposed by Mr Miliband would effectively upgrade the one introduced by the Coalition which guarantees a referendum before any powers are transferred.

Labour's new position aligns it very closely with the Liberal Democrats on Europe, offering common ground for any potential negotiations about forming a joint government in 2015.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?