In a speech in London, the Labour leader said there was an “overwhelming economic case” for EU membership. But he said he did not back an “inexorable” process of political union and Labour would “guarantee” an in-out referendum if the UK was being asked to transfer more powers to Brussels.
Labour has previously backed a referendum, if it is proposed that further powers are transferred to Brussels. But Mr Miliband has now clarified that this would also be on the single in/out question.
He said the UK was “being dragged to the exit door” under Mr Cameron and he was setting out a “clear lead” on when a referendum would be appropriate. He promised a “new lock” to guarantee “no transfer of powers without an in/out referendum without a clear choice about whether Britain stays in the EU”.
Mr Miliband argued EU reforms were required, including:
- Completing the single market in energy, services and the digital economy
- Lengthening the transitional period during which restrictions can be curbed on immigration from new member states
- Making it easier to deport recent immigrants who have broken the law
But these could be achieved without a new treaty, he argued.
The Prime Minister said Labour’s position made “no sense whatsoever” and reflected the party’s “we-know-best” approach to politics.
Mr Cameron said, “It is not a proposal for an in/out referendum. The British people now have a very, very clear choice. At the next election, they can elect a Conservative government that will renegotiate Britain’s position in Europe and give people a guaranteed in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
“If they get a Labour government, they will get no referendum, no choice, no reform, nothing. It couldn’t be clearer.”
Mr Cameron also said only a Conservative Government will guarantee a vote. The Prime Minister has promised an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if the Conservative Party wins an outright majority at the next general election.
Conservative attempts to legislate for an in/out referendum in 2017 have been thwarted by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.