Fascinating meeting of Shipley, Windhill and Wrose Labour Party branches, discussing Europe even before I arrived! This, of course, because of the speech by Ed Miliband clarifying Labour’s position on an EU referendum.
There was much support for his position ruling out such a referendum in current circumstances. If anything, members seemed to wish that the position was even more firmly against having a referendum at any time. The real issues are what policies we want to pursue at EU level and what reforms to it we want — not the economic suicide of leaving!
Some felt that the concession that we might hold a referendum, one day, if the UK were to transfer further powers to the EU (an unlikely event in the foreseeable future), has clouded the issue and confused public opinion about our position — especially as it would be an in-out referendum, not a referendum on that transfer of powers.
If so, it will be up to us all to clarify on the doorstep the good reasons not to hold a referendum now — and that the future hypothetical case is for the long term, if it happens at all. After all, the EU’s responsibilities are in general as wide as they need to be and if the eurozone needs further pooled decision-taking, that will not involve non-euro countries.
It can only gain us credibility now that Ed has clarified that we believe firmly that EU membership is in Britain’s best interest, even if it should be further reformed from within, and that we will have no truck with the risk of economic disaster of leaving it. That will be a credibility boost even among those who have had some doubts about the EU, but appreciate that we stand up for what we believe in.