Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Should We Hold a Vote on the EU? Will the UK Be Voting on Whether to Stay in the European Union in a Referendum Any Time Soon? Political Editor WILLIAM GREEN Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Should We Hold a Vote on the EU? Will the UK Be Voting on Whether to Stay in the European Union in a Referendum Any Time Soon? Political Editor WILLIAM GREEN Reports

Article excerpt


DO you want the UK to be a member of the European Union or not? That is the question that Britons will most likely be voting on in an "in-out" referendum within the next few years, according to senior figures in both the Labour and the Conservative parties.

North East Euro MP Martin Callanan, who leads the Tory group in the European Parliament, said: "I am sure that in the not-too-distant future, we will be having a referendum on Europe because I think the architecture of the EU is going to change substantially in the next year or two."

That prospect has been made more likely by the economic and political crisis that has gripped Greece and thrown the future of the euro currency into question, according to Mr Callanan. He said that Greece will leave the currency "as sure as night follows day" after the country has held a fresh round of elections in the next few weeks.

But Mr Callanan believed attempts would be made to implement far-reaching changes to the EU in a bid to ensure the survival of the euro - with "fiscal union" of remaining members at the heart of such plans. Fiscal union would mean one finance minister for Europe, fiscal transfers from richer parts of the eurozone to the poorer and pooling of debts, said the senior Conservative.

Under such a scheme, all members of the eurozone would stand behind each other's debts in the hope of lower interest rates for all when particular states try to raise money from the money markets.

Germany has been resistant to the idea, not least because it fears having to sign the cheques - although some claim that the alternative to fiscal union could be the break-up of the euro currency.

Mr Callanan said the Tories had already pledged a referendum "lock" to hold a national poll before any more power was handed to Brussels, but that such far-reaching changes would merit an in-out vote. "The people of the UK should be consulted on whether they wish to stay in the club under new rules, whatever those new rules are," said the senior Tory. But he branded as "political opportunism" reports that Labour was considering making an in-out referendum one of its manifesto pledges at the next general election, due to be held in 2015. Mr Callanan said the last Labour Government had allowed major changes to the EU while failing to ask the British people. Reports at the weekend claimed Labour leader Ed Miliband was being urged by a growing number of shadow cabinet members and senior allies to make such a pledge if Labour wins the next general election. And they want that pledge to be unveiled well before the next European elections in 2014 to outflank David Cameron, who is himself under pressure from sections of the Tory party to make such a promise. Tory peer Nigel Vinson, who lives in Northumberland, said the Prime Minister had to be careful to avoid driving Eurosceptics into the hands of the UK Independence Party. "Cameron has got to change his tune and be far more accepting of the huge eurosceptic feeling in his country, which is basically founded on the democratic deficit. We are being governed by those who we cannot hire or fire," said Lord Vinson. But he predicted Mr Cameron From17 would promise a referendum before Mr Miliband, and that a poll would be held within 12 months. The Labour leader himself is said to be leaving the door open to a referendum, but wants to stress the short-term focus and discussion must be on how to end the current euro crisis. The speculation comes after Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, was appointed as Labour's policy chief. He is said to back an in-out referendum as a way to end bitter rows on Europe once and for all - and to believe it could define Ed Miliband's leaders hip. If the move was approved, the party's leadership would campaign to remain in the EU.

But there are mixed views within Labour ranks about the wisdom of such a strategy and even remaining in Europe. …

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