The People’s Pledge is a campaign that brings you together with others in your constituency to demand your MP supports an EU referendum.

Ed Miliband pledges an “unlikely” EU referendum

Posted: March 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Labour Party, The People's Pledge Blog | 2 Comments »

Labour party leader Ed Miliband has today given a speech outlining his party’s policy on EU membership and a referendum.

He has said that Labour would go slightly further than the government’s EU ‘referendum lock’ legislation, but an ‘in/out’ referendum would still depend on a new transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels being proposed – a scenario he himself admits is “unlikely”.

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Ed Miliband has today announced that a future Labour government would back “an in/out referendum” on EU membership – but only IF it is proposed that new powers are transferred from Britain to the EU.

 

Despite backing the idea of consulting people should parliament decide to give up further powers to the EU, he has ruled out giving us a vote on the significant powers already passed to the EU over the past 40 years of UK membership.

 

Highlighting the change over the government’s existing ‘referendum lock’ legislation, Mr Miliband said that this vote “would not just be a referendum on the narrow question of whether to allow a transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels”.

 

The Labour leader first shifted towards keeping the government’s ‘referendum lock’ back in January 2013 and his stance outlined today brings his policy into line with the Liberal Democrats’ most recent position on an EU vote.

 

However, Mr Miliband’s support for a referendum still depends, arbitrarily, on a new transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels being proposed – a scenario that he himself admits “is unlikely there will be any such proposals in the next parliament”.

 

In this speech, Ed Miliband repeated the claim that a referendum on an “arbitrary timetable” causes uncertainty for businesses over decisions to invest in Britain. However he chose conveniently to ignore a significant poll by the British Chambers of Commerce that showed 77% of businesses back an EU vote and also the idea that an indefinite wait for an in/out referendum potentially causes even longer uncertainty than if the issue were settled in 2017.

 

The best that can be said about this slight shift in Labour EU referendum policy is that it is a step in the right direction, albeit an incredibly small one. It’s good, at least, to hear the Labour leader finally address the growing public debate and demand for an in/out EU vote.

 

But Mr Miliband’s announcement today clearly doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to reassure that the Labour leadership understands the democratic case for an EU referendum and is serious about giving people a proper debate and vote on the EU’s role in how we are governed.

 

Our questions for Ed Miliband on his new EU referendum policy:

 

1. You predict that new power transfers to the EU are “unlikely” in the next parliament and that there are “no current proposals”, so aren’t you already admitting that your referendum pledge is effectively worthless?

 

2. Why is it necessary to wait arbitrarily for new power transfers to be proposed before deciding about our EU membership as a whole? Doesn’t this just send out the signal that you’re seeking to kick the issue into the long grass and you have no principled democratic interest in giving people a say?

 

3. As someone who supports our continued EU membership, why are you proposing to hold an in/out referendum in a scenario of a further proposed transfer of powers to the EU that will surely make it far harder for the ‘stay in’ lobby to win?

 

4. How do you expect this policy to withstand the heat of a likely close-fought next general election when even your current and former front-benchers like Steve McCabe, Jon Cruddas, Ian Austin, Tom Watson, Gerry Sutcliffe and Tom Harris, together with senior former ministers like Keith Vaz & numerous other Labour MPs like John Mann have all come out in support of  a clear pledge to consult people on EU membership?

 

Numerous Labour front-benchers, former ministers & leading Labour MPs have already publicly backed an EU referendum. Shadow Minister for Children and Families Steve McCabe MP has called for an EU referendum to be held “as soon as possible“;  Jon Cruddas MP, Ed Miliband’s Policy Review chief, has backed our EU referendum campaign, as has the former Europe minister Keith Vaz MP.

 

Labour’s former deputy chair and campaigns co-ordinator Tom Watson MP has also come out for an EU vote, along with former front-benchers Tom Harris MP, Gerry Sutcliffe MP and Ian Austin MP.

 

Further Labour MPs backing an EU referendum include Andrew Smith MP, the former Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Lindsay Hoyle MP, the party’s deputy speaker & chair of the Commons Ways & Means Committee, Graham Stringer,  a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office and government whip, together with George Howarth, Rosie Cooper, Natascha Engel, John Cryer, Ronnie Campbell, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Davidson, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, John McDonnell, Austin Mitchell, Grahame Morris, Dennis Skinner, Gisela Stuart and Mike Wood.

 

A little over a year from a likely close-fought next general election, Ed Miliband is taking a huge risk in setting out an EU referendum policy that clearly fails the trust test and distances Labour from the large majority of people across all parties who believe it is right for Britain to debate properly and decide on EU membership.

 

Mr Miliband objects to an arbitrary date for an EU vote, but instead proposes an arbitrary wait that appears to serve no other purpose than to kick an EU referendum into some long grass.

 

He also doesn’t explain why, as Prime Minister, he would wait for the EU to propose new power transfers before giving us a vote on our membership as a whole. It’s today’s EU on which people say they want a vote, so this slippery policy of making us wait indefinitely for no credible reason can only give rise to suspicions that Mr Miliband wishes dishonestly never to give us a say at all.

 

Mr Miliband may be assuming people will not make an EU referendum a basis on which they vote, but in latest YouGov polling published this month the issue of ‘Europe’ is ranked more important to voters than tax, crime and transport.

 

Ed Miliband’s failure to back an EU vote in the next parliament means the People’s Pledge will now launch plans to increase our grassroots activities, particularly in marginal seats, to make clear to voters which of their candidates for parliament trusts them to decide on Britain’s EU membership.

 

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Success! MPs approve EU Referendum Bill

Posted: November 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign News, Parliament, The People's Pledge Blog | Comments Off

Houses of ParliamentMPs have today approved the EU Referendum Bill.

Backed unopposed, without a final vote, the Bill will next year move on to the House of Lords – where it faces an even tougher test to become law.

But securing the backing of MPs for the Bill is a significant achievement – notable for not one MP daring to vote against an EU referendum at the Bill’s important Second and Third Readings.

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We are very pleased to report that MPs have today approved James
Wharton MP’s EU Referendum Bill.

 

Backed unopposed, without a final vote, the Bill will now be sent to the House of Lords with the clear endorsement of the people’s chamber.

 

The Bill will, however, face potentially an even tougher test in the Lords, since it is even harder there to prevent a Private Member’s Bill running out of time.

 

But securing the approval of the House of Commons for the EU Referendum Bill is a significant achievement.

 

This result is testament to the fantastic support tens of thousands of people have given to our campaign to secure MPs’ backing for this useful Bill; writing to MPs, distributing leaflets and donating to our campaign fund so that we could bring greater pressure to bear.

 

Such action really does make a difference. It’s notable that not one MP at either the Bill’s landmark Second or Third Readings dared to vote against an EU referendum – no doubt conscious of how badly such action would go down with their own local voters.

 

Commons debate over the Bill was only marred by the undemocratic attitudes of some MPs, who tried to advance partisan views on one possible outcome of an EU referendum to justify denying people a vote. What next; opposing the holding of an election because their opponents might win?

 

Others spoke at great length about the uncertainty a referendum would cause for businesses, choosing conveniently to ignore a significant poll by the British Chambers of Commerce that showed 77% of businesses back an EU vote.

 

It would also have greatly improved the reputation of Parliament if, during debates on the Bill, more MPs who voiced pro-EU views had demonstrated their confidence in their case by backing an EU referendum. The idea, repeatedly rehearsed, that the case for being in the EU was so overwhelming it shouldn’t be put to the vote just didn’t add up or reflect well on those proposing it.

 

There is, of course, much more still to do in 2014 to ensure this Bill is fully approved by Parliament and, ultimately, an EU referendum is written into law.

 

Next year, we will need to put heavyweight pressure on members of the House of Lords not to scupper the Bill. We will also need to increase our activities in marginal seats, particularly those held by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who are still refusing to back an EU referendum – yet who may well have a key role in government after the 2015 general election.

 

But today, we have taken another step closer to achieving our aim.

 

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Labour veteran urges Miliband to back EU vote

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off

Veteran Labour former shadow cabinet member and
1992 party leadership contender Bryan Gould has urged
Ed Miliband to back an EU referendum.

His intervention comes amid growing calls from senior Labour figures past and present for Ed Miliband to
pledge to give people a say on Britain’s future relationship
with the European Union.

 

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Ed Miliband must “listen” to the people he wishes to represent and pledge to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, according to a veteran former Labour shadow cabinet member and party leadership contender.

 

Bryan Gould, a member of Neil Kinnock’s shadow cabinet from 1986-1992 and contender against John Smith for the leadership of the Labour party, urged Ed Miliband to “go with it” on an EU referendum and challenged the Labour leader to explain “what can go wrong?”.

 

Speaking at an event hosted by the People’s Pledge EU referendum campaign and Blackwell’s Books to introduce his new book Myths, Politicians and Money, Gould argued that a referendum vote would either resolve the issue for the “foreseeable future” or enable politicians to respond to public concerns about the EU by “securing a renegotiation of the arrangements, perhaps a departure from the European Union”.

 

Backing growing calls from senior Labour figures for the party leadership to back an EU referendum the former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury and trade and industry spokesman, who also directed Labour’s 1987 general election campaign, said “It is now nearly 40 years since the British people were asked what they thought of the particular arrangements represented by the then Treaty of Rome. We can now see that a project imposed by a small elite has not only failed to capture the allegiance of the people of Britain but has posed a major threat to the wellbeing of Europe as a whole.”

 

Questioning why his party appears “not prepared to listen” to people’s views on the EU, Gould said, “I urge the current leadership of the Labour party to go with it, to listen to the democratic voice and opinions of the people we claim to, and wish to, represent”.

 

Gould’s intervention, coming just ahead of Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference, will add to the increasing pressure on the Labour leader from among his own team and former ministers to back an EU referendum.

 

Tom Watson MP, who recently stepped down as Miliband’s election co-ordinator, recently came out in support of an EU referendum in a newspaper article about his resignation. His call for Labour to promise people a say on Britain’s membership of the EU echoed similar calls by shadow work & pensons minister Ian Austin, Labour’s Policy Review chief John Cruddas and former shadow rural affairs minister Tom Harris.

 

Many Blair-Brown era ministers have also backed calls for an EU vote including former Deputy PM John Prescott and others recorded by the People’s Pledge such as Keith Vaz (former Europe minister), Jim Fitzpatrick (former Transport & DEFRA minister), Frank Field (former Welfare minister), Gerry Sutcliffe (former Home Office minister), George Howarth (former Home Office minister) and Graham Stringer (former government Whip).

 

Welcoming Gould’s intervention, People’s Pledge co-founder Stuart Coster said:

 

Ed Miliband’s EU policy is a mess. First he said he is opposed to an EU referendum by 2017, then he instructed his party to abstain on the EU Referendum Bill currently going through Parliament, and now says he will back a vote but only when the EU demands more powers.

 

“But why is it necessary to wait for still further treaty changes before giving people a say on our EU membership? This will look to most people like a slippery political tactic designed to kick the issue into the long grass and deny us the say on the EU that polls show most people want.”

 

“Resisting growing support within his own party for an EU referendum is risking the credibility of his leadership and doing daily damage to Labour’s electoral prospects. Ed Miliband must make a decision and back the democratic option of letting the people decide Britain’s future relationship with the EU.”

 

Bryan Gould’s comments in full:

 

“I’m on the left and support the Labour party because they are a party which at least in principle is supposed to represent the interests and provide a voice for ordinary people. So why are we not prepared to listen to that voice?

 

“After all, what can go wrong? If we have a referendum and the answer is ‘Yes we want to stay in’, fine. That resolves the issue at least for the foreseeable future. If the answer is ‘No we want to come out’, surely it’s better that we have that out in the open and expressed and then we can act on it in terms of securing a renegotiation of the arrangements, perhaps a departure from the European Union. At least we then have the basis of popular support to secure changes that I believe are desperately needed.

 

“So I urge the current leadership of the Labour party to go with it, to listen to the democratic voice and opinions of the people we claim to, and wish to, represent.

 

It is now nearly 40 years since the British people were asked what they thought of the particular arrangements represented by the then Treaty of Rome. That referendum was conducted without the benefit of much by way of actual experience of what those arrangements meant, in a context when the main opinion formers were united in their commitment to what they described as ‘Europe’, and before the many and major changes introduced by the drivers of the ‘United States of Europe’ had taken effect.

 

“We can now see that a project imposed by a small elite has not only failed to capture the allegiance of the people of Britain but has posed a major threat to the wellbeing of Europe as a whole.”

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MPs give unanimous backing to EU Referendum Bill

Posted: July 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign News, News, Parliament, The People's Pledge Blog | Comments Off

On Friday, MPs voted unanimously to approve James Wharton’s Private Member’s Bill for an EU referendum. The Bill was approved at its 2nd Reading by 304 votes in favour to zero against. If successful, this Bill will take an EU referendum out of the unreliable realm of political promises and into law.

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Friday’s debate and vote on the EU Referendum Bill has now been published in the House of Commons record Hansard (5 July 2013 : Column 1169).

 

The one page Private Member’s Bill, presented by James Wharton MP, set out that a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union “must be held before 31 December 2017″.

 

The vote listing shows that, including tellers (MPs who count the votes), 306 MPs voted to approve the EU Referendum Bill. The breakdown by party is as follows:

 

295 Conservatives
6      Labour
5      Democratic Unionists

 

The six Labour MPs supporting the Bill were Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Dennis Skinner, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart.

 

There were also two Conservative tellers who acted for the opposing side in order to enable a vote to take place, despite being “strong supporters of the Bill” – as Peter Luff MP made clear during the debate.

 

More than 20 Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs spoke during the debate to criticise the Bill, and 30 MPs turned out to oppose a Closure Motion in order to try to prevent a formal vote. But not a single one of these MP voted against the Bill itself.

 

In total, 297 Conservative MPs were present, so who were the seven Conservatives who, for some reason, didn’t vote? They were: Ken Clarke, Nigel Evans, Lorraine Fullbrook, Jason McCartney, Malcolm Rifkind, Richard Shepherd and Gary Streeter. Richard Shepherd, however, did speak during the debate in support of an EU referendum and Jason McCartney is also known to support a referendum, having signed the People’s Pledge.

 

Friday’s debate was the Bill’s first major test of support, but just the start of the parliamentary battle to write an EU referendum into law. The Bill will now go to its Committee Stage, probably in September, which is where a small group of MPs examine the Bill in detail and propose amendments.

 

This will be an opportunity for anti-referendum MPs to try to dismember or delay the Bill. Already, Ilford Labour MP Mike Gapes, in a clear abuse of process, has tabled a series of 29 amendments setting out a variety of different referendum dates and other options in a bid to divide support for the Bill. A final Commons vote is expected in November.

 

Looking ahead, the People’s Pledge will continue to do all we can to support the the EU Referendum Bill through its progress in parliament. Keep watching for more on this front very soon.

 

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For the latest campaign news, please follow us on Twitter or add us as a friend on Facebook (sign in required) – and if you haven’t done so already, please sign the People’s Pledge today to help us get the support of all parties for an EU referendum.

 


Lib Dem splits over an EU referendum

Posted: June 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign News, Liberal Democrats, Parliament | Comments Off

When James Wharton MP’s EU Referendum
Bill comes before Parliament next Friday,
Liberal Democrat MPs have probably their last opportunity to align with huge popular support
for an EU referendum – in
cluding, a new People’s Pledge study has shown, among their party’s own voters.

If Nick Clegg is genuinely concerned about the relevance of his party he cannot afford to ignore the message opinion polls are sending him about the unpopularity of his policy on an EU referendum.

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A new study of opinion poll data has revealed huge splits between Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrat voters over an EU referendum.

Polls going back over the past year to June 2012 show a large proportion of Lib Dem voters support an EU referendum.

The data reveals that at least half of Lib Dem voters – sometimes up to three quarters – indicate in polls that they support an EU referendum held within the next few years.

In contrast, Nick Clegg’s opposition to an in-out referendum for the foreseeable future typically has the support of little more than a third of Lib Dem voters.

In the most recent ICM poll where the opinion was split by party support, 72% of Lib Dem voters said that an EU referendum should happen either immediately, on the same day as the next general election, or after the 2015 election.

A YouGov poll, also conducted last month, revealed only 33% of Lib Dem voters agreed that there was “no need for any referendum on EU membership”.

Clegg’s hypocrisy

The Liberal Democrats, despite having previously claimed to favour giving the British people an in-out EU vote, are now opposing James Wharton MP’s Private Members Bill in support of an EU referendum. The EU Referendum Bill will receive its 2nd Reading next Friday, 5th July.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and his party have come under pressure to stand by an earlier campaign at the time the Lisbon Treaty was going through Parliament for a ‘real referendum’ on Britain’s membership of the EU.

At the time, Nick Clegg said that he supported a “real choice” of a “referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union” instead of a “limited” one on the Lisbon Treaty (see the leaflet here) – yet refuses to support such a referendum today. The Lib Dem leaflet even urged voters to sign a petition calling for people to be consulted directly about whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU.

Campaign success

The People’s Pledge cross-party ‘people power’ campaign has been credited with turning around Conservative policy on holding an in-out EU referendum from opposition in October 2011 to support in January 2013. David Cameron shifted his position on an EU referendum, talking of a “new settlement” and “fresh consent”, ahead of the Conservative conference in late September 2012. Surprise electoral advances by UKIP in the Corby, Rotherham and Eastleigh by-elections came months later.

People’s Pledge co-founder, Stuart Coster, comments:

“Far worse than policy splits between a party’s MPs and leadership, there is a chasm between Nick Clegg and even Lib Dem voters over an EU referendum.

“If Mr Clegg is genuinely concerned about the relevance of his party he cannot afford to ignore the message opinion polls are sending him about the unpopularity of his policy on an EU referendum. If his policy doesn’t appeal to his party’s existing supporters, Nick Clegg’s chances are slim of increasing his party’s popularity with voters more broadly.

“When the EU Referendum Bill comes before Parliament next Friday, Lib Dem MPs have probably their last opportunity to align with huge popular support for an EU referendum, including among their own voters, and try to rescue their party from languishing in the polls.”

John Hemming MP was the only Lib Dem MP to vote for an EU referendum when the matter was last debated in Parliament.

NOTES

Polls giving data on views of Lib Dem voters on an EU referendum.
Click on the links giving page / table numbers below each poll name to see the data tables.

1. ICM / Guardian poll, 10-12 May 2013
(page 11, table 9)
11% of Lib Dem voters say there should be an in-out referendum immediately
18% say same day as general election
43% say referendum should take place after the 2015 election
= 72% supporting an EU referendum
only 20% saying an in-out referendum “should not take place at all”

2. YouGov / Sunday Times poll, 9-10 May 2013
(page 7)
35% of Lib Dem voters support an EU referendum before the next election
10% say legislate now for a referendum after next election
9%   say hold a referendum after the next election
= 54% supporting an EU referendum
only 33% say there is “no need for any referendum on EU membership”

3. YouGov / Sunday Times, 17-18 January 2013
(page 5)
51% support holding a referendum “within the next few years”
only 34% oppose

4. Survation / Mail on Sunday poll, 25 January 2013
(page 11, question 15)
31% of Lib Dem voters in 2010 support a referendum immediately
44% a referendum in 2017 after renegotiation<
= 75% supporting an EU referendum
only 17% think there should be “no referendum”

5. TNS / BMRB poll, 22-24 January 2013
(page 31, table 11)
38% of Lib Dem voters agree a referendum is the best way to decide whether or not the UK should be in the EU
-vs- 36% disagree & 26% undecided/don’t know

6. Survation / Mail on Sunday, 5 January 2013
(page 19)
54% of Lib Dem voters think David Cameron should call an in/out referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU
only 33% thought he should not

7. YouGov / Sunday Times poll, 22-23 November 2012
(page 6)
46% of Lib Dem voters in 2010 think David Cameron should call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU
39% think he should not

8. Comres / People’s Pledge – Corby voters, 22-30 October 2012
(page 9)
73% of Lib Dem voters said Britain should hold a referendum on whether the UK remains a member of the EU
only 27% think Britain should not(page 11)
57% of Lib Dem voters would “seriously consider” voting for a different party at the next general election if their party didn’t support an in-out EU referendum

9. YouGov / The Sun, 5-8 July 2012
(page 2)
52% support an EU referendum with or without renegotiation first
only 16% of Lib Dem voters said there should not be any sort of referendum on Europe

10. Populus / The Times poll, 8-10 June 2012
(page 8, table 8)
74% agreed there should be a referendum now (35%) or in the next few years (39%)
only 27% of Lib Dem voters agreed there was “no need for a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU in the foreseeable future”

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EU Referendum Bill: Please write to your MP

Posted: June 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign News, Parliament | Comments Off

On Friday 5 July 2013, there will be a very important vote in Parliament on an EU referendum  – and the People’s Pledge is leading the charge to secure a successful outcome.

By supporting James Wharton MP’s Bill to write an EU referendum into law, we can take another big step closer to ensuring an EU referendum actually happens, regardless of who wins the next general election.

Please help us to secure a positive outcome to this vote by taking a few minutes to contact your MP – details below.

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On Friday 5th July, James Wharton MP will present a Private Member’s Bill which aims to write into law that an EU referendum must be held by the end of 2017.

 

If passed, this legislation has the potential to shift a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU out of the vague realm of political promises and into law.

 

It will commit whichever party wins the 2015 election to hold an EU vote, or force them to take the politically very difficult step of repealing this referendum law.

 

In just a few weeks, we can take another big step closer to an EU referendum actually happening. That’s why we must do everything we can to ensure this Bill succeeds.

Will you help?

We urgently need to map the voting intentions of MPs so that we know where to focus campaign activities in the coming weeks.

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EU referendum amendment vote: full analysis

Posted: May 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: News, Parliament | Comments Off

On Wednesday, MPs voted on an amendment
to the Queen’s Speech tabled by John Baron MP aimed at demonstrating support in Parliament
for a Bill that would write into law the holding
of an EU referendum.

Such a bill, Mr Baron argued, would serve to increase
public trust in David Cameron’s pledge that he will hold
an in-out EU referendum by the end of 2017.

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Official figures for Wednesday’s vote on an EU Referendum Bill have now been published in the House of Commons record Hansard (15 May 2013 : Column 749).

 

The amendment proposed by John Baron MP to the Queen’s Speech was as follows:
“This House respectfully regrets that an EU referendum bill was not included in the Gracious Speech.”

 

The vote listing shows that, including tellers (MPs who count the votes), 133 MPs voted that an EU referendum bill should have been included in the government’s legislative programme. The breakdown by party is as follows:

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Success and Next Steps towards an EU referendum

Posted: March 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign News, The People's Pledge Blog | Comments Off

People's Pledge Congress 2011The People’s Pledge celebrates its 2nd birthday this month, having made spectacular progress in our campaign for an EU referendum.

Now that the Prime Minister has switched his party’s policy to support an in-out EU vote, where next for the People’s Pledge campaign?

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The People’s Pledge has had a spectacular 18 months.

 

As recently as October 2011, the Prime Minister whipped his MPs to vote against an in-out EU referendum motion in Parliament.

 

By January this year, David Cameron had executed a remarkable turnaround.

 

In his recent speech on Britain’s relationship with the EU, he said: “When we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum”.

 

This welcome u-turn came after a busy year of  ground-breaking grassroots campaigning by the People’s Pledge.

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Renegotiation and an EU referendum

Posted: March 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Conservative Party, Government, News, The People's Pledge Blog | 12 Comments »

Can David Cameron fundamentally renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU and what does that mean for the referendum he recently promised?

People’s Pledge director Stuart Coster looks at the
Prime Minister’s options.

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Debate provoked in recent weeks by the Prime Minister’s speech about his plan to return some decisions from Brussels to Westminster and to hold a referendum on the outcome has centred on whether or not Britain should renegotiate its membership of the EU and, if so, which powers we should seek back.

 

Mainstream commentators, however, have almost completely ignored the methods by which any renegotiation could occur.

 

No doubt encouraged by Number 10, most journalists have been distracted into debating the desirability of EU renegotiation and not its feasibility, since a focus on process rather than substance would in fact highlight the fragility of David Cameron’s new EU policy.

 

All the potential methods of initiating a discussion with the EU about the balance of powers between Westminster and Brussels – short of informing the EU that the UK is leaving the club – are highly unlikely to deliver a formal negotiation, nevermind the agreement of the EU’s 26 other member countries to any changes the UK government demands.

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The EU Referendum: Should it Happen, Will it Happen?

Posted: February 21st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: News, The People's Pledge Blog | Comments Off

On Monday 11th February, Kings College London hosted the second People’s Pledge debate on the issue of an EU referendum.

 

The debate was chaired by Will Straw, associate director at the IPPR. The eclectic panel consisted of Owen Jones, a left –wing writer who is currently a columnist for The Independent, the Conservative MP George Eustice, Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford, the former Conservative MEP John Stevens and Dr Gunnar Beck, an expert in EU law at SOAS.

 

Will Straw opened the debate by making the point that the Labour Party is the only party whose position is “veritably unclear” on a referendum, while the Liberal Democrats remain against an In/Out referendum.

 

The writer Owen Jones began by saying he believed Labour had made an error and should have listened to calls from Jon Cruddas to support a referendum. Jones, a left-Eurosceptic, went on to say, “I fear the Tories will be able to have an impact on the vote at the General Election, by supporting a referendum if Labour does not.” He, like many others, clearly believes Miliband has left himself with little room for manoeuvre, and will ultimately be forced to match David Cameron’s referendum promise.

 

He then moved on to why he believed a referendum was necessary and the importance of the debate on Britain’s membership of the EU. Although he is against withdrawal from the EU, he acknowledged a “very dramatic change” has occurred in Britain’s relationship with the EU since the 1975 referendum. Thus, a new referendum is required, as is the debate that will precede it. Jones welcomed such a debate but made it clear that he wanted the left to be as much a part of the discussion as the right. One of the reasons he said the Labour leader must match the Tories’ referendum offer was in order to neutralise the issue at the next general election so that the economics of austerity would be centre-stage in the battle between the parties.

 

In contrast to Jones’s position, Conservative MP George Eustice focused on the renegotiation process that will precede David Cameron’s promised referendum. He argued now was the time to push for a new relationship with Brussels, primarily because of the fiscal union treaty change that will take place in the near future. He added that if other countries do not “partake in a mature debate about renegotiation,” it will be much harder to keep Britain in Europe. He concluded by echoing the Prime Minster, saying: “I’m reluctant to get into the detail of a shopping list now on renegotiation.”

 

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