• Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook

Search This Blog

Visit our new website.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Miliband’s EU pledge divides UK media – but is largely ignored in Europe

There is this much chance we will hold an
EU referendum if I'm Prime Minister
Ed Miliband’s intervention yesterday – in which he said he would only hold an In/Out referendum in the event of a new EU Treaty transferring specific powers from the UK to Brussels – has, as expected, divided commentators and media opinion in Britain.

Echoing a similar point we made in our response yesterday, the Telegraph’s leader describes Labour's new policy as a "classic fudge" and argues that:
"Effectively, Mr Miliband is offering either more Europe or no Europe... The Tories and Labour like to give the impression that they have fundamentally different policies. But they are, in truth, remarkably similar”.
Also in the Telegraph, Peter Oborne argues that the new policy is
"by far the biggest mistake of [Miliband's] leadership... [this] unforced error is a priceless gift for David Cameron because it amounts to an unequivocal vindication of the Prime Minister’s decision last year to promise a referendum on Europe after the election.” 
However, on Conservative Home, Lord Ashcroft warns that Miliband’s announcement could lure the Tories into talking only about one thing – Europe, arguing:
“the Conservative Party would not only be missing the chance to talk about the things most voters care about more, like the economy, jobs and public services. It would also, as far as these voters are concerned, be proving again the out-of-touchness (outness of touch?) of which it has for so long been accused." 
The Sun has commissioned a snap YouGov poll which found that 50% of voters disagreed with Miliband’s pledge to only hold an in/out referendum if more powers are transferred to the EU – a move he admits is “unlikely” - while 32% backed his policy but nearly twice as many people regard it as a cowardly move rather than a bold one. The Sun's leader argues that the wait-and-see approach has made Miliband “even more unpopular” with voters and the paper concluding that he'd have been better off "keeping schtum".

The FT broadly endorses Miliband's speech though echoes our caveat that “Mr Miliband’s policy does not guarantee the British people the right they should have to an in-out referendum if the bloc ultimately redesigns the way it operates in the wake of the eurozone crisis.”

In a less coherent leader, the Guardian argues that Miliband is desperate to avoid having to deal with a referendum if elected as:
"Trying to avert an "out" vote would drain all energy from anything else a Miliband government might want to do; enduring one would sink it entirely."
What about European media? Well, surprisingly, Miliband has been largely ignored. There’s almost nothing at all in the German press, though Der Spiegel's Carsten Volkery – not known for being the Tories' greatest fan – argues that:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and the EU Commission should now secretly have their fingers crossed for Miliband. For all public expressions of sympathy for Cameron’s reforms, the British referendum seen as a massive nuisance in the rest of the EU.”
Walter Oppenheimer, London correspondent for Spanish daily El País, writes that Miliband's decision not to hold an EU referendum:
"It is, however, a very calculated risk: it can cost Miliband some votes – and who knows whether those votes can cost him the election – but leaves his hands free if he manages to get into Downing Street."
The French press has almost nothing bar news agency write ups, ditto in the Italian and Spanish press, although Miliband got a couple of hits in Switzerland. The speech was picked up by the Polish Press Agency but they focused on the immigration/access to benefits angle and completely ignored the wider referendum issue. The Nordics are quiet too, despite Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt trying to weigh in on the debate yesterday.

We won’t pass judgement as to why Europe has so profoundly ignored Miliband.


Rollo said...

Why, though, has OE failed to ignore the silly man?

Anonymous said...

Another empty promise, he would have lost fewer votes if he hadn't shown himself to be such a pratt by being honest and saying the labour party will never allow the people a vote on the eussr.

Denis Cooper said...

You've missed the point that under Miliband's proposal any EU-related referendum would always be an "in-out" referendum.

So for example there would not be a referendum just on whether we wanted to join the euro; it would be a referendum asking the people a question of these lines:

"Do you agree with the UK joining the euro, or would you prefer to leave the EU?"

Open Europe blog team said...

@Denis Cooper

Many thanks for the comment.

However, we have already discussed that point extensively.

See here on our blog before Miliband made his speech yesterday: http://www.openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/ed-miliband-confuses-with-new-eu.html

And here our flash analysis released just after Miliband's speech yesterday: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/Article/Page/en/LIVE?id=19741&page=FlashAnalysis

The focus of this post was a media round up.

Many thanks

Denis Cooper said...


Your flash analysis does not include the simple case where a Labour or Labour/LibDem government decided that we should join the euro, which would not actually require treaty change but would be a massive transfer of power, and my own reading of Miliband's speech is that there would never be two referendums with possibly conflicting results but just an "in-out" referendum.

Which would have a question of the type that proposed by Mario Monti in December 2004 to deal with any population which had rejected the EU Constitution:


In other words the only choice would be between joining the euro and leaving the EU, which would clearly make it much easier for the government to get its way and of course would leave no space for the present Tory party policy of staying in the EU but not joining the euro.

Rik said...

Seems good news for Dave&Co.
1. Milli is digging himself deeper in on a point that he better had brushed from the table. Basically as far as the next election goes this only has downside risk on both Europe itself as well as as the democracy issue.
Next to that the remarks by Denis show that the logic is a bit missing on this.
Not too dificult to predict that this will be 2 points that will be widely discussed in electiontime.
As said many times before he should better have swallowed the turd asap. Simply would have been the best damage limitation.
The poll btw that shows that this is just a minor issue in the public's eye is imho complete rubbish. All over Europe in large numbers people are changing their voting pattern because of this the UK even has its own party that makes 25% in some polls (on less imposrtant elections) that is founded on basis of that. On only a minor issue? Come on get serious.

2. A point I miss is that Farage can now mainly focus on getting votes from Labour. IP gets most of its votes from the Conservatives but the trend is clearly moving towards Labour. And Cameron seems to have stopped or even reversed the run to IP. Likely by his referendum promise.
The part of the market that shows the most potential for IP seems to be now Labour.
And as especially Holland shows (where you have roughly a party per voter so you can see where preferences really are). Wilders has got a lot of votes from Dutch labour historically. And a lot of Labour voters moved to Eurosceptic SP as well, often for that reason. While public views donot differ that much between the 2 countries. At least nowhere near as much as the current popularity of both Labour and Dutch Labour show.
I expect not to far from now Farage going for the Labour vote as well. Try to stabilise the Tory vote and go for growth on the left (or with lefties that didnot vote, probably because they were desillusioned).

Rik said...

The poll mentioned simply doesnot add up.
Most likely it will take some time before people oversee the issue, like we see now so many times (eg Scotland EU/GBP lately and basically the whole set up re referendum Cameron is proposing).
Trend is into more Eurosceptism while the percentage of 50 looks lower than in very similar earlier polls. Simply doesnot add up as said. Imho Labour will be in for a nasty surprise when this discussion gets into the public domain.
Most (nearly all) earlier polls indicate around 60% for reneg and slightly below that for Out in case no results from the reneg. While there are 20% on top of that who want a referendum (but are basically Ins).

Like the EU issue is related to other points, immigration for instance. This all will add up to what is at the end very weak leadership of Mr Ed. Several points on which EdM can easily be attacked. Like Scotland shows all will be put before the public forum.

European press simply misses the clue. Hard to see the Tories dropping this even if not reelected. Does anybody think a MessrsEd government will be reelected when elected in the first place.
Which would mean a referendum only a few years later and a lot of time waisted for reforms.
So very likely a plain In/Out. Polls are clear what that would mean especially if nothing is done on the reform front in the mean time.
This might look supervisually positive for the Pro-EUs. But could very well be a shot in the foot. Problem that the EU has is that the set up can only be changed/reformed very slowly, simply because of all the approval procedures.
Hard to see that angry eg Italian voters will wait 4 years for a reform. When the anger gets via the elections to the national political institutions hard to see the EU is given 4-5 or more years to get its house in order.
Italians (and several others) are a danger from another angle. But the immigrationdossier could for instance trigger unwanted consequences in a lot of other countries. The UK only being one. While under pressure to save the whole set up, the EU is on top of that simply wide open for all sort of blackmail strategies.