UK’s Labour to back Conservative’s EU referendum bill

Opposition Labour party to support Prime Minister Cameron’s plans on holding referendum over EU membership

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The acting head of Britain’s opposition Labour party Harriet Harman has said the party will back plans by the ruling Conservatives to hold a referendum on the country’s EU membership by the end of 2017.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Harman said Labour had changed its position on the plan having "reflected on the conversations” they had with the public during the campaigning ahead of the general election earlier this month.

Harman, however, later said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Labour would still campaign to keep the UK in the EU.

"Whether we are in the European Union or not is a huge, important, constitutional, political, economic decision," she said.

"There just does not seem to be the public appetite for us to man the barricades against a referendum that appears inevitably going to happen. We will vote for the bill and then get into the big questions for and against Europe."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier this month won a second term as premier having secured a shocking majority in the Westminster parliament, is currently pushing for a fast reform to set a date for the proposed referendum.

Cameron said last week that the government needs an EU treaty change for the British people to say “yes” in the EU referendum, adding that UK’s constituent countries will not have a say over the future of the UK’s membership in the EU.

“We put forward in our manifesto the clearest possible pledge of an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. That has now been backed in a UK General Election and I believe I have a mandate for that.”

“They didn’t give Orkney and Shetland an opt-out, or the Borders an opt out [during the Scottish independence referendum] so this is a UK pledge, it will be delivered for the UK,” he added.

Scotland’s First Minister and Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she wants a “lock” to be put on Britain's EU exit, warning that if the UK leaves the EU without Scotland’s will, it may lead to another independence referendum.

“If there was an in-out referendum, and clearly with a majority Tory government that must be on the horizon, and Scotland voted to stay in the EU and the rest of the UK voted to come out, I think there would be significant opinion in Scotland that we had to re-look at the issue of independence,” Sturgeon said.

The latest surveys in the UK indicate a majority of voters are in favour of staying in the EU, with a recent survey by YouGov showing 45 percent of UK citizens would vote in favour of staying as part of the EU and 36 percent would vote to leave it.  

However, the results of such surveys vary widely. Surveys conducted earlier in the year by Opinium showed a majority of UK citizens want to leave the EU.

TRTWorld and agencies