Ed Miliband has used his first major speech of 2015 to say he will “not join those who cynically offer exit as a realistic plan for our future or the future of Britain’s working families.” He told an audience in Salford that three million British jobs depended on the EU and the Prime Minister was “allowing his party to drift towards exit.”
The comments will come as little surprise to pundits, as Miliband was widely seen as a pro-European but this is his strongest statement yet that he would not leave the EU. For months Eurosceptics in his party have been encouraging him to follow David Cameron and offer an in/out referendum after this year’s general election. He always refused, despite the political advantage it might bring.
Nigel Farage upped the stakes in November when he suggested he would be willing to go into coalition with Labour if it offered a referendum. Despite the commitment, the UKIP leader did not flatter Miliband, instead justifying the deal by saying he would: “do a deal with the Devil if he got me what I wanted”.
Mr Miliband said: “Three million British jobs rest on commerce and trade within the European Union. Exiting the EU would damage British jobs, British families, British businesses.
“I understand the politics that has led the Prime Minister to play risky irresponsible games on the European Union, allowing his party to drift towards exit. But I won’t. If you want to know what chaos and a threat to prosperity looks like, just imagine a Tory government riven apart after the next election on Europe.
“We must demand reform from Europe—a European Union that works better for Britain. But make no mistake: exit from the EU would be a dramatic mistake for our country and our economy.
“So, whatever the politics, I will not join those who cynically offer exit as a realistic plan for our future or the future of Britain’s working families.”
This week marks the four-month countdown until the election, which is on a fixed date for the first time in British history: Thursday 7th May 2015. It is one of the most hotly contested ever, with both Labour and the Conservatives virtually neck and neck at around 32 percent.
The surge in other parties has made it unlikely either will be able to govern alone, leading to widespread speculation about coalition deals. Over the weekend the former Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell suggested to Sky News that the largest party may not form the government, and the next Prime Minister might even be from one of the smaller parties.
Having such complex negotiations after the election may force Miliband to do a deal on Europe against his wishes.