UK Politics

Ed Miliband: PM's EU strategy 'incredibly dangerous'

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Media captionEd Miliband says the Prime Minister is "sleepwalking us towards the exit" in Europe

Ed Miliband says David Cameron's EU policy "is incredibly dangerous" and is "sleepwalking us towards the exit".

The Labour leader told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show promising a future referendum on the UK's relationship with the EU would be "an incredible gamble".

He said the prime minister was reacting to the threat from the UK Independence Party and Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

Mr Cameron wants to renegotiate the UK's relations with the EU and then seek "fresh consent" from voters.

There is speculation that this might take the form of a promise of a referendum after the next general election - although Mr Cameron has opposed the idea of offering an "in or out" vote.

It is thought he will make the announcement in a speech on the UK's relationship with Europe within the next fortnight.

Mr Miliband said that announcing a referendum now would mean promising a vote on a "negotiation not begun, with timescale uncertain and outcome unknown".

He said "it is the wrong thing to do" and "not in the national interest".

He was asked by James Landale, standing in for Andrew Marr as he continues to recover from his stroke, whether Labour would rule out any future referendum.

Power transfer

Mr Miliband said he ruled one out now, but would not say what might be in Labour's next election manifesto and said there was already a law requiring a referendum on any major transfer of powers from London to Brussels.

Ahead of Mr Cameron's speech a senior US official, a group of German parliamentarians plus British pro-Europeans - such as Lord Heseltine and a selection of business leaders - last week warned against the UK leaving the EU.

Mr Cameron says that there is a chance, and need, to redefine the UK's relationship with the EU because of moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency.

The government is currently reviewing, department-by-department, all aspects of the UK's relations with the EU with a view to deciding what powers the UK should claim back.

One of its chief concerns is to ease the regulatory burden on small businesses, especially the Working Time Directive and other EU labour and welfare legislation.

'EU must change'

The government is also considering activating a clause in the Lisbon Treaty that allows the UK to opt out of areas of EU justice and policing next year.

Chancellor George Osborne did not rule out a British exit in an interview with Germany's Die Welt newspaper on Friday, saying he hoped the UK stayed in "but in order that we can remain... the EU must change".

"The British people are very disappointed with the EU and people have the feeling that too many decisions are made too far away in Brussels. Our citizens are asking themselves if Europe can really solve their most pressing problems and create jobs and prosperity."

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