EU referendum: Burnham promises 'distinctive Labour Yes'

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Andy Burnham

Labour should run its own "distinctive" campaign to stay in the European Union in the upcoming referendum on the UK's membership, Andy Burnham has said.

The leadership hopeful said the party must "learn the lessons" of last year's Scottish independence referendum.

It has been suggested Labour lost Scottish votes because it campaigned with the Conservatives for a "No" vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold an in/out referendum on the EU before the end of 2017.

'Pro-European reform'

Mr Burnham - who is travelling to Brussels for talks with MEPs and the UK's ambassador to the EU on Wednesday - promised to lead a "Labour Yes" campaign focused on issues such as preventing workers being "undercut" by EU immigrants if elected.

He also pledged to focus on strengthening enforcement of the national minimum wage, and the issue of firms recruiting exclusively from overseas.

The shadow health secretary and MP for Leigh is one of four candidates standing to be Labour leader.

"Even though Labour is in a leadership campaign, I am not going to let the EU debate be defined by David Cameron," he said.

"Today, I will discuss with Labour colleagues in the European Parliament what a distinctive pro-European reform package will look like," he said.

Image caption,
Labour's Johann Lamont (far left) and Alistair Darling (second left) campaigned alongside the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in last year's Scottish referendum

"These are areas that David Cameron will not be focusing on and that is why we be raising them today to make the Labour case for Europe. Renegotiation cannot be a green light to turn the clock back and weaken employment rights.

"Labour will also learn the lessons of the Scottish independence referendum and it is my intention to have a separate 'Labour Yes' campaign."

In last month's general election, Labour lost 40 seats in Scotland, leaving it with just one MP.

In January, a Survation poll of more than 1,000 Scots found that 31% said they were less likely to trust Labour because of its role in the Better Together campaign.

Scottish National Party deputy leader Stewart Hosie said at the time that Labour had been "fatally wounded by their Tory alliance".

As early as 2013, there were reports of disquiet among senior Labour figures over the Better Together alliance with the Tories.

David Cameron has said he wants to renegotiate the terms of the UK's EU membership ahead of the promised referendum. He has said he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU if he gets the reforms he wants.