The UK’s Labour Party faces a conundrum over offering a referendum on the EU

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Series Details 05.03.14
Publication Date 05/03/2014
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The British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU membership should he win a majority at the next general election. Simon Usherwood writes on the policy of the opposition Labour Party, who are reportedly considering offering a referendum on EU membership of their own. He argues that the main factor behind this decision is likely to be the upcoming European elections in May. Even if most voters are indifferent about voting and oblivious about the issues, Labour may feel that they need to build momentum in the run-up to the general election.

The reports that Labour are considering offering a referendum on EU membership is potentially the most significant step in the evolution of British European policy during this parliament. If it does come to pass in the next few weeks then it will mark a decisive shift in the terms of the British debate.

The party's leader, Ed Miliband, suggested on the 12 March 2014 that a future Labour government would only hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union before 2020 if more powers were transferred to Brussels.

David Cameron dismissed Ed Miliband's conditional promise of an in-out referendum on British membership of the European Union, saying it is clear Labour is in reality offering no choice and no referendum.

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ESO: Background information: What Should Labour Do About An EU Referendum?
Reuters, 26.02.14: Labour party to pledge EU referendum - report
New Statesman, 10.01.14: The case for a Labour EU referendum pledge is weaker than ever
Website: Labour for a Referendum
EurActiv, 27.02.14: UK Labour too considers EU referendum, timing unknown
Social Europe Journal, 05.03.14: The European Parliament Election – What Is The British Labour Party Playing At?
EurActiv, 12.03.14: Labour won’t hold EU referendum before 2020
EUObserver, 12.03.14: Labour rules out EU referendum without new treaty
The Guardian, 12.03.14: Miliband's EU policy offers 'no referendum, no choice', says Cameron
The Guardian, 12.03.14: Ed Miliband's EU referendum pledge leaves business leaders divided
The Guardian, 13.03.14: Only Lib Dems and Ukip consistent on Europe, says Nick Clegg
Blog: EU Law Analysis, 11.03.14: The possibility of a UK referendum on the EU: The plot thickens
Blog: Open Europe, 13.03.14: Miliband’s EU pledge divides UK media – but is largely ignored in Europe
BBC News, 12.03.14: EU referendum 'unlikely' under Labour, says Ed Miliband
Labour Party: All stories: Our position on Europe in five bullet points, 12.03.14
The Economist, 14.03.14: Britain needs the EU referendum
LSE EuroppBlog, 15.03.14: Labour’s position on a referendum is now pretty clear, but Ed Miliband’s speech is unlikely to buttress his leadership credentials
Social Europe Journal, 13.03.14: Britain’s Place In The European Union (by Ed Miliband)
Blog: Politics at Surrey, 13.03.14: Labour, Europe and the continuing absence of British EU policy

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