Union calls on Labour to offer EU referendum

Guardian (UK) |

Ed Miliband is facing renewed pressure to match the Conservatives' EU referendum pledge after Britain's largest trade union called on Labour to support a vote or risk finding itself boxed in at next year's general election. The Unite union, which announced earlier this week that it would help fund Labour's general election campaign, approved a motion at its conference in Liverpool calling for a referendum on Britain's EU membership. The motion, proposed by Unite's executive council, said a failure by Labour to support a referendum would leave the party with an "electoral millstone" next year. The general secretary, Len McCluskey, said of the motion: "It calls on Labour not to box itself in on the referendum question. This issue has bedevilled British politics for decades. For much of that time it has been the Tories who have had to deal with divisions in their ranks over Europe. But the next general election will be different. Both Ukip and the Tories will be offering a referendum on the issue of Britain's membership." McCluskey added: "We do not seek a referendum to take Britain out of the EU. We seek a referendum rethink in order to help get Labour into power here in Britain. Without such a pledge our party will stand exposed. Ukip will be strengthened in some key constituencies. The Tories will hypocritically charge Labour with being anti-democratic. "In a tight election this can make the difference. So let's give the British people a say on the EU, and when they do, Unite will be there arguing for the benefits of internationalism and a real social Europe." The Labour leadership played down the union's vote, saying that it disproved the Tory claim that the party is run by Unite. "Is this us in the pockets of the union with them backing a Tory policy or is it the Tory party in their pockets this week? Unite are entitled to their opinion - it is our job to set out what we believe is in the best interests of the country."

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