Why is Ed Miliband going to rule out a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in a speech tomorrow? The Labour leader has written in the FT that he would legislate for a new referendum lock which would force an In/Out referendum if there was another transfer of British power to Brussels, which essentially means he supports the current situation under the Coalition. And he says in the piece that the transfer is unlikely in the next Parliament. Which means no referendum.

He writes that Labour’s position on Europe…

“… is clear and principled: we strongly believe Britain’s future is in the EU. And my priorities for government after the next election are very different from those of the Conservatives. Labour will focus on dealing with the cost of living crisis by building a better economy so that people can look forward to a better future for their children. An arbitrary timetable for a referendum on leaving Europe would damage our ability to deliver on these priorities…

The next Labour government will legislate for a new lock: there would be no transfer of powers from the UK to the EU without a referendum on our continued membership of the EU.

This would not just be a referendum on the narrow question of whether to allow a transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels; as we have seen in other countries, such votes are too easily ignored. This position, setting out the conditions in the next parliament under which a Labour government would hold an in/out referendum, offers the British people a clear choice at the next election.

And that choice is between

a divided and ungovernable Conservative party that threatens to inflict huge uncertainty on business and undermine Britain’s influence abroad – a party increasingly arguing for exit from Europe.

Or…

a One Nation Labour party that will govern in the national interest and focus on what is best for Britain – a party that will work within Europe to deliver real change.

Deciding not to hold a referendum – unless Britain cedes more powers – at least means that if Miliband does find himself in government after 2015, he won’t have to contend with what he feared: that Britain could leave the EU under his premiership.

But while the Conservatives will be thrilled that this means that they really can say that only they will #LetBritainDecide, they shouldn’t be too reassured by Miliband’s decision. It suggests that he doesn’t think this pledge would swing it in 2015; that he can win without it. And that suggests that he’s confident about the election.

Tags: Ed Miliband, EU referendum, UK politics