Labour has performed a balletic U-turn this morning, abandoning its opposition to EU membership referendum.
Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the party, has given David Cameron a boost by saying her party will vote in favour of the Conservative’s bill, which would see a vote on the UK’s EU membership before the end of 2017.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Harman and shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, say that they have “reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country” during the General Election:
The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum bill when it comes before the House of Commons.
Labour will support the UK’s remaining in the EU. Harman and Benn said:
The Labour party doesn’t want to see the UK stumble inadvertently towards EU exit. We will make the case for our continued membership. The notion that Britain’s future prosperity and security lies in shutting itself off from this market . . . makes no sense.
They do, however, stress the need for changes and reform in Britain’s relationship with the rest of the trade bloc.
The prime minister will today reveal plans to put forward the requisite legislation in the Queen’s speech. While the referendum is pencilled in to take place before the end of 2017 it could happen sooner. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has encouraged Cameron to hold the vote as soon as possible.