EU referendum law prepares to clear first hurdle

LABOUR and Lib Dem MPs are preparing to come out in support of a law mandating an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017, its backer said yesterday.

The draft law is all but certain to pass today’s second reading after Labour indicated it would abstain from the House of Commons vote.

But James Wharton, the Tory MP behind the private member’s bill, told City A.M. he has received assurances from Labour MPs that they will back the legislation if it returns to the Commons.

“There are Labour MPs who have told me categorically that they will be there for the report stage,” Wharton said. “And, for the first time, Lib Dems have approached me with their support.”

Yesterday shadow cabinet member Ian Austin backed the principle of an EU referendum, echoing Labour MP John Cryer who believes his party will “will change its position at some point”.

Ed Miliband opposes an in/out vote and Wharton fears the Labour leadership will try to wreck his bill using parliamentary procedures. “The biggest risk to this bill is that it could run out of time,” he said.