Why both left and right must call for an EU referendum

WHY would we – a card-carrying Conservative eurosceptic City man, and a life-long europhile Labour activist and former special adviser to two Labour cabinet ministers – team up? What project could possibly unite us? The People’s Pledge.

The People’s Pledge is the politically independent campaign for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). We believe, whatever our relationship with our European neighbours is to be, that the British people should determine its nature. Although 37 years ago this country voted to remain in the European Economic Community, a common market, five further treaties have added a political purpose to the original economic one. A fresh mandate is needed since no-one in Britain under the age of 55 has been given a say in the intervening years.

Many people believe that membership of the EU has eroded British sovereignty, leaving us subject to laws over which we have little or no democratic say. They believe Britain would be stronger economically and politically by disengaging from the EU and simply trading with it.

Plenty of other people believe we should be full EU partners, and should be able to influence decisions which affect all our lives. They fear the consequences of alienating a huge single market and of falling between the cracks of global power blocks. They want supranational financial power held accountable by a supranational political entity.

The strength of The People’s Pledge lies in its neutrality. Adopting the successful No2AV campaign’s all-party model used in last year’s referendum, we are neither Eurosceptic nor Europhile. We all passionately believe there should be a national democratic vote on whether we stay in the EU or leave it.

Polls show that 70 per cent of country want an EU referendum. The three main British political parties have all promised EU referendums of one sort or another in recent years. All of them, for different reasons, are now scared of suggesting one.

Over 125,000 members of the public and 81 MPs have already signed up and we are pressing other MPs by campaigning on their own turf. Our three very successful ballots calling for a national referendum in Thurrock, Cheadle and Hazel Grove, attracted huge turnouts; higher than the turnouts in local council elections, and much higher than the majorities of the local MPs who had all voted against a referendum last October. Nine in every 10 people voted in favour of a referendum.

Ian McKenzie is a former Labour adviser and aide to the former deputy prime minister John Prescott. Daniel Hodson is a former deputy chief executive of Nationwide Building Society, and former chief executive of Liffe www.peoplespledge.org