Chuka Umunna, Labour's former shadow business secretary, has come out in support of Conservative prime minister David Cameron’s demands on European Union treaty changes.
Umunna told City A.M. that Cameron’s demands, laid out in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, are “reasonable”.
He said: “In the end the demands the Prime Minister have made are reasonable ones. I don’t think [the demands] are ones that on the whole our European partners would disagree with, and if it helps improve the way the European Union operates now – which I think they will – then obviously that’s going to be helpful to making the argument to stay in the EU.”
This comes against a flurry of Conservative MPs who today rubbished Cameron’s agenda as not going far enough, including chair of the Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie, Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Redwood. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “reasonably confident” a deal could be done to avert “Brexit”.
Umunna further agreed with comments made by the Prime Minister, adding that the result of the promised In/Out referendum would be final and “settle the matter”.
With polls narrowing recently, however, that won’t guarantee success for the In campaign. But, Umunna retorted “polls are polls. What matters is how people will vote when the referendum comes. Nobody is taking that result for granted, it would be stupid to do so”.
Nobody on either side of the argument thinks the referendum will be a slam-dunk, he said. “It’s going to be a close run thing, the campaigns on both sides have only just started.”
Referring to Vote Leave’s campaign of “intimidation” against the Confederation of British Industry, Umunna’s biggest fear is that there will be a repeat of the Scottish Independence Referendum, where having spoken to “countless business people as shadow business secretary”, found many were intimidated into saying nothing during the campaign for fear of the consequences.
“We cannot have that kind of situation in the EU referendum campaign. Everybody, those who are for, those who are against our membership, in different groups in society, going far beyond business should be contributing and playing their full part in the debate and nobody should be trying to silence anyone.”