Cameron and Miliband spar over EU referendum

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

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PRIME Minister David Cameron has refused to say whether he will back the UK staying in the European Union if he cannot renegotiate the terms of free movement of workers by 2017.

In a fiery exchange during Prime Minister’s questions Mr Cameron was repeatedly pressed on the issue by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

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But in response Mr Cameron accused Labour of being “too chicken” to commit to a referendum on Europe themselves.

The exchanges came as a poll carried out by former Tory Treasurer Lord Ashcroft revealed that Labour is on track to take more key marginal seats from the Tories at the next general election.

The results come after a previous round of polling suggested Mr Cameron’s party would lose nine out of 11 seats where they had smaller majorities.

In PMQs Mr Miliband challenged Mr Cameron, saying: “Your MPs know the renegotiation is going nowhere. Two years ago, you gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph. It said, and I quote, ‘Mr Cameron will not countenance leaving the EU and said he would never campaign for an out vote in an EU referendum’.

“Is that still your position?”

Mr Cameron replied: “I think Britain is better off in a reformed European Union. But the point is this: I have a plan for renegotiating our relationship and holding a referendum. You have got absolutely no plan whatsoever.”

The Labour leader said British business leaders would be “holding their heads in their hands” over Mr Cameron’s refusal to commit to campaign to keep the UK in the EU.

Facing Tory jeers, Mr Miliband said: “You didn’t answer the fundamental question that matters to businesses and families. You used to say you would never be for leaving the European Union. That was your position two years ago.

“I’m just asking you to use the same words you used then.”

Mr Cameron replied: “I answered that question the last time time round - I want Britain to stay in a reformed European Union. But we need the reform.”

Later he added: “You’re asking me about a referendum you won’t support. The Labour Party is so chicken when it comes to trusting the British people it’s a completely unbelievable position.”

The Prime Minister also quoted Labour frontbencher Thomas Docherty, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, as saying Labour was “in a dreadful position” and a “moribund party”.

He said: “That’s not the view of the commentators. It’s not the view of the backbenchers. It’s the view of the frontbenchers.

“It’s official - it’s a dead parrot.”

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