Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Labour MPs join Tories in demanding referendum on EU

AN influential group of around 14 Labour MPs have now joined the Tories in wanting a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

They include Belfast-born Kate Hoey (right), who recently warned the Labour leadership that they would be mad to go into next year's European elections without matching the Tory pledge to hold a referendum on Europe.

This view could gain ground and we need to think how exiting Europe might affect us. The downside is that it could spell an end to peace funding from Brussels and create tariff barriers with the Irish Republic for the first time in a generation.

On the other hand, several countries – including Norway and Switzerland – enjoy free trade arrangements with the EU and, possibly, the UK could do the same.

London could also, if it wished, replace our peace funding with some of what it saved by leaving and, without EU rules to stop it, Westminster could, again given the will, subsidise the devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland.

Barack Obama says that Britain should try to patch up its relationship with Europe, rather than pull out of the EU, and that is probably what will happen.

But, as the big parties shift ground in an attempt to halt the rise of Ukip, nothing is for sure anymore, so we need to start checking our options.

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