BRITAIN is more likely to quit the EU if Ed Miliband pledges a referendum on Europe, government officials are predicting.
The political and business worlds are desperate to find out if Labour’s leader will match David Cameron’s promise of an in/out referendum.
And the answer could have massive consequences for the history of the UK.
Today’s Commons showdown on the crunch issue has brought Tory MPs flooding onto the green benches – almost unheard of for a Friday.
But Labour’s position on a referendum isn’t just a question of short-term politics.
Currently, only Mr Cameron wants to give the people of Britain the choice of staying in the EU or leaving. This would come in a national vote in 2017, if the PM remains in power at the 2015 General Election.
Under those circumstances, he’s already made it clear he would try and renegotiate a new deal with Brussels, and then campaign for Britain to remain members of the EU.
Mr Cameron would either be returned to power in 2015 with his own Conservative majority, or with the backing of the LibDems in a second Coalition.
It’s hard to see at that point how the “leave” campaign would succeed.
Diplomats believe that a campaign led by the Prime Minister, backed by the government and probably the Labour Opposition and with the support of big business, is likely to win the referendum to stay in.
So Britain would remain members of the EU and the opportunity to leave be lost for a generation.
Look at things another way, though, and Britain’s membership looks far from secure.
Imagine Mr Miliband takes power at the 2015 election and has matched Mr Cameron’s referendum pledge.
Almost certainly the Tory leader would quit. There’s little doubt he’d be replaced by a Conservative leader who’d take a more aggressive approach to Brussels and lead the campaign to quit the EU.
And a strong Conservative-led crusade to pull out would provide a strong platform to euroscpetics keen to quit the union altogether.
Remember, this is the community which – thankfully – managed to stop Tony Blair in his determination to scrap the pound when he was at the height of his powers.
Measurement and evaluation