VOTERS will not be allowed to decide if Britain leaves the European Union (EU), a Huddersfield expert predicted.
University of Huddersfield politics lecturer Dr Pete Woodcock was speaking ahead of last night’s Parliamentary debate on the controversial issue.
MPs were deciding whether Britain should hold a referendum on staying in the EU after more than 100,000 people signed an online petition demanding the move.
“It’s obvious that the main parties aren’t interested in having an in-out referendum,” said Dr Woodcock (inset).
“In the long-term, if there was another EU treaty I could see the Government calling a referendum on that treaty.
“But that may be a long way off. The EU has bigger fish to fry at the moment – it needs to focus on the euro’s problems.”
But Dr Woodcock believes the referendum issue poses challenges to the three party leaders.
He said: “It affects David Cameron’s relationship with his own party and means he’s not quite as popular as he would like to be.
“There are a number of Conservative backbenchers who are annoyed that they are not getting positions in Government which are being filled by pro-European Lib Dems.
“Voting against a referendum is also problematic for Lib Dems, given their manifesto pledge.
“The left of the Labour Party is traditionally anti-European, but this is less of an issue for Ed Miliband because rebellions are more noticeable when you’re in government.”
Dr Woodcock does not believe voters are concerned about the EU.
“I think the population is probably euro-sceptic with a small ‘e’, but I’m not convinced it’s an issue that people are talking about on the streets, compared with the NHS or the economy.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has criticised Prime Minister David Cameron.
The two clashed during a six-hour EU summit in Brussels as leaders sought to hammer out a solution to the problems gripping the single currency.
The row erupted after Mr Sarkozy insisted that a follow-up meeting tomorrow should be restricted to the 17 eurozone leaders.
He told Mr Cameron: “You say you hate the euro and now you want to interfere in our meetings.”
The leaders y agreed that all 27 EU members will meet for one hour to before the 17 eurozone countries break away for final negotiations.
BARRY SHEERMAN, Hudds, Labour
“I shall be voting against the motion that we should reconsider our membership of the European Union (EU).
“I’ve always been a critical friend of the EU – there are some parts of it I don’t like and we should always try to get a better deal but the benefits of membership hugely outweigh the drawbacks.
“Some in the Conservative Party have never given up their anti-European stance. At a time when the prosperity of all our constituents are in danger I think this is a terrible distraction.
“We’re teetering on the edge of a major economic collapse and it seems to me totally inappropriate to have this vote.
JASON McCARTNEY Colne Valley, Conservative
“We know from reading the Examiner that people feel disenfranchised.
“More than 100,000 people have signed the e-petition so we need to follow through on that.
“We had a referendum on the alternative vote where we had a big, open, honest debate. Having had that vote, the issue of the voting system has now been put to bed.
“Europe is a running issue and we need to have a big, honest, open debate in the country because there hasn’t been a vote on this since 1975.
“I will be voting for the motion and I want to see a referendum which would allow us to leave the EU, to stay in or to renegotiate our membership.
“The vast majority of people who were old enough to vote in the 1975 referendum said they voted to join the Common Market. That’s not what we have today.”
SIMON REEVELL, Dewsbury, Cons
“I told the whips last Wednesday that I would vote for the motion.
“Whichever way you look at it, opposing the motion is like saying ‘we know best’ and that people shouldn’t have a say.
“The difficulty with saying ‘now’s not the right time’ for a referendum is that there’s never going to be a time when there are no foreign policy issues and the economy is doing well.
“We should have the option of coming out completely, staying in or renegotiating.
“I don’t believe there are many who want nothing to do with Europe. We want a system where we can trade but we don’t have the Brussels side where we are bossed around.”
CRAIG WHITTAKER, Calder Valley, Cons
“I will be voting for the motion. I think we should be in Europe but not run by Europe.
“In the last 18 months I’ve had 300 constituents contact me about this issue and 100,000 people have signed the e-petition nationally.
“I’m in favour of staying in Europe but renegotiating our membership.
“The European human rights issue is the biggest one that people contact me about.
“Business people complain to me about the plethora of diktats about employment law that are strangling this nation.”