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You'll get a referendum on the EU - but you won't: Labour's confusing position

Ed Miliband has pledged an EU referendum if there is a 'transfer of power' from Westminster to Brussels. Photo: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Confused by Labour's pledge to have a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU?

You are not alone.

Ed Miliband is this morning setting out his party's position on this contentious matter. He will pledge to have a referendum.

Except the conditions which will trigger that are very unlikely to materialise.

So he is effectively pledging NOT to have a referendum.

Which explains some of the confusing headlines you may have read in this morning's newspapers.

His new position is just like his previous one: we won't have a referendum on the European Union unless the EU demands more of a say over what the UK government can or can't do.

That would require a new European treaty. And the direction of travel in Europe right now (particularly for non-members of the euro) is towards autonomy for national governments.

So will we get an in/out referendum under a Labour government? Unlikely.

The reason for spelling out the position today is to allay fears in the business community where David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum in 2017 has created uncertainty among some investors.

Lord Mandelson called Ed Miliband's pledge 'a game-changer' Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Archive/Press Association Images

That 2017 referendum promise (if Mr Cameron is returned to Number 10 and if he has a majority of his own) has made the prospect of an EU exit a reality.

So Mr Miliband's pledge to those business leaders is "you won't have that uncertainty under a Labour government".

But he also knows that message will be very unpopular with voters who - as polls show - would very much like to have a say on Britain's membership of the EU.

That's is how Labour ended up in this confusing place.

Where it will now tell voters on the doorstep that they WILL get a referendum if Ed Miliband is Prime Minister.

Although in reality, they won't.

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