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20 Labour MPs turn on Ed Miliband over refusal to hold EU referendum

New campaign group, Labour for a Referendum, puts pressure on Labour leader to offer an in-out vote on Europe

Ed Miliband is facing a rebellion by 20 of his MPs against his policy to rule out a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

In a sign of growing unease with his leadership, a group of Miliband’s backbenchers have signed up to a new campaign, Labour for a Referendum, to be launched this week. They want to force Miliband to do a U-turn on his refusal to offer the British people an in-out referendum. Labour’s policy is to only offer a vote to the public if there is a significant treaty change that transfers further sovereignty to the EU.

A number of Labour MPs are understood to be growing disillusioned with Miliband, with a YouGov poll last week suggesting 50% see him as out of touch, dithering, weak or unclear on what he stands for.

The Labour for a Referendum campaign is being bankrolled by Labour donor John Mills, who last week caused a headache for Miliband by suggesting he is “policy light”. Mills declined to name the MPs who have signed up, but added that a “number of people in senior position in the Labour party are fairly sympathetic”. The founder of TV shopping firm JML, who donated £1.65m in shares to the party this year, Mills said he believed he would add to the 20 MPs supporting him, although he insisted that he was loyal to Miliband as a leader.

He said: “We only started in March. I think we will be able to get the number up. I think to have got this far as quickly as we have is really quite encouraging. There are clearly a number of people in senior positions in the Labour party who are fairly sympathetic. They haven’t signed up to Labour for a Referendum, but they are fairly sympathetic to what we are saying.”

Mills said that there was an ongoing internal debate within the party.

He said: “People can change their minds, circumstances can change. I think there is going to be quite a compelling argument for Labour strategists as we get into the next election. If Labour is dead against having a referendum and the Conservatives are dedicated to having one, this could switch quite a lot of votes at the last minute.”

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