LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party should run its own campaign to persuade Britons to remain inside the European Union, lawmaker Andy Burnham, frontrunner to become the party’s new leader, said on Wednesday.
After securing an outright parliamentary election win in May, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe before putting its membership of the 28-country bloc to a public vote before the end of 2017.
Cameron has said he wants to stay within a reformed EU, but has not ruled out campaigning for an exit if renegotiation does not yield the changes he wants.
Burnham is most bookmakers’ favorite to succeed Ed Miliband, who resigned after Labour’s election defeat. On Wednesday he said the party should run its own ‘Yes’ campaign rather than a joint campaign with others.
“It is my intention to have a separate ‘Labour Yes’ campaign,” Burham said in remarks released by his office. “Even though Labour is in a leadership campaign, I am not going to let the EU debate be defined by David Cameron.”
Burham said it was necessary to heed the lessons of last year’s Scottish independence referendum, when Labour joined forces with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to campaign against Scotland becoming an independent country.
The decision to campaign alongside other parties alienated some of Labour’s core voters in Scotland and is seen as a factor behind the rise of the Scottish National Party, which took 40 previously Labour-held seats at the election.
Labour is due to announce its new leader on Sept. 12.
Reporting by William James; editing by John Stonestreet