LONDON (Reuters) - The opposition Labour Party will run a separate campaign to keep Britain inside the EU when the country holds a referendum on the issue, the party said on Tuesday, ruling out sharing a platform with Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.
After securing an outright parliamentary election win in May, Cameron plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with European Union 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.
Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn said that regardless of which side Cameron decides to fight for, he would not campaign alongside the Prime Minister.
“What everyone agrees on is there will be a distinct Labour ‘Yes’ campaign,” Benn told the Daily Mirror newspaper.
He said the decision did not rule out taking part in the official pro-EU campaign, which has yet to be formed.
“We don’t yet know what the (official) Yes campaign is going to be. That decision is for later, it’s not for now. But I‘m not going to be standing on a platform with David Cameron.”
Benn’s stance reflects Labour’s desire to learn the lessons of last year’s Scottish independence referendum, when it joined forces with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to campaign against Scotland becoming an independent country.
The decision to work 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 and contributed to their heavy defeat.
Reporting by William James; editing by Michael Holden