* Labour won't match Cameron's promise of in/out EU vote
* Opposition, leading in polls, wants EU reform not exit
* Europe could damage Conservatives at 2015 election
By Peter Griffiths
BRIGHTON, England, Sept 24 Britain's Labour
Party said on Tuesday it won't match Prime Minister David
Cameron's promise of a vote on its European Union membership for
now, ending high-level debate over changing its stance to
wrong-foot the Conservatives before the election.
The decision leaves Cameron's Conservatives, who trail
Labour in the polls, as the only big party currently committed
to an in/out vote, provided they are returned to power in 2015.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who made no mention of Europe in
an hour-long speech to his party's conference, has resisted
calls from a Labour minority to support an in/out vote.
"(We) are very, very committed to the position we have,"
Labour's Europe spokeswoman Emma Reynolds told a conference
meeting about Britain's EU future.
"If we were to change, it would look incredibly cynical at
this stage. It would look weak because it would look like we
were being pushed into it," she said.
Under pressure from Conservative eurosceptics and anti-EU
rivals, Cameron said in January he would seek a new EU deal for
Britain and hold a membership referendum by the end of 2017.
If it wins the 2015 election, Labour has already said it
will keep an existing British law that requires a referendum to
authorise any big power transfer caused by EU treaty changes.
Before the conference, reports in London and Brussels citing
unnamed Labour sources had said the party was considering an
early in/out poll to upset Cameron's plans and avoid accusations
it doesn't trust voters to have their say.
A senior Labour source confirmed there had been no policy
change. Labour, split over Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, is now
Polls suggest Britons would vote to leave the EU by a narrow
margin if a referendum were held now. Critics say the bloc has
become too powerful since Britain joined in 1973 and now
threatens their sovereignty.
Labour foreign affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander said
there had been discussion of a referendum at a senior level, but
the leadership favours EU reform from the inside rather than
talk of leaving the bloc.
"The luxury of discussion is different from the
responsibility of decision," he told a conference meeting.
"Those people within Labour who've argued for a referendum
overwhelmingly see it as a means of refreshing consent rather
than securing an exit. That's pretty different from the
Miliband's focus on the economy rather than Europe could
store up tactical problems for the future, analysts said.
"For all of Cameron's leadership problems, the Conservatives
look like they are leading on the Europe issue, while Labour
looks like it is simply dodging it," said Mujtaba Rahman, a
director at Eurasia Group, a research company.