الخميس , مايو 20 2021

UK vote on EU ‘will not be on 5 May’

Union flag and EU flag

The referendum on whether or not the UK should remain in the European Union will not take place on 5 May next year, the government says.

Ministers tabled an amendment to the EU referendum bill on Monday evening, ruling out a vote on that date.

A Downing Street spokesman said the move was a concession to MPs’ concerns.

The government is also expected to address concerns over the “purdah” period, which restricts campaigning before a referendum is held.

Speaking after the amendment was tabled on Monday, the Number 10 spokesman said: “We have listened to the views expressed by MPs across the house and decided that we won’t hold the referendum on 5 May 2016.”

That date is the same day elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies are being held, along with the London mayoral election.

Elections will also be held that day in 126 English local authorities, and all Welsh and Scottish councils.

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Analysis

By BBC Newsnight’s Allegra Stratton and James Clayton

There had been a move among the prime minister’s team to bring the poll forward.

Downing Street advisers argued that staging the referendum poll on the same day as next year’s local and mayoral elections could drive up turnout for the referendum among some of Britain’s most pro-European regions.

They also wanted the prime minister to stage an early referendum to allow the Conservative party to capitalise on goodwill, after winning its first majority in 23 years.

Eurosceptic MPs were dismayed at the idea, believing the prime minister was trying to rush the process.

Opposition politicians, including the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond, argued that such an important decision should not be held on the same day as other elections.

Read more on this here

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Downing Street has also said the government will “seek to address” the concerns of Tory Eurosceptics who have tabled amendments to the EU Referendum Bill to reinstate the “purdah” period.

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 set out a 28-day period ahead of a referendum, during which ministers, government departments and local authorities are banned from publishing material relating to the issue in question.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has said this would mean ministers were barred from speaking about European court decisions and the EU budget.

He has also said the government will not be “neutral” when it comes to the in/out referendum.

Eurosceptic former cabinet minister Owen Paterson said it would be “unacceptable” for the government to use public money to promote a vote to stay in the EU.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron wanted the ability to publish material but was not seeking to “overly influence” the outcome of the campaign.

Last week, MPs overwhelmingly backed plans for a referendum, allowing the legislation to move to the next stage of its progress through Parliament.

It still has several more stages to pass through, however.

It enters its Committee stage on Tuesday, during which it will be debated in detail by the whole of the House of Commons.

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EU referendum in focus

Flags at EC building

David Cameron is starting renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s EU membership ahead of a referendum. Here is some further reading on what it all means:

QA: The UK’s planned EU referendum

UK and the EU: Better off out or in?

What Britain wants from Europe

Timeline: EU referendum debate

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