Improving the EU Referendum Bill: A Contribution from the House of Lords

HoLDavid Hannay, member of the House of Lords and former Ambassador to the EU, reviews the progress of the EU Referendum Bill so far and comments on the amendments made by the House of Lords.

On 1 December the House of Lords gave the Government’s EU Referendum Bill its third reading and returned it in amended form to the House of Commons. There is no reason therefore why the Bill should not be on the statute book by the end of the year, thus clearing the way for an in/out referendum to be held at a time of the Government’s choosing before the end of 2017, more likely some time in 2016. Continue reading

Britain’s EU referendum: the pre-referendum campaign, so far

blank pageThe debate on European issues in the UK has certainly gained momentum since the outcome of the 7 May general election made it a racing certainty that there would be an ‘in/out’ referendum before the end of 2017, most likely on a date still to be determined in 2016.  David Hannay, member of the House of Lords and former Ambassador to the EU, reviews the pre-referendum campaign so far.

Some of the main battle-lines have already become discernible.  But so far the debate is no more than that; it falls far short of the sort of all-out campaign which can be expected before the vote.

Why is that? Well, first there are a number of technical, electoral law considerations relating to finance and other matters which discourage any premature formal campaign activity; and in any case neither side of the argument has yet settled on the shape and composition of the main campaigning organisations. More significantly neither of the two main political parties, Conservative and Labour, have yet decided how they are going to campaign. That both these parties will be to some extent split when a real campaign does start is not seriously in doubt, and it is already possible to make an informed guess as to who will be campaigning for a ‘yes’ to remaining in the EU and who for a ‘no’. But on the Conservative side much will depend on the negotiations in Brussels which the government has engaged and whose outcome will only be known at the end of this year at the very earliest, probably rather later. And on the Labour side everything, this issue included, is shrouded in the fog of battle which surrounds the leadership succession. Of the smaller parties there is no doubt how the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party will line up; but in Northern Ireland the implications for the Good Friday agreement of Britain finding itself outside the European Union could produce a rather difference approach than was the case in 1975. Continue reading

Early Steps on the Long Road to the Brexit Referendum

Swee Leng Harris and Justine Stefanelli, Research Fellows in Law at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, take a look at the diverging attitudes within the Conservative Party towards EU membership and reform, and how some of these are directly at odds with those of party leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron. How might this lack of internal agreement impact on the Conservative Party both domestically in the referendum campaign, and internationally when negotiating with other EU member states?

Political parties in the UK, and the different interests within those parties, are starting to clarify their positions for the in-out EU referendum, and the arguments that will be ubiquitous throughout the upcoming campaign are beginning to materialize. This is especially important for parliamentarians who will need to align themselves with differing and specific positions. Among the first viewpoints to emerge are those from three Conservative MPs who put their views forward in a publication for Politeia entitled ‘Britain and the EU: What Must Change?’. Speaking at a launch event on 18 June 2015, Bernard Jenkin, the Rt Hon John Redwood and Sir Bill Cash called for fundamental changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU. The one hour launch event organised by Politeia and held in the Houses of Parliament was attended by politicians, Westminster insiders, journalists and civil society. The three authors each spoke in some detail, advocating for the need for fundamental changes as set out in the publication, followed by a brief period for questions from the audience.

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