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

Neglected issues in the EU Referendum Bill

Credit: Quinn DombrowskiProfessor Richard Rose, Director of the Centre for the Study of Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, explores unresolved issues in relation to the EU referendum bill, including voting thresholds and prospective timelines of reform and EU negotiations.


Will there be a turnout threshold making the referendum decisive?

At the UK’s 2014 European Parliament (EP) election turnout was 35.6 percent and at the 2015 British general election it was 66.2 percent.

Turnout at EU referendums across Europe normally falls between an EP and a national election. This implies a likely UK turnout of around 51 percent. If this occurred, the referendum majority would be little more than one-quarter of the British electorate.

On issues of constitutional importance most democratic countries introduce special requirements to secure broader commitment. In the 1979 referendum on devolution to Scotland endorsement by 40 percent of the registered electorate was required to secure approval. Although a majority approved on a turnout of 63 percent, devolution failed since less than a third of the Scottish electorate approved the Act. Continue reading