Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Reading of the Bill

Well, HM was not kidding when she made it clear that "early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017". The Bill had its First Reading in the Commons today and will have its Second Reading on June 9.

The text of it is available on line and will be available together with whatever notes HMG thinks desirable in print tomorrow.

The Referendum will be called some time before December 31, 2017 (but we knew that). As far as I can see, the later it is, the better for us as the chances of us winning are slender in any case and are next to zero in the next year or so.

The question on the ballot paper will be: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” and I understand the UKIP Leader-for-Life-and-in-Perpetuity has already been making negative noises about that.
Farage, who is likely to play a leading role in the 'out' campaign, said the wording showed a pro-EU bias. "It is a simple straightforward, unambiguous question. That much is clear. However that Cameron is opting to give the pro-EU side the positive 'Yes' suggests strongly that his negotiations are so much fudge. He has already decided which way he wants the answer to be given, without a single power repatriated," he said.
Many of us sincerely hope that Mr Farage will not be playing a particularly leading role in the campaign and might even consider taking a back seat together with a few other politicians. On the whole, Mr Farage's credibility outside his cult is not particularly high and that is bound to reflect on the campaign.

As to the wording of the question, has Mr Farage forgotten the Scottish referendum, in which the NO side won decisively? However you phrase the question the pro-EU side will be defending the status quo and that is always a better position to have.

The other person who has been making stupid statements is the incoming First Minister of Scotland, one Nicola Sturgeon.
Describing the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against Scotland’s will as “democratically indefensible”, Sturgeon, who will succeed Alex Salmond as leader of the SNP next month, says that her party will table an amendment to any bill on an in/out referendum requiring that all four nations of the UK have to agree to withdrawal.
There has to be a limit to the SNP's refusal to acknowledge basic facts. The people of Scotland voted in a referendum to stay in the United Kingdom and they did so in the full knowledge that a forthcoming IN/OUT referendum on the EU will be taken on a national British level. There is no point in pretending that it was otherwise unless Ms Sturgeon wants to argue that the people of Scotland are, as a nation, uniquely stupid, something history does not bear her out on.

What will she do if in the UK referendum Scotland as a whole votes to leave the EU?

Moving along to other important issues, this is the definition of who will be entitled to vote:
Those entitled to vote in the referendum are —

(a) the persons who, on the date of the referendum, would be entitled to vote as electors at a parliamentary election in any constituency,

(b) the persons who, on that date, are disqualified by reason of being peers from voting as electors at parliamentary elections but —

(i) would be entitled to vote as electors at a local government election in any electoral area in Great Britain,

(ii) would be entitled to vote as electors at a local election in any district electoral area in Northern Ireland, or

(iii) would be entitled to vote as electors at a European Parliamentary election in any electoral region by virtue of section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1985 (peers resident outside the United Kingdom), and

(c) Commonwealth citizens who, on the date of the referendum, would be entitled to vote in Gibraltar as electors at a European Parliamentary election in the combined electoral region in which Gibraltar is comprised.
For the time being that should reassure those people who were desperately worried that EU citizens would be able to vote as they are entitled to vote in local elections, thanks to the Maastricht Treaty, though there is no particular evidence that many or even any of them do exercise that right.

The only people who will be allowed to vote in the referendum though they are disqualified from voting in the General Election are peers of the realm and, surely, nobody is against that. However, I have no doubt that there will be an attempt to bring in amendments to include other categories who are disqualified from voting in the GE but are allowed to vote in local and European elections.

There is a good deal of discussion about funding and expenses but, so far as I can see, no definite figures are mentioned, presumably because a sum designated now might not seem to be adequate in two years' time. There will, however, be some government money (well, all right, taxpayers' money) allocated to both sides of the campaign with the Electoral Commission deciding who is in the lead and who should be awarded that sum.

Other expenses will have to be raised and punctiliously accounted for. Well, fairly punctiliously. Past experience tells us that neither individuals nor organizations that are funded by the EU in some form or another, such as our many large NGOs, will see any need to inform the public of that fact or to add their expenses to that of the YES campaign. That will be our task and it will not be an easy one.


  1. As usual the europhiles (or IN-CONTINENTS as somebody called them) will have much larger funds. However, money is not all. One example was the Swedish EURO referendum which was won by the side that had something like a fifth (most likely much less, but the punctilious accounting was not so very punctilious) of the funding of the opponent.


    1. No, money is not all. Better arguments would work as well if not better but, at present, we do not have them properly worked out. That, too, is our task and, probably, the most difficult one.

  2. As I said over at Brietbart, the question suits me. I've voted “No” four times over the last 20 years. Being on the “Yes” side would feel very strange.

    “unless Ms Sturgeon wants to argue that the people of Scotland are, as a nation, uniquely stupid”

    It's one of the oddities of politics that its practitioners often are prepared to argue that their supporters are stupid. (The classic example being Al Gore in Florida back in 2000, whose case seemed to hinge on the idea that the people who wanted to vote for him were too dumb to know how.)

    No doubt there will be limits on campaign expenditure. But that won't stop hordes of Eurocrats coming over to earnestly discuss the evils and torment that will befall Britain should it vote “No” on TV.

    1. Eurocrats are not as much of a problem as, say, Friends of the Earth or suchlike organizations. Eurocrats might try to scare everyone but we all know who they are and who pays them. With the NGOs the matter of funding is far more opaque.