Monday, 7 October 2013

The Referendum On European Union Membership Will Be In 2014

This summer has seen James Wharton, the Conservative MP for Stockton South, introduce his European Union (Referendum) Bill, and, as the text makes clear, if passed, it would require a referendum to be held on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.

And this weekend saw Adam Afriye, the Conservative MP for Windsor, tell the Mail on Sunday that he intends to try to amend Wharton's Bill to bring the referendum forward to October 2014.

Now, the date I have heard is Thursday 23 October - just 5 weeks after after the Scottish independence referendum. Hmm, great move getting politicians campaigning simulateneously in two referendums.

Scotland does raise an interesting set of questions. If Scotland votes to become independent, then will the franchise of the EU referendum be altered to exclude Scotland? What if it isn't, and the outcome depends on the Scottish votes? - cue the cries of "England voted to leave, and we have to stay in due to the Scottish votes". There is the issue of whether a Scotland that becomes independent from a EU member nation is automatically an EU member nation upon independence - if so, then what if Scotland becomes independent from a nation that is in the process of leaving the EU, or even from one that has unilaterally left?

There is a political condition called oppositionitis - this can affect parties that form the formal Opposition, as they can make policies and promises that they will not be able to introduce, but which sound good. The Liberal Democrats have nearly been cured of this by the discipline of being in Government.

Oppositionitist can strike Government backbench MPs just as badly when they become an informal Opposition.

With that out of the way, I was surprised to learn via a letter in the local paper that there is a referendum next year:

As for the Euro elections next year, to us in UKIP, they are a referendum on leaving the EU.

Thus spake the Secretary of UKIP's Southampton branch.

Well, actually in May 2014 we are voting on who the 73 Members of the European Parliament representing the United Kingdom will be.

But let's take UKIP at their word. There are two positions - leaving the EU or staying in (which can range from wanting to be part of an "ever closer union" to a reformed, post-negotiation EU). Note that UKIP are not saying it's a referendum on what type of EU, but on whether to leave it.

Despite different visions on the EU's future, the main parties (which UKIPpers tediously refer to as "LibLabCon" on the comments section in the Daily Mail) are generally - with exceptions from some politicians - in favour of remaining in the EU.

Therefore, every vote for the Conservatives, for Labour, for the Liberal Democrats, as well as for the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and some other parties, is a vote to stay in. Remember, UKIPpers, you said this was a referendum.

So, as this is to be treated as a referendum, UKIP and others opposed to EU membership need to return 37 MEPs or more to have won the referendum. If they fail to achieve this, then - again as this is to be treated as a referendum - we can say that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to remain in the EU.

Sorry, you can't have it both ways. If you want it to be treated as a referendum, then you have to accept that whichever side of the EU debate returns 37 or more MEPs has won.

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