Durham academic wins EU referendum change
(2 September 2015)
David Cameron’s government has claimed the EU referendum question for next year’s vote should be ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’ This question was presented in a draft European Union Referendum Bill in Parliament.
This was reviewed by the Electoral Commission to consider its wording and general suitability. In a surprise announcement, the Commission published its final report on 1 September and recommends several changes. They were convinced by critics who argued the current wording was not neutral and should be amended.
One of the critics that won over the Electoral Commission is Durham University’s Professor Thom Brooks, one of only two academics quoted in the Commission’s report. Professor Brooks claimed the wording was inconsistent with other recent referendum questions like the vote on AV nationally and the independence vote in Scotland. He successfully argued that in both cases a vote for ‘yes’ was for changes and ‘no’ was for no change. The problem that the current question had this in reverse. This might create confusion and should be corrected.
The Electoral Commission agreed. Their recommendation is that the final EU referendum question becomes ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ Their proposed choices for voters is no longer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’.
Professor Brooks said: ‘I’m delighted to see the Electoral Commission make these recommendations. This is an important vote and it’s crucial to get the referendum question right. It’s now up to the government to take the next step. But I expect they’ll endorse these recommendations in full.”