Saturday

25th May 2019

EU referendum bill defeated in UK parliament

  • Kicked into the long grass - for now. The House of Lords has blocked a bill guaranteeing a referendum on EU membership (Photo: ukhouseoflords)

Plans to put an UK referendum on EU membership into law have been dashed after the House of Lords voted to block the bill by 180 votes to 130.

A bill by Conservative MP James Wharton had proposed to guarantee a public vote on the UK's EU membership in 2017.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to re-negotiate the UK's membership terms if his party, which currently dominates a governing coalition with the pro-European Liberal Democrats, wins the next election in 2015.

However, peers voted on Friday (31 January) to end the committee stage of the legislation, meaning that, with just a week before the end of the current parliamentary session, it has run out of time to get through.

The Lords had already backed amendments to change the proposed question of the referendum and to force the government to prepare an assessment of what the UK's relationship with the rest of the EU would look like if it withdrew from the bloc prior to the referendum.

Although the legislation was not an official government bill it was approved by MPs in the House of Commons, where the Conservative party is just a handful of seats short of an overall majority. However, Labour and Liberal Democrat peers, whose parties oppose a referendum, were able to form a blocking majority in the Lords.

"Labour and the Lib Dems have conspired in the House of Lords to kill this important piece of legislation, doing the bidding of their political masters in the Commons," said Wharton in a statement following the vote.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that the collapse of the bill would not bring an end to the referendum debate.

Speaking at a joint press conference following talks on defence co-operation with French President Francois Hollande, Cameron said that the vote made "no difference to the pledge I am making on this in-out referendum."

"As Labour and the Lib Dems have killed the Wharton Bill, the one way to guarantee a referendum is to vote Conservative at the Gen Election," he wrote in a message on Twitter.

Meanwhile, there is still a possibility that the Conservatives could attempt to re-introduce the bill in the autumn, although it would be likely to face further delaying tactics.

UK's EU referendum moves a step closer

Britain has taken another step towards an in/out referendum on EU membership after MPs unanimously approved a bill to do it by the end of 2017.

EUobserved

Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'

The victory of the Dutch EU commissioner is news across the EU, yet the Netherlands is not allowed to publish the official result until Sunday evening.

EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'

EU leaders praised Theresa May's commitment to deliver an orderly Brexit - while they now brace themselves for an even more eurosceptic British prime minister.

Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?

This is a political crisis unprecedented in Austria since the war: the resignation of the vice-chancellor, firing of the interior minister, the mass resignation of FPO ministers, a snap election, and a no-confidence vote in the Austrian parliament on Monday.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  2. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  3. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  4. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  5. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  6. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  7. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'
  8. EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us