Thursday

21st Jan 2021

Cameron faces rebellion over referendum rules

  • Cameron would like to use his government's position to campaign for taying in the EU (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

UK prime minister David Cameron is braced for a rebellion from eurosceptic Tory MPs, as his government’s amendments to the EU referendum bill are challenged in the first sitting of the House of Commons after the summer break on Monday.

At least 40 backbench tories are unhappy with tweaks and want ministers to stop talking about EU membership in the four-week run-up to the vote.

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Cameron already offered concessions last week, including backing down over its attempt to abolish the so-called “purdah” rule forbidding the government from spending money or using officials to campaign to stay in the EU in the 28 days leading up to the referendum.

Backbenchers argue that the public won’t see the results from the referendum legitimate if they think the government machinery was put to work for the “in” campaign.

The government had already agreed last week to change the wording of the question in the referendum the country’s electoral watchdog said the original wording was biased towards remaining in the bloc.

Originally the government planned for voters to answer a simple “Yes”, or “No” to whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, but changed it to ask whether the UK should remain a member of or leave the EU.

The referendum is expected to be held in the summer or autumn of 2016.

The rebellion comes as new polls suggest Britons who favor leaving the bloc are in a slight majority.

The Survation poll found that if the referendum were held now, 43 percent of the people would want to leave the EU, 40 % would want to stay in and 17 percent are undecided.

The poll also suggested that the anxiety over the migration crisis fuels euroscepticism with 22 percent of those voting to stay in the EU could switch if the “migrant crisis gets worse”.

David Cameron is expected to outline the UK’s plan on taking in refugees on Monday.

The prime minister opposed granting refuge to people as it argued it would encourage migrants to cross to Europe and to the UK. His U-turn came after photographs of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Mediterranean beach were released.

On Sunday chancellor George Osborne said the international aid budget would be use to help councils house refugees.

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