14 Mar 2016

The EU Referendum Question

I am writing this on the day the Green Party launches its GREENS FOR A BETTER EUROPE campaign.

The Green Party believes that Europe could be a much better force for good if there are various reforms.  But how much will the voters be able to qualify their answer in the referendum? It would seem not at all.

According to the Guardian the referendum question is:
 “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” 
Voters can choose between two responses:

    Remain a member of the European Union.
    Leave the European Union.

The somewhat wordy question is designed to avoid any confusion if, for example, voters do not know whether the UK is already a member of the EU. It also avoids the positive connotations of a “yes” answer. The Electoral Commission was criticised by some experts for allowing a yes/no question in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Nowhere can we say that we would like to stay in, but seek various reforms.
Nowhere does it say that we dis/believe David Cameron got a good deal for the UK or that we support his views of Europe.
Nowhere does it say what the alternative will be.

There are 5 main alternatives according to the Economist:
  • to join the European Economic Area, a solution adopted by all but one of the European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) states that did not join the EU. But the EEA now consists of just one small country, Norway, and two tiddlers, Iceland and Liechtenstein
  • to try to emulate Switzerland, the remaining EFTA country. It is not in the EEA but instead has a string of over 20 major and 100 minor bilateral agreements with the EU
  • to seek to establish a customs union with the EU, as Turkey has done, or at least to strike a deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement
  • simply to rely on normal World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for access to the EU market
  • preferred by most Eurosceptics, is to negotiate a special deal for Britain alone that retains free trade with the EU but avoids the disadvantages of the other models, but it would be extremly hard or even impossible to negotiate this in an atmosphere, post-Brexit, that would hardly be a warm 
 So without declaring what the alternative will be, the Referendum question falls far short of clarity.

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