EU referendum question faces scrapheap over bias fears

EU flag by MPD01605

The referendum question on Britain’s membership of the EU will likely be revised over concerns from the Electoral Commission that the outcome of the vote might be seen as illegitimate.

The Tory government agreed on Tuesday that the current question – “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” – should be amended with the phrase “or leave the European Union”, thus avoiding a “Yes or No” vote.

Instead voters will be asked to select from the two options: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”, removing the perceived advantage for the pro-EU “Yes” campaign.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission said:

“Any referendum question must be as clear as possible so that voters understand the important choice they are being asked to make. We have tested the proposed question with voters and received views from potential campaigners, academics and plain language experts.”

Whilst voters understood the question in the Bill some campaigners and members of the public feel the wording is not balanced and there was a perception of bias. The alternative question we have recommended addresses this. It is now for Parliament to discuss our advice and decide which question wording should be used.’

Whilst parliament has yet to approve the recommendation, it will likely come as a boon to eurosceptics campaigning to sever close links with the continent, including Ukip which revealed today it would be forming it’s own campaign on the side formerly known as “No”.

During the Scottish referendum last year many felt being able to choose “Yes” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country” had more of a feel-good factor than “No”.

That question was put forward after much musing by the Electoral Commission, a previous proposal having been “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”, which was perceived by test subjects as being biased in favour of a “Yes” vote.

Image Credit – EU flag by MPD01605

Jimmy Nicholls

Jimmy Nicholls

Writer on Westminster, free speech, religion and so forth. Contact jimmy.nicholls@rightdishonourable.com

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