PRIME Minister David Cameron has ruled out May 5 2016 as a date for the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, which would have coincided with devolved parliament elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The date had been proposed as a possibility, depending on the speed with which negotiations between the UK government and the EU proceed, but was opposed by both the electoral commission, Labour and the SNP, and Euro sceptics in the conservative party.
Alex Salmond had described the possibility as an attempt to “hijack the Scottish elections.”
The bill preparing the way for the referendum will now explicitly rule out that date, as Cameron attempts to cool the heels of the anti-EU wing of his party, who have threatened to overturn his referendum bill in Parliament.
Of particular concern to the sceptics is the possibility of government spending on pro-EU material, and the use of the traditional ‘purdah’ period – where government business effectively closes down before elections – for campaigning.
As the referendum would be an extraordinary vote, the government argues that ministers and civil servants would have to be able to comment on EU matters in the run up to the referendum.