Tag Archives: European Union

Why Cameron cannot have a Referendum in this Parliament

23 Jan
Twickenham United Kingdom

Twickenham United Kingdom (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you can not of missed it. Today David Cameron promised an In or Out referendum on our membership of the EU. This is promised by the end of 2017 at the latest, 5 years, but there is one condition. The Conservatives must win the next general election. I assume this is a clear majority, not a coalition as we have now. For the situation now is why we have to wait so long for this promised referendum.

2017 does sound a way off but lets quick look at the context. The current parliament was elected in 2010, and with the introduction of the  Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011 mandate that the election will be held on 7 May 2015 (except in the event of a collapse of the coalition or a two-thirds majority of MPs voting for an early election). So now the end of 2017 from the next general election is only 2 and half years (longest wait situation).  If we look at last referendum in the UK, the Alternative Vote in 2011, the journey from presentation before the House of Commons and people voting roughly one year, with the legislative process taking 7 months. If we use this time frame as a guide, that gives Cameron upto one and half years space to work. One and half years to write, plan and consult.

Returning to the topic at hand, this can not happen in this parliament. The Conservative Party is generally eurosceptic, whilst the Liberal Democrats are europhile. In addition, Labour and the Liberal Democrats do not support or see the need to hold a referendum on the EU, as they believe it is a good thing. With both parties together holding a majority, the required legislation to carry out the referendum would never pass in the house. You need to pass a bill to hold a referendum and Nick Clegg would order his troops to vote against it, in spite of the manifesto promises made at the last election by the Liberal Democrats.

So unless there is a position reversal by Labour (unlikely) or the Liberal Democrats (and pigs may fly…), it would fail before it even started. Therefore we can not have a referendum vote on our EU membership in this parliament.