New details about the in/out referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union have emerged today, as Prime Minister David Cameron sets off on a whistle-stop tour to meet with his European counterparts.
The EU referendum bill, which the government will introduce in parliament today, includes the exact text that the electorate will be asked to vote on: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”
The bill will also repeat the Prime Minister’s commitment to hold a referendum by the end of 2017, but will not include an exact date for the vote.
Earlier this week, Number 10 also said the EU referendum bill would propose that the electorate that takes part in General Elections, rather than European parliament elections, would get the chance to go to the ballot box in an in/out referendum. The General Election voting franchise includes British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18, but excludes European nationals living in the UK.
A Downing Street spokesperson said today: “Over two years ago, the Prime Minister made a commitment to give the British people a very simple choice in an EU referendum. He made clear then that this should not be on the basis of the status quo, but on a reformed relationship with the EU that the PM is determined to deliver.”
While MPs in the House of Commons begin debating the referendum bill, however, the Prime Minister will be in the Hague meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before travelling to Paris to have talks with French President Francois Hollande. Tomorrow, Cameron will meet with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz in Warsaw before lunch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Number 10 has said that the trip is part of the Prime Minister’s efforts to meet one-on-one with each of his 27 European counterparts ahead of the European Council meeting in June. Cameron will seek support from different countries on specific policy area reforms, including limiting benefits for migrant workers, exempting the UK from further “ever-closer” integration and securing the single market.
The Prime Minister had planned on starting his so-called charm offensive in Copenhagen but the meeting was called off when Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that Denmark would hold its own elections next month.