David Cameron has accepted a recommendation by the Electoral Commission to change the wording of the EU referendum question to avoid favouring the pro-EU side. Downing Street has announced that the government will table an amendment to the EU referendum bill to reflect the new wording. The move by No 10 means that voters will be asked whether Britain should remain a member of the EU or whether the UK should leave the EU. The government had intended to ask voters simply whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, prompting the Electoral Commission to warn that this could favour the status quo in the referendum. The prime minister’s spokeswoman said: “We will follow the recommendation of the Electoral Commission by tabling an amendment to the bill. The government’s approach has been to follow the Electoral Commission’s advice.” The move means that, unlike the Scottish referendum, there will not be a yes and a no campaign. Instead, there will be a campaign to remain in the EU and a campaign to leave.
The question currently in the bill that was tested by the watchdog was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” The responses would have been yes or no.
Following its assessment process, the commission has recommended that the question should be amended to: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The responses would be: “Remain a member of the European Union” or: “Leave the European Union”.
The commission has written to the government and issued a briefing to all MPs recommending that this change should be made at report stage of the bill on 7 September.