David Cameron has been warned by Britain’s elections watchdog to avoid going for an early EU referendum because it is such an “important constitutional issue”, as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to tell the Prime Minister that Scotland will not be dragged out of Europe “against our will”. Allies of the PM are urging him to hold the vote on the same day as the local and European elections on 5 May 2016, to use the momentum for reform in Brussels and capitalise on his post-election honeymoon. But a report by the Electoral Commission warns that holding the plebiscite on the same day as other elections would confuse voters and fail to allow enough time to debate the issues of the referendum. It also says there should be a period of at least six months between the referendum legislation being finalised and the date of the poll.
The report will be welcomed by Eurosceptic Tory MPs, who want the referendum to be held later, possibly close to the deadline of 2017, to give enough time to expose what they see are the dangers of remaining in the EU.
Others, including George Osborne, also want a later vote to enable Mr Cameron to be given enough time to secure meaningful reform from Brussels to campaign for a credible Yes vote to remain in the EU.