Entry 7

The wording of the in/out question has changed

Elections are democracy’s moment of changing direction and this means that signposts along the way are scrutinised for biases favouring one destination rather than another.

The UK’s Electoral Commission has declared (1.9.15) that the wording of the question in the national referendum about in or out of the EU could be seen as biased towards the status quo of staying inside. See this BBC news account

So the Commission recommended that the wording proposed by David Cameron’s government – “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” – be extended to include a reference to leaving the EU.

The government has accepted this and the question is now: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

This formulation does not allow a “yes/no” response and so the box of choice to tick has become either:

“Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.

The government accepted the changes the same day the Commission published them but the final decision will be made by Parliament. Expect more debate about signposting.

Those wanting out of the EU were also quick off the mark. Arch Europhobe and leader of UK Independence Party is Nigel Farage and he said:

“I’m in no doubt that the Yes/No offering was leading to great confusion and that Remain or Leave is much clearer. That, combined with a more explicit question, is the right direction of travel.”

The Electoral Commission recommended the rewording after consulting members of the public, campaigners and academics.

The vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union is due to take place before the end of 2017 but many believe that it will happen next year.

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