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Note: A referendum on the UKs membership of the European Union will take place on Thursday, 23rd June 2016. Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce has adopted a neutral stance in the debate and as a result will not be campaigning for either the 'remain' or 'leave' campaigns.

REFERENDUM ON THE UKs MEMBERSHIP OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

THE EU DEAL

On the 19th February, the Prime Minister, David Cameron said he had reached a deal to reform the nature of the UK’s relationship with the European Union. The Prime Minister said he had secured a commitment for more economic competitiveness; an opt out for Britain from the commitment to “ever closer union”; the right of national parliaments to halt EU legislation (if 15 out of the 28 member states agree); the right of the UK to force a debate among EU leaders about “problem” Eurozone laws; and reductions on some welfare payments to non-UK nationals. The Prime Minister says that the reform package will take effect if the UK votes to remain a member of the European Union.

THE REFERENDUM

The referendum will take place on Thursday, 23rd June 2016. The question on the ballot paper will be:

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

There will be two boxes:

  • Remain a member of the EU
  • Leave the EU

Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce will continue to regularly update its members as more information is made available by Parliament, (e.g. select committee evidence sessions, debates and so on). Please visit this page and the website for further updates.

ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE

The electorate will consist of registered voters (18 and over) in the United Kingdom, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK and UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than fifteen years. There will be no vote for EU citizens living in the UK except for those from Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.

CAMPAIGN RULES

The Electoral Commission will determine the one official campaign for each side. The campaign is expected to last 10 weeks, but the exact duration will be determined by the Electoral Commission. Any citizen can spend up to £10,000 on the campaign, but those who spend over this amount must be registered with the Electoral Commission. The lead campaign groups for each side are allowed to spend £7m, against £5m for other designated organisations. The government will also give each side £600,000 of administration grants plus a television broadcast and a mailshot to every household. Political parties can spend up to £5m each depending on their vote share at the last general election.

FOLLOWING THE VOTE

If the UK votes to “remain” in the EU, the Government will take action to ensure the EU reforms are enacted. If the UK votes to “leave” the EU, then nothing will change in our relationship with the EU immediately following the vote. The referendum result is not legally binding – parliament still has to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and ratify a withdrawal agreement with the EU which will take at least two years to complete. The Prime Minister is not obliged to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which sets out the procedure to be followed if a country wishes to leave the EU – however, he has committed to invoking Article 50 in the event of a “leave” vote. The Article 50 process starts with a statement from the Prime Minister to the European Council, then a negotiation begins, with the 27 continuing members on one side of the table and the UK on the other – the UK is not privy to the discussions amongst the other 27 members. For a deal to be done, both sides need to agree. Agreement is not necessary for the UK to leave the EU.

KEY DATES

  • May 5 – Scottish, Welsh, London Mayoralty and Local elections
  • May 18 - Queen's Speech
  • May 27 – Purdah process begins
  • June 23 – Referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU