Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a wave of rebellion from his Conservative party members who claim the rules surrounding the EU referendum are rigged.
According to the Telegraph newspaper’s Whitehall sources,
around 50 Conservative MPs are looking to push for the Prime Minister to apply new rules that stop the government from being able to publish reports or even talk about the EU referendum in the last few weeks before voting, in a bid to stop “bias.”
This course of action is actually called a “purdah” and is applied to the British pre-election period. A purdah is usually applied around 6 weeks before the scheduled election and it prevents central and local government officials from making announcements about any new initiatives which could be seen to be putting one person or a party in a more favourable light.
Ministers argue that without a purdah in place for the EU referendum, the government’s planned pro-EU reports to be published around 28 days before the voting date, could unfairly sway opinion so close to the vote.
Former Tory cabinet minister Owen Paterson waded into the argument and told the BBC on Sunday that Cameron should allow a 28 day “purdah” period to ensure the EU referendum is fair.
“This is a heartfelt plea to the Government: if it is seen to be rigged, if the British people don’t think it’s fair, then whatever the result it won’t be seen to be legitimate and this whole issue will fester further,” said Paterson on the Andrew Marr Show. “Purdah is crucial, purdah means the government cannot use agencies of the state to spend money or send information to citizens in a period leading up to an election.”
Britain’s ruling Conservative Party will have to deliver a referendum by 2017 over whether Britain will stay part of the EU or not, since it was a linchpin pledge during the campaign.
According to reports, Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be already putting plans in motion to bring forward an in/out referendum by a year.
However, investment bank Citi said in a note to clients last week that David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on whether the UK stays in Europe could eventually bring down his government — regardless of which way people vote.
“A vote for Brexit would probably cause the collapse of the government and major economic weakness,” said Citi. “Even a vote to stay in the EU (especially a narrow win) might create political splits in the Conservative party and destabilise the government, hence limiting the government’s ability to achieve its wider aims.”
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