The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has slammed the draft European Union (referendum) Bill that has been published by the British government today, claiming that due to an exclusion of any purdah rules, there can be no guarantee of a free and fair referendum.
The bill is set to be one of the highest priorities of this parliament, and is seen as a huge victory for UKIP and the eurosceptic movement in Britain.
But concerns have been raised over the style of the question set to be asked, as well as the fact that a lack of purdah rules means that the British government can make announcements and pledges within the referendum campaign period that may affect the vote.
UKIP’s Chairman Steve Crowther said: “[The Bill] fails to mandate a period of ‘purdah’, normal in elections, to prevent the government from making announcements in the run-up which might affect the result.
“With no guarantee from the Government that they will set and enforce fair and equal spending limits, this omission leaves the door open for the government or indeed the European Union’s agencies to make ever more appealing announcements, right up to polling day, to ‘nudge’ people towards a vote to stay in.”
During the Scottish referendum last year, a period of purdah was established for 28 days, although there was some dispute as to whether Chancellor George Osborne breached the rules with a pledge for further devolution for Scotland just 10 days before the vote.
Even if there was a purdah period included in the EU Referendum Bill, there is a concern that the British government pays no mind to the convention, with a spokesman claiming that “purdah is in place to prevent taxpayers’ money being spent on referendum campaign material”. This is not believed to be an accurate definition.
Eurosceptics have also expressed concern over the wording of the referendum question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”
Senior UKIP sources told Breitbart London that the wording, as well as the fact that the ‘Yes’ box will be to stay in the EU, stacks the odds in favour of the pro-EU camp.
Steve Crowther said: “The people have waited 40 years for this opportunity and they must be given a free, fair and open choice to decide whether we stay in the EU, or reclaim our ability to govern ourselves. The government will not be forgiven if they play tricks with it.”