Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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EU Committee reports on referendum on EU membership

The Lords EU Committee has yesterday published a report analysing the process leading up to the referendum on UK membership of the EU, which is to be held before the end of 2017.

Background

The European Union Referendum Bill, currently before the House of Commons, provides for a referendum on UK membership of the EU to be held before the end of 2017. At the European Council on 25–26 June 2015 the Prime Minister set out his plans for the referendum, and initiated the process whereby the UK Government will seek a number of EU reforms ahead of the referendum.

Following the European Council meeting the Committee took evidence from the Minister for Europe, the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, and asked a number of questions about the reform process. The Minister's answers have helped to inform this report.

Conclusions

The Committee's main conclusions are:

  • The Government is right to press for the referendum to be held as soon as possible, in order to minimise uncertainty
  • It would be highly undesirable to hold the referendum during the UK Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017, and the Government should explore alternative arrangements for the Presidency if the referendum is delayed beyond the end of 2016
  • There is uncertainty over the specific roles to be played by UK Ministers, as well as over how the internal Whitehall process will work
  • The Committee supports the Prime Minister's welcome efforts to engage with other EU Heads of Government. The Government must ensure that it continues to engage with all 27 other Member States
  • In the interests of accountability and transparency, Parliament should be kept informed of the progress of negotiations. The Government should also ensure that the devolved administrations are closely involved
  • The Government is right to seek to ensure that any reform agreement is legally binding, but should clarify the form such an agreement will take
  • The Government's desire to enhance the role of national parliaments is welcome, but it should explore means, such as the 'Green Card', by which national parliaments could make a positive, proactive contribution to EU policies and legislation.

What next?

The Committee has invited the Government and the Commission to respond to the report, and a debate will be held in the autumn. This is likely to be the first of a series of reports on the referendum process, in which the Committee will set out its views on the Government's reform priorities.

Further information

 

Channel website: http://www.parliament.uk/

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