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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 16:49 GMT
EU Referendum Bill
AIM
This bill makes provision for the EU constitution in UK law and sets out the terms - and question - for a forthcoming referendum on the subject.

MAIN PROVISIONS
BILL'S PROGRESS
Responsible department: The foreign and commonwealth office
Origin: Government
Introduced: 25 January 2004 as European Union Bill
Second reading: 9 February
The bill is divided into four parts with 10 clauses and four schedules.

  • It updates the European Communities Act 1972 to allow smooth - legal - transition between the two sets of treaty terms, principally to allow the government to implement EU measures with subordinate legislation and making provision for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
  • Ratification is subject to a referendum, the terms and operation of which are described here, along with appropriate implementation instructions for the devolved assemblies
  • Includes the referendum question: "Should the United Kingdom approve the 'Treaty Establishing a Constitution for the European Union?'"

    BACKGROUND
    The bill was introduced as the European Union Bill on 25 January 2005, received a full second reading debate on 9 February, but was not completed in the last session.

    Signing up to the EU Constitution is the subject of cross-party opposition, as are the terms of the referendum question, as follows:-

  • The constitution is not given its proper title, 'A Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe'. Instead, it is called 'A Treaty Establishing a Constitution for the European Union'
  • By asking only about whether voters "approve" the treaty, the proposed question "invites a positive response"
  • The question doesn't make clear that the treaty which the UK is invited to approve doesn¿t just apply to the EU but will affect Britain

    Phrasing the question differently has produced different results in trials, but the Electoral Commission has accepted that the question is "intelligible".

    The Conservative Party will be opposing this bill, as well as the constitution as a whole, and the Liberal Democrats have declared themselves in favour.


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