MP's EU 'referendum' gets under way in Rochester and Strood

Flags outside European Parliament, Strasbourg - file pic The deadline for the return of votes in the local referendum will be before the May EU elections

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A Kent Conservative MP is holding a ballot in his constituency on whether the UK should leave the European Union.

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, is sending out postal voting papers to 45,000 households.

He believes "Britain should be an independent country trading with Europe".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Mr Reckless was in the wrong party. The Lib Dems described the vote as a publicity stunt.

Mr Reckless said: "What matters is not really my view, but what is the view of the voters.

"I've tried to explain the ballot in a neutral way. It's the opportunity for people to have a say."

Start Quote

This is a self-indulgent publicity stunt by Mark Reckless”

End Quote Antony Hook Lib Dem MEP candidate

He said the deadline for returning the postal vote had not been decided, but would be before the European elections in May.

The exercise is expected to cost about £5,000, with money raised by volunteers, the eurosceptic MP said.

His constituents are being asked the question: "Should the United Kingdom be a member of the European Union?"

'In wrong party'

"I believe that a substantial majority of the British people would vote to come out of the European Union and I want to show that strength of opinion," Mr Reckless said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised, if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election, to hold an in/out referendum on the UK's EU membership by the end of 2017.

This, Mr Cameron says, would follow a full renegotiation of relations with Brussels.

Antony Hook, the Lib Dem South East MEP candidate, said: "I think this is a self-indulgent publicity stunt by Mark Reckless.

"The referendum will have no legal effect and is just to publicise the Conservatives and cover up their splits over Europe."

UKIP leader and South East MEP Nigel Farage said Mr Reckless "finds himself in the wrong party".

"If what Mark does on holding a referendum on EU membership in the Medway Towns is to increase UKIP's vote in the European elections then I'll thank him enormously," he said.

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