What's the real reason to hold an EU referendum?


What's a Europe referendum for? Does that sound like a silly question?

Surely, you might say, it's obvious that a referendum is for giving the public a say on Britain's future in Europe.

Well, no, actually.

Some want a referendum because they think the people will do what no mainstream political leader dare - get us out.

Others - who want the UK to stay in Europe - want a vote to put pressure on Europe's politicians to give the UK what it wants.

Many Eurosceptics - both those who want to stay in and those who would sooner get out - believe it will put pressure on a British government to negotiate harder.

Most Tories hope that, whatever the vote is on, the promise of a referendum will help them see off UKIP.

A growing number of Conservatives believe, as Harold Wilson did in 1975, that a referendum is the only way of stopping their party splitting on the issue of Europe.

Very few, in my experience, simply want to know what the public thinks.

PS David Cameron and Liam Fox appear to be contemplating the same sort of referendum - a post renegotiation poll. What separates them is that the prime minister is clear that Britain needs to stay in whereas his former defence secretary is now ready to contemplate getting out. That's the divide that really matters.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The EU is obviously heading for some sort of cobbled together future political union which will be a disaster for Britain and probably for Europe. The EU has been a drain on this nation for far too long and we must now set our sights higher than the mediocrity of Europe and address our business and political associations with the emerging countries of Asia, particularly India and China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The lack of a reaoned debate on Europe is disgusting, with firstly a long history of subterfuge and obfuscation as to the end objective of this project, and secondly with an equally long history of only raising the referendum card when it appeared to suit the case.
    Poor leadership from both camps. No one willing to tell the truth, argue their case, and facilitate choice on a really big question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Posturing. Pure and simple.

    To pander to his euro sceptic home team.

    And also to give the Liberals something to moan about.
    So they can distance themselves from the Tories during elections.

    The only imponderable is which is pure and which is simple..

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    What's a refrdm. for ? Good question NR - depends on who is asked & why?

    Politicians see a ref. as an opportunity to pull another one over the voters thinking there is no alternative to the skewed question(s) being asked?

    The electorate think that a refndm is for them to have their fair and democratic say - stupid 'so and so's'.

    Refndm. process urgently needed as has become a 'joke issue'

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Technically, DC has used a lot of words to promise nothing 'may consider', 'when time is right', etc. It is a non-story that the Tories know the press will run to cover. Hence, less talk of banks ripping off small/medium businesses via arte swaps while Osborne gives banks more money to lend to same companies! Simply smoke & mirrors, a distraction and guess what - you're covering it not the banks!


Comments 5 of 44



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