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 4.

    In my view we need a referendum for three reasons. First is because it has been over 35 years since we were given any sort of vote on the issue and second because a referendum of sorts has been promised by all major parties in recent years. Thirdly, and more importantly the EU has moved from a "common market" that was intended and slowly but surely taken away power from our elected politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Surely the principle of government that we have adopted is to elect people to become expert on the pros and cons of complex political issues; and then exercise their informed judgement on our behalf? If not, what is the role of Parliament? To expect UK voters to become sufficiently expert to produce a valid consensus on membership of the EU is to court disaster - which exit would surely be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Comes under the heading of 'fiddling' while Rome burns. Do we really need another what I will possibly do after the next election interlude? Meanwhile it's fingers crossed and hope something turns up to distract from a lamentably clueless performance to date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

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

    More specifically, British Democracy
    A proper British Democracy, like the one I once grew up in and was proud of.

    Then once we get a decision for the people by the people we can put this issue to bed once and for all and all pull together for the future


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