Sunday, January 03, 2016

When is the referendum possible?

A lot of commentators continue to suggest that the EU referendum will be held this year. But are they right?

I start with the presumption that the government will not consider any outright breach of the letter of the Electoral Commission recommendations.

On the timing of the referendum, they recommended that it should not coincide with the May 2016 Mayoral, local and PCC elections (which the government has accepted) and that

"We continue to recommend that best practice for future referendums is that all legislation should be clear (whether by Royal Assent to a Bill or the introduction of regulations to Parliament for approval) at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with by campaigners, the Chief Counting Officer, Counting Officers or Electoral Registration Officers."

The bill received Royal Assent on 17th December. I presume that the people who think we could have a referendum in June are adding six months to that date and projecting a referendum on Thursday 23rd or Thursday 30th June.

But is that actually reasonable? Surely the spirit of what the Electoral Commission is recommending is that EROs and returning officers need six months' notice of ALL the rules affecting them - and surely that includes the date?

I don't think the government will want to risk an unseemly row about whether they have given enough notice to allow the referendum to be properly organised.

Neither do I think they will want to call it until they have secured the best deal available from the EU (or, much less likely but not quite impossible, given up hope of a deal and decided to recommend "leave.")

The government's target date for a deal with the EU is February. How likely are they to get one?

I'm certain they would like a deal in February. If they have the civil servants working on any necessary regulations to implement the referendum bill, ready to present to parliament a very short time after a February EU summit at which a deal was struck, they might just be able to meet the Electoral Commission recommendations with a referendum in late September or early October. I suspect that would be David Cameron's ideal scenario.

Is that possible? Yes. Do I think it is likely? No. The negotiations with the EU Commission and other members states are just too complex and will hit too many vested interests to be easily solved. I think DC will get a deal this year, but the chances of getting it by the end of February are, in my opinion, slim. And if he doesn't, that means a winter referendum or slipping it to 2017.

Following the dreadful precedent of the low turnout in the first Police and Crime Commissioner elections, I don't think the government will or should go for a November referendum. Or one during the winter months.

So I believe the most likely date for the EU referendum is between April and September 2017.

Not because the government would prefer it that way, or because they are going to "bottle" it (though I bet you some idiots will make that accusation.) It is because the process of negotiation and of the timetables required for the referendum are likely to leave them little choice.


Jim said...

We won't see a deal in Feb. That much is pretty clear. Nor do I think we will see one in summer either. This will go on until around Feb 17, where there will be an 11th hour "concession", and DC will announce and present his British option.

He will do it then, simply because that's when the colleagues will let him. That's when the earlier discussions for the new treaty will be, that's when associate membership (oops sorry, I mean the British option of membership) for the none Eurozone states will be announced.

It wont free us of course from the supranational EU, or the ECJ, or the CAP or the CFP. And it won't reduce the democratic deficit. But it will superficially sound good so long as one does not dig too deep as it will be stated it frees us from "Ever closer Union"

Following this, the referendum date will be set - I still get a gut feeling for Sept/Oct 2017.

As for "bottling it" - Yeah for some fun i would go with you on that one, but the reasoning is simple. Its because the legacy media have not got the faintest clue when it comes to the EU, so they will continue with misinformed speculation on an earlier poll. Which of course was never going to happen, but the legacy media can never admit they are wrong, so we will see reported that "deals collapse" and "the PM chickened out" - its a dead cert.

Jim said...

It will also be a strange one, as there wont be a negotiation as such before the referendum, it will be a promise of one coming in a treaty change later. If only we vote to allow DC to negotiate it. Of course there will then be the promise of a second referendum later when its done.......................................