The UK government has been criticised for its handling of the referendum on British membership of the EU by the House of Lords, which called the reform plans a “recipe for confusion”.
In a report published today (28 July), the House of Lords’ European Union Committee listed several aspects of the UK government’s preparations that it said are still unclear. The House of Lords is Britain’s second chamber of parliament and the committee scrutinises British EU policy.
The committee bemoaned the lack of detail over the EU reforms that Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing for. It also criticised the lack of clear timetable or detail over how to make the vote legally binding.
Chair of the EU Committee Lord Boswell said, “We’re also concerned about the lack of transparency. It’s vital that Parliament and the public are kept informed, and are not simply presented with a done deal at the end of the process.”
The committee called for the referendum to take place “as soon as possible” and before the UK takes over the rotating European Council presidency in the second half of 2017.
The Independent on Sunday reported over the weekend that Prime Minister David Cameron plans to hold the referendum in June 2016. Cameron has previously said the referendum would take place by the end of 2017.
The House of Lords report also called on the government to identify the EU leaders it will partner with on reform negotiations.
On Sunday and Monday (26-27 July), Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne met with French officials in Paris as part of his campaign for EU reform.
“The referendum in Britain is an opportunity to make the case for reform across the EU,” Osborne said in Paris.
Osborne is scheduled to visit other European capitals to push the UK’s bid for a “new settlement” for the EU.
The House of Lords report said the government still needs to clarify what roles the British Prime Minister, Chancellor and Foreign Secretary as well as the EU institutions will have in the UK referendum.
Peter Wilding, director of pro-European campaign group British Influence said, “It is important to be both clear and forthright in what Britain wants. If we’re not, then the opponents of British membership of the European Union will occupy ground. The government needs to occupy not only the territory of renegotiation but the language of it.”
The EU Committee’s report is its first in a series on the UK referendum announced for the coming months.