Belfast Telegraph

June date for EU referendum 'too close to important elections'

A cross-party group of MPs has warned David Cameron against holding his EU referendum in June, arguing it will be too close to important elections in May.

A Commons motion claimed a vote in June would be "disrespectful" to elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and local authorities.

If the Prime Minister secures a deal on his reform demands at the February 18-19 EU summit, he is believed to be considering an early referendum in June, before the school summer holidays.

But the MPs, led by the SNP's Stephen Gethins, warned that a rush to hold the referendum would create a "missed opportunity for a full, comprehensive debate on the UK's EU membership".

The call from Mr Gethins, MP for North East Fife, has the support of MPs from the Conservative Party, Labour, the DUP, SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

He said: "If David Cameron wants a referendum on our membership of the EU then we need to ensure that we have time for a proper debate. Rushing through a referendum in June just after important elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, London and across England, is totally disrespectful to those elections and will simply not give sufficient time to address the key issues about our future relationship with the EU.

"Those MPs who have signed this motion may have different views about the UK's future membership of the EU but we agree that there should be a proper debate.

"One of the many lessons of the Scottish independence referendum was the importance of having a debate in which people were engaged and could have their say. To do anything other with the EU referendum has to be resisted."

The warning to Mr Cameron follows a call from Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister to delay the referendum.

Martin McGuinness said he would be concerned about the "close proximity" of a referendum to the Stormont elections in May.

He also had "huge concerns" about Mr Cameron adopting a strategy of "sleepwalking all of us into an exit from Europe".


From Belfast Telegraph