Open Europe Blog

What’s in a question?

Coming to a polling station near you?

The UK’s Electoral Commission, in response to the onward march of James Wharton MP’s EU Referendum Bill, has been opining on how to ask the UK population if it wants to remain in the EU. .

James Wharton MP’s original:

‘Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?’ (Yes/No)

However, Electoral Commission would like to tweak this to:

  1. ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’
    (Yes/No)
    Or, the one that it seems to favour:
  2. ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’
    (‘Remain a member of the European Union’ / ‘Leave the European Union’)

So what is the difference? Well not much but the Electoral Commission feels there is a need to emphasise that the UK already is a member of the EU. Apparently, the EC worries that there are some people in the UK not realising that the country already is a member of the EU – the original question might therefore be interpreted as one about whether the UK should join. Something we doubt, particularly after a long referendum campaign, anyone could remain in the dark on. Still perhaps no harm in following their advice?

Incidentally, the question is for next years’ Scottish referendum  which the Electoral Commission seems to be happy with, reads:

“Should Scotland be an independent country?” (Yes/NO)

We doubt there are any Scots not aware that Scotland is a member of the UK, but for consistency, perhaps the EC could have recommended the following:

  • ‘Should Scotland remain a member of the United Kingdom (and EU) or leave the United Kingdom (and EU)?’
    (‘Remain a member of the UK and EU’ / ‘Leave the UK and EU’)

There are many ways to ask for the exit…

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