Forget ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ or ‘In’ and ‘Out’, the EU referendum question looks set to be a choice between ‘remain’ or ‘leave’. The Electoral Commission has recommended a change from the current question in the EU Referendum Bill:
‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’
To which the response is either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. This wording could be judged to be helpful for those who want Britain to remain in the EU, as the question was posed in a particularly negative way as well as involving a change from the status quo. The Commission has assessed this wording and has recommended the question should be changed to:
‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’
And the new responses would be ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’. The government has announced they will accept this new wording and the bill will be amended when Parliament returns next week.
This new wording still has negative connotations for the Out-ers because the question is suggesting changing the status quo but ‘leave’ is certainly less negative than ‘no’ or ‘out’. The Eurosceptic camps will be pleased that the Electoral Commission is making their lives a little bit easier — but the question is not overwhelmingly in their favour. So, expect to see the ‘Leave’ camps bombarding voters over the coming months with positive messages about the life Britain could have outside the EU. And the ‘Remain’ camps will talk up the dangers if we change Britain’s current arrangement.
UPDATE: Ukip’s Nigel Farage approves of the new wording:
‘I’m in no doubt that the Yes/No offering was leading to great confusion and that remain or leave is much clearer. That combined with a more explicit question is the right direction of travel.’