Conservatives for Britain have sent the following to the Electoral Commission. We are meeting the Commission at the time this post is released.
A further 10 members appended their names. Additional members approved the text but did not want to supply their names at this point.
Conservative Members of Parliament meeting as Conservatives for Britain have instructed me to provide our collective view on the European Union Bill referendum question. We have separately arranged a meeting in Parliament.
We are concerned that the question presently in the Bill is not sufficiently neutral. We agree with ICM that the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” suffers from “acquiescence bias” through the use of the word “remain”. The tendency to affirm is more instinctive than the tendency to reject and we observe that bias in related ICM polling.
In our view, if the question is to require a yes/no answer, then it should be the question provided in the Bill introduced by James Wharton MP: “Do you think the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?” This question has been considered and approved twice by the House of Commons.
However, we share the Electoral Commission’s view on the question wording “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” We believe this question is clear and straightforward for voters and that it provides the most neutral wording from the range we have considered. We prefer this question.
We welcome the absence of unnecessary preamble from the ballot paper, in contrast to the 1975 referendum. We believe that our preferred remain/leave question would eliminate any residual arguments for preamble.
We are concerned about the potential for public bodies to campaign in the referendum, whether they may be local, national or supranational. We are also opposed to the use of public funds by third sector organisations to campaign in the referendum. We are particularly alive to the potential for EU funds to be applied on one side of the argument: we would consider that entirely illegitimate.
We look forward to meeting you to discuss these issues.
Steve Baker MP and David Campbell-Bannerman MEP
Co-Chairs, Conservatives for Britain