Lords committee urges greater transparency on EU vote


An influential House of Lords committee is calling on the Government to be more transparent about the process of EU reform ahead of the forthcoming referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to a vote on the UK’s EU membership before the end of 2017, but faces calls to accelerate the process.

The House of Lords EU committee is now calling on the Government to provide greater transparency to both Parliament and the broader public on its reform process.

It says: “We understand that the sensitivities of the process mean that the Government is unwilling to provide Parliament with a running commentary on the negotiations.

“Yet the opposite extreme of presenting Parliament with a fait accompli is equally undesirable, and could give rise to legitimate concerns about the accountability and transparency of both the process itself, and its outcome. It could also help the Government to be open with Parliament (and also the general public) about the progress of negotiations.”

The committee has also demanded the Prime Minister schedule a referendum before the UK is due to take over presidency of the European Union council in July 2017.

In a report published today, the committee says the Government appears to be keen on holding the vote by autumn 2016 at the latest.

It says: “We support the Government’s efforts to ensure that the referendum takes place as soon as possible, in order to minimise uncertainty for citizens, financial markets, businesses and other stakeholders in the UK and across the EU.

“The UK presidency of the council scheduled for the second half of 2017 makes the arguments for an earlier referendum all the stronger.

“To stage a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU while it holds the presidency would not only be highly undesirable, but also so difficult as to be practically impossible. It would be an insuperable distraction from any presidency policy priorities that the UK sought to set out.”

The committee adds that if it were to become clear that the UK would be unable to stage its referendum before acceding to the council presidency, it should request another member state takes the position from July next year.

The presidency of the council is decided on a rota basis, with member states taking on the role for six months at a time.