As I’m sure most readers of this site will be aware, today sees the return of Conservative MP James Wharton’s Private Members’ Bill to the House of Lords. The Bill – if passed – would guarantee that a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is held by the end of 2017.
The I Support a Referendum (ISAR) campaign has been there since the start to ensure that this Bill passes. The campaign is comprised of Business for Britain – Britain’s leading business campaign calling for a renegotiated relationship with the EU – and Labour for a Referendum – the independent campaign for the Labour Party to support a referendum. ISAR is a non-partisan, cross-party campaign which brings together supporters of all parties – and none – to ensure that the British public are given the referendum that polls show they are overwhelmingly in favour of having.
Over the past nine months the campaign has been extremely busy demonstrating that there is popular support for James’ Bill and an EU referendum. In May, when the Bill started its journey through the House of Commons, we orchestrated the mass emailing of every single MP. 18,000 members of the public went to our website and emailed their local MP, asking them to support the bill. We calculate that an MP received an email from the ISAR site every two minutes detailing why they should support a vote.
This was followed up with an event held opposite the Houses of Parliament, for which we inflated a giant 30ft tall ballot box. The day was a great success and saw over a hundred MPs from all sides of the House come out and show their support for an EU referendum. The ballot box also served as a clear visual message to those who supported the bill, as well as to those who opposed it – this issue is fundamentally about democracy and the people being given their say.
I suspect many Ukip supporters will approach this Bill with, at best, a pinch of salt. There is a suspicion that all politicians are ‘in it for themselves’ and habitual liars. Memories of previous broken promises on the EU are used to reinforce these suspicions; from David Cameron’s ‘cast iron guarantee’ on the Lisbon treaty to Nick Clegg’s declaration at the last election that ‘it is vital that… the British people have a say in a real EU referendum’.
However what we have been working towards for the past nine months is more than a promise. The Bill, if passed, will provide the British people with the assurance of a statutory legal requirement to hold a referendum by 2017. If any future government wished to repeal this legislation it would find risk turning itself into an enemy of the people.
Today the Bill resumes the most difficult stage of its journey; passing through the House of Lords. It is anticipated, as was reported by the Guardian on Tuesday, that the Labour and Liberal Democrat whips will collude to ensure the Bill does not pass. You can help make a difference though.
It is imperative that we get as many Lords as possible out to support the Bill over the coming weeks. To help keep track of where the peers stand, I Support a Referendum has launched a new website: www.LordsReferendumVote.com. This site is intended to illustrate which peers support, oppose or will remain neutral when this crucial Bill is voted on. As you will see, the page is not yet complete. We need your help to fill in the gaps and we would also encourage you to email a peer (or more if you are inclined) from the site, asking them – respectfully – to attend the House of Lords to support the Bill, or thanking them for already supporting the Bill. Peers play an invaluable role examining legislation and striking the right tone is crucial if we are to win support for our cause.
This Bill and our campaign is not about party politics, nor is it about ‘in’ or ‘out’. Our aim has always been to secure a referendum and the British publics consent on our future relationship with the EU. The Bill which comes before the Lords today is the closest we have gotten to this in decades. So go to www.LordsReferendumVote.com today, email a Lord and ask them to support this Bill.