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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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...

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems they are nervous about asking a Yes/No question.

Anonymous said...

Do they really think we don't know we are being subsumed by a corruption ridden democratically deficient monster.

Anonymous said...

If the EU Commission advise anything, doing the opposite is always advisable.

john Scrymgeour-Wedderburn said...

With regard to the Scottish referendum, you could not ask the question 'should Scotland leave the United Kingdom'. It is the Union of Scotland and England that is the United Kingdom. If Scotland and England separated, there would be no United Kingdom as a nation state. Two new independent nation states would emerge. The relationship of other 'nations' of the UK are different from those shared by Scotland and England - Wales has been part of the English nation state for over 700 years. Northern Ireland is bound to the UK by treaty (not to Scotland or England). If the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England and the subsequent ratifying acts in our parliaments were repealed, then the UK parliament would be legislating itself out of existence, and the UK nation state dissolved. All UK treaty obligations would fall, including the Treaty of Rome,and both Scotland and England would in effect as new nation states, not be members of the EU.

clinihyp said...

Since neither of the question options explain why people are being asked and making clear the extent to which we are controlled by Brussels, all the options are open to subjective interpretation!

How about "Should the UK demand a return of our sovereignty surrendered by politicians without our opinion being asked"?

Rik said...

Your missing a point.

The relation between the UK and the EU (or in fact any other international treaty) (and subsequently of parts that fall off) is determined basically by INTERNATIONAL law. Not necessarily the same for all international treaties btw.
The relation Scotland vs UK (or the rest of it) is however basically ruled by NATIONAL law.

Which might lead to a different legal status of the players and subsequently require other questions in a 'Scottish' referendum to make them legally correct.

Furthermore using 'think' also stinks imho. It is about voting not about thinking.

clinihyp said...

"Your missing a point.

The relation between the UK and the EU (or in fact any other international treaty) (and subsequently of parts that fall off) is determined basically by INTERNATIONAL law. Not necessarily the same for all international treaties btw".

Thank you for your view. If as you say our relationship with the EU is controlled by International law, perhaps you would be kind enough to explain, together with the source links of the facts, how international law affects the following....


Our net contribution to the EU in 2005 was £4.4 billion. By 2010 this had increased to almost double at £8.1 billion. Britain’s net contributions are set to increase in forthcoming years! (1)

The rise in the UK’s contributions reflects,firstly, the increases in the size of the EU Budget and, secondly, the fact that the abatement has been “disapplied” on
non-agricultural spending in the 12 new Member States, which acts to reduce the abatement.38 This “dis-application”, agreed in 2005, is now fully phased in and is
costing the UK around £2 bn a year. Net contributions are projected to rise from £8.1bn in FY 2010 to £ 8.5 bn in FY 2013 and n £9.4 bn in FY 2014.(2)

If Britain were to adopt a Swiss-style relationship considerable savings could be made. If we had had a Swiss-style relationship in FY 2010 our net contributions could have been one sixth of what they were, IE £1.3 billion a saving of just under £7 billion. Savings we could continue to make year on year and which could quickly reduce our burgeoning national debt rather than it's present continuing and growing burden. (3)


1 HM Treasury, “European Union Finances 2011: statement on the 2011 EU Budget and measures to counter fraud and financial mismanagement”, Cm 8232, December 2011.

2 The abatement mechanism is complex: details are at Article 4 of the Own Resources Decision, where it is described as “a correction in respect of budgetary imbalances”. The amounts deducted from the UK’’s contribution to revenue under the abatement are made up by adjusting the GNI-based contributions of the other Member States.

3 http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/20105070/Global%20Vision%20Paper%20LR.pdf

clinihyp said...

Furthermore using 'think' also stinks imho. It is about voting not about thinking.

My post did not contain the phrase you're referring to. Please be kind enough to explain why you have chosen to use it? And by implication attribute it to me?

Anna Syngellakis said...

To Anonymous

The UK Electoral Commission (EC)is advising not the European Commission (EC). Perhaps some UK voters need some issues spelt out to them.

Anonymous said...

My question would read:

"Why the Hell would the UK want to be part of the EUSSR"?

Seems like a reasonable phrasing to me.

Rik said...

@clinihype
If you donot completely understand the legal foundations of the present UK membership (and subsequently how that could be ended) I would not bring in further stuff like the (nett) contribution. Only obscures your thinking.

My post was btw referring to OEs OP not to yours.

Anyway a not very relevant discussion. People that have no clue about what EU membership means will hardly see the difference between all the different wordings that are mentioned. People who know what it means will eg know that the UK is an EU member at present. A bit of a non issue in that respect. It is mainly lawyer stuff and make things look a bit more professional.

Anyway it has to be a simple question like the EC or original bill proposes it is a referendum not a thesis. A lot of people vote on things be it a referendum or a general election without having really a clue what it is about. It is called democracy.

clinihyp said...

To Rik.

I find you response a cross between patronising and evasive. I ask a simple question and you divert. Such tactics do no make for reasoned debate.

Personally I think you're bluffing you claim by shouting that comments are not relevant. When asked for evidence you duck this issue!

It is now apparent that future comments from you can safely be disregarded!

clinihyp said...

EU to set up euro-election 'troll patrol' to tackle Eurosceptic surge
The European Parliament is to spend almost £2 million on press monitoring and trawling Eurosceptic debates on the internet for "trolls" with whom to debate in the run-up and during euro-elections next year amid fears that hostility to the EU is growing.

The Daily Telegraph has seen confidential spending proposals and internal documents planning an unprecedented propaganda blitz ahead of and during European elections in June 2014.

Key to a new strategy will be "public opinion monitoring tools" to "identify at an early stage whether debates of political nature among followers in social media and blogs have the potential to attract media and citizens' interest".

Spending on "qualitative media analysis" is to be increased by £1.7 million and while most of the money is to be found in existing budgets an additional £787,000 will be need to be raised next year despite calls for EU spending to reflect national austerity.
"Particular attention needs to be paid to the countries that have experienced a surge in Euroscepticism," said a confidential document agreed last year.

.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/9845442/EU-to-set-up-euro-election-troll-patrol-to-tackle-Eurosceptic-surge.html