02:14 GMT +317 December 2018
Listen Live
    Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron holds a Q&A session on the forthcoming European Union referendum with staff of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Birmingham, Britain, April 5, 2016.

    Cameron Slammed for Jumping the Gun on Brexit Referendum Campaign

    © REUTERS / Facundo Arrizabalaga
    Europe
    Get short URL
    5174

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of using taxpayer money to fund a biased campaign in favor of keeping the UK inside the EU, ahead of an In-Out referendum on the matter on June 23, but has the backing of the regulator, Sputnik has been told.

    Cameron is campaigning to keep the UK in what he calls "a reformed EU" after having won a series of concessions form EU leaders at their summit in February. He was forced into calling a referendum because of rising Euroskepticism — including a huge increase in support for anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) — as well as deep divisions within his own Conservative party.

    Campaigns for elections and referendums have to follow strict rules overseen by the Electoral Commission, which has not yet declared the lead campaign groups ahead of the regulated campaign period beginning April 15.

    The lead campaign groups have not yet been designated and — when they are — they have a legal cap of US$9.85 million — which the government campaign exceeds.

    The UK Government has announced it is to spend US$13 million sending out leaflets to every household which critics say is a deliberate act to push the case for remaining. The government website stated:

    "The leaflet sets out the facts, explains why the government believes a vote to remain in the EU is in the best interests of the UK, and shows some of the choices the country would face if it were to leave. It also encourages the public to register to vote by the 7 June and directs them to where they can do this."

    Outside Regulated Period

    However, the Electoral Commission told Sputnik that there was nothing to stop the government sending out the leaflets, as it is being done ahead of the regulated period.

    "The Electoral Commission is responsible for regulating the rules on spending in the run-up to the EU Referendum. The rules on spending apply during the regulated period which start on 15 April and ends on polling day, 23 June. The rules exclude spending that is met out of public funds, which includes spending by the government on the government information booklet."

    "After the referendum on Scottish independence the Electoral Commission recommended that governments should conduct no taxpayer funded advertising activity during the regulated period. However, Parliament decided not to put any legal restrictions on government activity until 28 days before the poll, the 27th May. These are the same rules that were in place for other recent referendums," the Electoral Commission told Sputnik.

    Vote Leave spokesman Robert Oxley said:

    "Number Ten is trying to distract the media's attention from the issue of whether the Prime Minister's family money is kept in offshore trusts. The Government promised that it would not take on the lead role in the referendum, so it's disgraceful that they're spending taxpayers' money which could go to the NHS on EU propaganda instead."

    Vote Leave campaigners pointed to a government denial in September, that it would pay for propaganda. Europe Minister David Lidington, told lawmakers:

    "We have no intention of legislating to allow the government to do things such as mailshots, paid advertising or leafleting."

    The government is also launching a pro-EU standalone website EUreferendum.gov.uk which will feature the leaflet online and provide further information to the public.

    Related:

    London Mayor Slams Gov't Plans to 'Waste' $13Mln on Pro-EU Leaflets
    UK Government to Spend $13Mln on Pro-EU Leaflets to Every Household
    Cameron 'Taking Eye Off the Ball' - Lib Dem Leader Tells Sputnik
    Poll Suggests Brits Favor Brexit as Older Generation Wants Out of the EU
    Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Clash of the Brexit Campaigners
    Tags:
    taxpayers, Brexit, leaflet, EU membership, referendum, vote, politics, Conservative Party, David Cameron, Great Britain, Europe, United Kingdom
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik