DUP MPs Gregory Campbell and Nigel Dodds have decried the Government’s decision to ask the people to make one of the biggest decisions of our lifetimes - Brexit or not - in such close proximity to the Euros and regional, local and London Mayoral elections.
The DUP MPs said so many distraction would detract from the necessary debate and called on the Government to reconsider.
Mr Dodds pointed out that “there are elections happening in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, London and some local authorities in May 2016 and that the First Ministers of each of the devolved administrations have all expressed opposition to a June referendum date” and urged “the Government to set the date for the referendum having respect for the May elections as distinct electoral choices.”
Asked whether voters in Northern Ireland would be more interested in the Brexit debate or the European championship match against the Ukraine, Mr Campbell said it was not an “either/or” matter.
Mr Dodds agreed: “As my hon. Friend says, it is not an either/or. People are capable of watching the football, listening to the political debate and doing other things. If this is to be an issue, it will be because the Government have chosen to foist the EU referendum on us at the time of the Euro championships, which people will want to concentrate on. That is another good argument for having the debate later. Another good reason is that many fans from England, Wales and Northern Ireland -sadly not Scotland - will be travelling to France. We could avoid the extra cost of postal votes, proxy votes and the rest of it, if we had the vote on a different date.”
Mr Campbell told MPs: “We need to have this discussion and debate unencumbered by regional influences, London Mayoral elections and other issues that will undoubtedly feature in the media, sidelining the issues relating to a European referendum, which should take place at a time later than June this year.”