EU Referendum Bill, opt-outs (& opt-ins) and a €100k Brexit Prize

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We anti-EU campaigners are often accused of not having thought through the full implications and complexities of what’s required to Get Britain Out of the EU. “Ah!”, exclaim the Europhiles, “you want us to leave the EU … but how? What will we do then?”. We all know the answer, of course, but a fortnight ago a competition was launched to answer that question with the level of intellectual and academic rigour that will be essential for any In/Out referendum campaign.


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The ‘Brexit Prize’ is being run by a respected think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The premise is that the UK has already voted to leave and that the Government has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signalling our intent to leave. The competition is for the best blueprint for what needs to happen next, both in domestic law and international relations, to ensure a prosperous future for our nation. A selection of the 20 best initial submissions will be announced at the end of October, with the deadline for final submissions in early February 2014 and the winner of the €100,000 prize will then be announced in March 2014.

Justice & Home Affairs Opt-Out
Back in the present, MPs had the opportunity to debate the JHA opt-out process which will see our Government exercising a block opt out from 133 EU ‘cooperation’ measures, before choosing to opt back in to some of them. (It will come as no surprise that this complicated legislative dance is to meet the requirements of an EU treaty!)

The motion being debated initially required MPs to endorse both the opt-out and the Government’s list of planned opt-ins (including the infamous European Arrest Warrant). This set the field for yet another bruising backbench rebellion for David Cameron, but in another sign of the growing strength of the Eurosceptic movement, Government whips accepted an amendment that dropped the list of proposed opt-ins. As we reported at the time, this made the motion a simple endorsement of the opt-out, and it was voted through easily.

There was an interesting exchange in the debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Reckless and, on the other side, David Lidington (Minister for Europe), over whether the opt-ins should be regarded as a surrender of sovereignty which ought to trigger the Government’s ‘referendum lock’. (The Government has passed a law requiring a referendum on before further powers are transferred to the EU.) The Minister was adamant this was not the case. For their part, the rebel backbench MPs even raised the possibility of a judicial review if the Government refused to apply the referendum lock.

The Press Association reports that the Government has now officially notified the EU that the UK will be exercising its opt-out. This is excellent news, but of course the battle over which measures the UK will opt-back into is yet to come. The opt-ins are being considered by four relevant Commons Select Committees, and the matter will come back to the Commons for debate later in the year.

EU Referendum Bill
After the Private Member’s Bill for an EU Referendum got its Second Reading (despite the efforts of the 32 Labour MPs whom we named-and-shamed) it moved on to the first day of its Committee Stage. There was a concerted ambush attempt by Lib Dem and Labour MPs, who did their best to slow down the process by submitting dozens of amendments. Get Britain Out challenged the MPs responsible on Twitter, reminding them that their constituents might take a dim view of their attempts to prevent voters having their say.

Remarkably, one MP, Barry Sheerman, is on the record in Hansard complaining that our Tweets could be an infringement of Parliamentary Privilege. The Committee chairman quite rightly told him (in effect) to stop whinging. Reminding MPs that they’re accountable to the ordinary people who elect them is not some sort of undue influence, it’s basic democracy! It’s about time some MPs were reminded it is the Great British Public who put them on those green benches in Parliament!

Write To Your MP: Cost/Benefit Analysis Bill
The House of Commons is now in recess until 2 September, but when it returns they will debate another Private Member’s Bill, this one requiring the Government to perform a cost/benefit analysis of our EU membership. With so much time and effort being spent on the Private EU Referendum Bill, it seems unlikely this one will have much of a chance, but all the same please contact your MP and ask that they support it. As ever, it would be very helpful if you could copy any reply you receive to us at

Please do send this bulletin on to your friends, family and colleagues. If you have received this message as a forwarded e-mail, please don’t forget to sign up on our website to ensure you receive future bulletins and stay up-to-date with the fight to Get Britain Out.

With best wishes,James Harvard
Campaign Manager, Get Britain Out

p.s. We’re extremely grateful to the many people who’ve donated to Get Britain Out since our last bulletin. Our campaign depends on your donations, large and small, and every pound is carefully spent. If you would like to contribute too please visit our website’s donations page to find out how. Thank you.

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