House of Commons Library

The EU referendum campaign

Published Wednesday, April 27, 2016

This House of Commons Library briefing includes information about the timetable for the EU referendum campaign. It also includes information on the rules that apply to campaign activity.

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When will the referendum be held?

The European Union Referendum Act 2015 made provision for a referendum to be held on the UK’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. The European Union Referendum (Date of Referendum etc.) Regulations 2016 set the date of the referendum as 23 June 2016.

When does the referendum period begin?

The European Union Referendum (Date of Referendum etc.) Regulations 2016 also set the start date of the referendum period (15 April 2016), during which certain controls apply to the campaign. These include financial and, at a later stage, publication controls. The regulations also appointed the date campaign groups could start to apply to be designated as a ‘lead campaign organisation’ (4 March 2016). Lead campaign organisations receive a number of benefits, including public funding.

The lead campaign organisations

On 13 April 2016 the Electoral Commission designated the In Campaign (Britain Stronger in Europe) and Vote Leave as the lead campaign organisations.

Controls on campaign activity

The periods during which controls apply to referendum campaign activities are determined in relation to the poll date. A number of controls came into force when the statutory ‘referendum period’ began.

Anyone intending to spend more than £10,000 on campaigning must register with the Electoral Commission as a ‘permitted participant’. Permitted participants are subject to spending limits during the referendum period.

Campaign spending limits

Campaigner type

Vote share in the 2015 general election
(if relevant)

Spending limit

 

Lead campaign organisation

 

£7.0m

Conservative Party

36.9%

£7.0m

Labour Party*

29.0%

£5.5m

UKIP

12.6%

£4.0m

Liberal Democrat Party

7.9%

£3.0m

All other permitted participants

 

£0.7m

Source: BBC News, Elections 2015; House of Commons calculations

* Adjusted to account for votes for Co-op candidates

 Donations and loans

Donations and loans made available to permitted participants to meet their referendum expenses are subject to controls.

Campaigners must only accept donations and loans worth over £500 from certain persons and bodies (specified in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and the European Union Referendum Act 2015). For any donation or loan worth over £7,500, campaigners must record particular details.

Political parties must only accept loans and donations up to the value of their spending limit.

Reporting

Permitted participants must report certain information about their referendum spending and the donations and loans they have received to the Electoral Commission.

Some information must be reported before the poll. This includes information about loans and donations worth over £7,500 received before the start of the referendum period (but after the commencement of the relevant provisions of the European Union Referendum Act 2015).

Publication controls

Public bodies are restricted from publishing certain types of information during the final 28 days before the poll.

This period is known as ‘purdah’ and is similar to the purdah period before elections. Information about purdah is provided in the Library Briefing Paper, 'Purdah' before elections and referendums.

 

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7486

Authors: Elise Uberoi; Isobel White

Topics: Elections, EU institutions

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