Opinion & Analysis

E-petitions 200004, 187570, 193282 and 200311 relating to a referendum on the deal for the UK’s exit from the European Union

Referendums in the UK

Although there has been a regulatory framework for referendums since 2000, each referendum held still requires primary legislation to allow for a national referendum to be held.

The general rules for the conduct of national referendums in the UK are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, often referred to as PPERA. It gives the Electoral Commission certain responsibilities in relation to referendums held under the terms of PPERA and makes general provisions to ensure the fair conduct of referendums.

More general information on referendums is available in Library briefing CBP 07692, Referendums.

To hold a referendum on the Brexit deal agreed between the UK Government and the EU, Parliament would be required to pass primary legislation to provide for the detailed rules governing the conduct of that referendum.

An Act would need to apply the required elements of electoral law for the poll and count to occur. The legislation would also set the terms of the question and the franchise to be used.

The Act to allow for the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU was passed in 2015. The Parliament website has details of the European Union Referendum Act 2015, including background papers and debates on the passage of the Bill.

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