- Says government wants to hold vote `as soon as practical'
- SNP concerned June plebiscite would clash with Scottish vote
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond became the most senior U.K. cabinet minister to indicate that Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or leave may be held in June.
“June is certainly a possible date for a referendum,” Hammond told BBC Radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland” program on Wednesday. “We’ve always said that once we’ve got a deal on the table that we are able to recommend to the British people, then we would want to get on with it and hold the referendum as soon as practical.” He cautioned, though, that “we’ve got to see how the process pans out over the next few weeks,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed optimism that he’ll be able to get a deal with fellow EU leaders on renegotiated British membership terms at the bloc’s next summit in February. With ministers saying 16 weeks are needed to pass legislation setting the date for the vote and for the campaign, that would mean the plebiscite could be held in June or July.
Hammond’s comments echo remarks by the David Mundell, the Scottish secretary in the U.K. government, who told reporters on Monday there’s a “strong argument” for holding the vote in June, even though it would take place just a few weeks after the Scottish Parliament elections on May 7. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party has expressed concern that the campaigns for the two votes would overlap.