Cameron Told `Expect a Writ' by Brexiteer Over Pro-EU Websitesby
Tory Jenkin says postings contravene legal `purdah' period
Premier says Jenkin demand is `rather an extreme position'
Supporters of Britain leaving the European Union threatened to sue Prime Minister David Cameron if he doesn’t take down government websites supportive of a “Remain” vote ahead of the June 23 referendum.
Cameron clashed with Bernard Jenkin, a senior pro-Brexit lawmaker from the premier’s Conservative Party,over whether the continued existence of the websites would breach the 28-day “purdah” period ahead of the vote, during which the government can’t publish promotional material.
“If this doesn’t change, prime minister, expect a letter before action, and if we can raise the funds, expect a writ,” Jenkin said during a hearing of Parliament’s Liaison Committee in London on Wednesday. He cited legal advice “that is abundantly clear that an electronic communication of the contents of the website amounts to publication.”
The Tories are deeply split over the June 23 vote, with several members of Cameron’s cabinet and dozens of other Conservative lawmakers opposing the premier and campaigning for Britain to leave the 28-nation bloc. The issue of Europe has long divided the party, contributing to the downfalls of previous Tory Prime Ministers John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
Jenkin cited a 1937 ruling on a golf-club notice to support his case that leaving the websites up would constitute a “continuing act of publication.” Cameron said the government would look at its legal advice, but that taking down a website seems “rather an extreme position.”
“Taking down a website is a bit like saying, well, you have to remove publications that people might already have from the government,” Cameron told the committee. In response to the threat of a writ, he replied: “Right, well there we are. I’d better get back to the office fast.”