How Will Britain’s EU Membership Referendum Work?

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British Prime Minister David Cameron will try to sell his case for Britain remaining in the European Union to parliament on Monday, facing hostility from his own lawmakers and an exit campaign energised by the backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON, Feb 23- Prime Minister David Cameron has said a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will be held on June 23.

Below are the key details of how the vote will work:

WHO CAN VOTE?

As with a parliamentary election, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens aged over 18 who live in Britain, and British nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years will be allowed to vote in the EU referendum.

In addition, members of parliament’s upper house and citizens of Gibraltar who are eligible to vote in European Parliamentary elections will also be able to vote. Citizens of EU countries living in Britain, other than those from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, will not get a say.

WHAT IS THE QUESTION?

The question on the ballot paper will be: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”.

Voters will then choose one of two answers: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.

HOW LONG WILL THE CAMPAIGN LAST?

The EU referendum law requires a campaign period of at least 10 weeks before the vote takes place.

Before that official campaign period can begin, legislation will need to pass through parliament setting out the details of the vote, including the date. The government expects that process to take about 6 weeks.

HOW MUCH CAN THE CAMPAIGNS SPEND?

For the official campaign period, Britain’s electoral watchdog can designate a lead group on each side of the debate. The lead group can spend up to 7 million pounds ($10 million), receives a public grant of up to 600,000 pounds, gets campaign broadcasts and one free mail distribution to voters.

All other groups can spend up to 700,000 pounds each. Anyone intending to spend more than 10,000 pounds must register with the electoral watchdog, and all groups must declare any donations of more than 7,500 pounds received after Feb. 1.

The spending limit for political parties is dictated by the percentage of vote they won in last year’s national election.

Cameron’s Conservatives can spend up to 7 million pounds, the Labour Party can spend 5.5 million pounds, the anti-EU UK Independence Party can spend 4 million pounds, the Liberal Democrats 3 million pounds and all other parties 700,000 pounds.

The Conservative Party has said it will remain neutral however, with no party funds, personnel or facilities to be used by either side of the campaign.

HOW WILL THE GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGN?

Cameron has said he will campaign with all his “heart and soul” to persuade Britons to vote to remain in the EU, warning leaving the bloc would be a “leap in the dark”.

While the official government position is to back staying in, six of Cameron’s team of top ministers have said they will rebel and campaign to leave the bloc. Influential London Mayor Boris Johnson has also thrown his weight behind the ‘out’ campaign.

The government will be subject to a period of ‘purdah’, barring it from publishing anything in the 28 days before the referendum that could influence the outcome of the vote.

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE DAY?

Polls will be open from 0600 GMT to 2100 GMT. Counting will begin as soon as polls close and will carry on overnight.

There will be 12 centres across Britain where counts are collated, and the final result will be declared in Manchester in northern England. ($1 = 0.6970 pounds)

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