Some people are not sure whether the United Kingdom is part of the European Union, the Electoral Commission said today as it examined the question that voters could be asked in an EU membership referendum.
Its warning comes a week ahead of a Commons debate on a Bill paving the way to a referendum on whether to remain in the EU or leave it. David Cameron has promised a vote on British membership by 2017 if the Conservatives win the next election.
The Bill, proposed by the Tory MP James Wharton and supported by Mr Cameron, suggests voters should be asked: "Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?"
Testing the question to check it was "clear, unambiguous and to the point", the Commission discovered "a few" people did not know whether Britain was in the EU. It warned: "This presented a risk of misunderstanding."
It suggested two potential ways of phrasing the question to avoid confusion or accusations of bias.
Under its preferred formulation, voters could be asked: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
Alternatively, they could be required to respond yes or no to the question: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?"
Jenny Watson, the Commission chair said: "Any referendum question must be as clear as possible so voters understand the important choice they are being asked to make."