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Referendum Party and UKIP

In 1994, Sir James Goldsmith formed the Referendum Party to contest the 1997 general election on a platform of
providing a referendum on the nature of the United Kingdom's relationship with the EU.[50][51] It fielded candidates in
547 constituencies at that election, and won 810,860 votes or 2.6% of the total votes cast,[52] although it failed to win a
single parliamentary seat due to its vote being spread across the country. The Referendum Party disbanded after
Goldsmith's death in 1997.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), a Eurosceptic political party, was also formed in 1993. It achieved third place in
the UK during the 2004 European elections, second place in the 2009 European elections and first place in the 2014
European elections, with 27.5% of the total vote. This was the first time since the 1910 general election that any party
other than the Labour or Conservative parties had taken the largest share of the vote in a nationwide election.
[53]
UKIP's electoral success in the 2014 European election has been documented as the strongest correlate of the
support for the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum.[54]
UKIP won two by-elections (triggered by defecting Conservative MPs) in 2014; in the 2015 general election it took
12.6% of the total vote, and held one of the two seats won in 2014.[55]

Opinion polls 1977–2015


Main article: Opinion polling for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
Both pro- and anti-EU views have had majority support at different times since 1977.[56] In the European Communities
membership referendum of 1975, two-thirds of British voters favoured continued EC membership.
In a statistical analysis published in April 2016, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University
defined Euroscepticism as the wish to sever or reduce the powers of the EU, and conversely Europhilia as the desire
to preserve or increase the powers of the EU. According to this definition, the British Social Attitudes (BSA) surveys
show an increase in euroscepticism from 38% (1993) to 65% (2015). Euroscepticism should, however, not be
confused with the wish to leave the EU: the BSA survey for the period July–November 2015 shows that 60% backed
the option "continue as an EU member", and only 30% backed the option to "withdraw".[57]

May 2015 United Kingdom General Election


In the Conservative Party manifesto for the United Kingdom general election, 2015 (held on 7 May 2015), the
Conservative Party offered "an EU referendum by 2017".[58][59]

Referendum of 2016
Main article: United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016

Negotiations for EU reform


Main article: United Kingdom renegotiation of European Union membership, 2015–16
In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron initially rejected calls for a referendum on the UK's EU membership,[60] but
then suggested the possibility of a future referendum to endorse his proposed renegotiation of Britain's relationship
with the EU.[61] According to the BBC, "The prime minister acknowledged the need to ensure the UK's [renegotiated]
position within the European Union had 'the full-hearted support of the British people' but they needed to show
'tactical and strategic patience'."[62] Under pressure from many of his MPs and from the rise of UKIP, in January 2013,
Cameron announced that a Conservative government would hold an in–out referendum on EU membership before
the end of 2017, on a renegotiated package, if elected in 2015.[63]
The Conservative Party won the 2015 general election with a majority. Soon afterwards the European Union
Referendum Act 2015 was introduced into Parliament to enable the referendum. Cameron favoured remaining in a
reformed European Union, and sought to renegotiate on four key points: protection of the single market for non-
eurozone countries, reduction of "red tape", exempting Britain from "ever-closer union", and restricting EU
immigration.[64]
In December 2015, opinion polls showed a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU; they also showed support
would drop if Cameron did not negotiate adequate safeguards for non-eurozone member states, and restrictions on
benefits for EU citizens.[65]
The outcome of the renegotiations was announced in February 2016. Some limits to in-work benefits for new EU
immigrants were agreed, but before they could be applied, a country such as the UK would have to get permission
from the European Commission and then from the European Council.[66]
In a speech to the House of Commons on 22 February 2016, Cameron announced a referendum date of 23 June
2016, and commented on the renegotiation settlement.[67] He spoke of an intention to trigger the Article 50 process
immediately following a leave vote, and of the "two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit."[68]

Campaign groups
Main article: Campaigning in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016

A "Vote Leave" poster in Omagh, Northern Ireland, saying "We send the EU £50 million every day. Let's spend it on our NHS instead."

The official campaign group for leaving the EU was Vote Leave[69] after a contest for the designation with Leave.EU.[70]
[71]

The official campaign to stay in the EU, chaired by Stuart Rose, was known as Britain Stronger in Europe, or
informally as 'Remain'. Other campaigns supporting remaining in the EU included Conservatives In,[72] Labour in for
Britain,[73] #INtogether (Liberal Democrats),[74]Greens for a Better Europe,[75] Scientists for EU,[76] Environmentalists For
Europe,[77] Universities for Europe[78] and Another Europe is Possible.[79]

Referendum result
Main article: Results of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016
The result was announced on the morning of 24 June: 51.89% voted in favour of leaving the European Union, and
48.11% voted in favour of remaining a member of the European Union.[80][81] Comprehensive results are available from
the UK Electoral Commission Referendum Results site. A petition calling for a second referendum attracted more
than four million signatures,[82][83] but was rejected by the government on 9 July.[84]