Cameron’s EU referendum bill passes in Commons

British Prime Minister David Cameron © Srdjan Zivulovic
UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s referendum plan to ask the Brits whether they want to stay in the EU or leave the union swept through the House of Commons early Tuesday, with 316 MPs backing the plan. The legislation is now headed to the House of Lords.

MPs voted in favor of the EU membership referendum with a 316-53 vote, passing it to the upper house. The plan calls for holding a national vote on the issue by the end of 2017.

Earlier on Monday, Cameron suffered defeat in a separate parliamentary vote that upheld the so-called “purdah” rules, which limit the government’s activity in the run-up to a referendum. While Cameron’s ministers wanted to amend the limits, the proposal nearly sparked a rebellion among Conservatives, with 37 Tory MPs teaming up with Labour to block the proposal in a 312-285 vote.

Labour described the defeat, Cameron’s first since his May re-election, as “humiliating” for the Conservative government.

“The government should never have rushed through its flawed plans to play fast and loose with the rules on the referendum,” shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was quoted as saying by BBC.

Cameron earlier conceded to change the wording of the EU referendum question to avoid favoring the pro-EU camp.

Downing Street accepted advice from the Electoral Commission to ditch questions that involve ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and instead ask: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”