The Gibraltar Government has published draft legislation to enable Gibraltar to participate in the UK’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership.
Publication of the European Union Referendum (Bill) 2016 comes after the UK Government earlier this month introduced legislation to hold the in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
The exact date of the referendum is not yet known but Prime Minister David Cameron has hinted that it could be as early as 2016 and there is speculation his preferred date is next June.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has given the British government an undertaking that Gibraltar will not slow down the Prime Minister’s ability to take a decision as to when to hold the referendum.
That means that Gibraltar must keep apace of the UK and be ready for the referendum whenever it is called.
Publication of the Bill in the run-up to the festive season paves the way for it to be debated and approved by the Gibraltar Parliament early in the new year.
Preparation of the draft legislation involved a committee of law draftsmen from the Government Law Offices and officials from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office who ensured a precise fit between the UK and local legislation.
The Bill, which runs to 132 pages, sets out how the referendum will be run and the rules campaigners must follow, as well as a range of electoral offences.
The UK Act received Royal assent on December 17 but has not yet been brought into force.
The British government will also make regulations to provide further details on the rules for campaigners including timing for the designation process, the length of the referendum period and the date of the referendum.
The local Bill makes provision for the Gibraltar Government to follow suit with subsidiary legislation.
The Gibraltar Government has stated publicly on many occasions that it backs Mr Cameron’s efforts to keep the UK within a reformed EU.
In an interview with the Chronicle earlier this month, the Chief Minister called on the community to rally round the cause of EU membership ahead of the referendum.