Two Northamptonshire MPs will this morning (Friday, April 11) announce plans to give people in the north of the county the chance to vote on whether the UK should remain in the European Union.
Conservatives Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough and Rushden, and Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, have arranged for ballot papers to be delivered to 250,000 residents in north Northamptonshire.
The duo will be joined by the party’s candidate in Corby and East Northamptonshire, Tom Pursglove.
Ballot papers will be distributed using funds from private donors.
Mr Bone said the ballot would show what the people of the north of the county really thought about the EU.
He said: “This is the first time such a large number of people will have the opportunity to indicate whether they wish to remain in the European Union.
“North Northamptonshire is the centre of middle England and the result will reflect the views of people across the whole country.”
Mr Hollobone said the British people had never given their backing to what he described as a “European super-state”.
He added: “There has never been a referendum on the European Union. What people voted for previously was a common market – a European Economic Community. They did not vote for this European super-state.
“Now, we’re giving local people a chance to express their opinion.”
The ballot papers will be distributed from Friday, May 23, the day after the UK votes in the European Parliament elections.
People will be able to return the ballot papers by freepost, and Mr Hollobone said he hoped that would encourage more people to have their say.
He added: “We are expecting a massive turnout and enthusiastic participation.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for local people to get it off their chest about whether we should be in the EU or not.”
Mr Pursglove added: “I know from my Listening to Corby and East Northamptonshire Campaign that a great number of local people wish to have their say on this important issue – they have been deprived of that opportunity for far too long.
“I think it’s quite legitimate people who go out and work hard should have a vote on this issue.”
He has encouraged supporters of all parties, and of none, to get involved and make their voices heard.
Labour MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, Andy Sawford, said the European Parliamentary election on Thursday, May 22, would provide people with the chance to have their say on Europe.
He said: “It’s a properly organised election which will send a message on what they want in terms of Britain’s relations with the EU.
“People will have a very real say on May 22. That’s the way people’s voices will be heard.
UKIP says the way people could show they wanted to leave the EU is by voting for the party in the European election.
Kettering councillor Jonathan Bullock, who is standing for UKIP in the East Midlands region, said: “There’s only one party saying come out of the EU, and that’s UKIP. All those in other parties who are in favour of withdrawal should come and join us.”
He said Prime Minister David Cameron, who has pledged an EU referendum if the Conservatives win the next election, was not in favour of withdrawal, adding: “They (Mr Bone, Mr Hollobone and Mr Pursglove) should have the courage of their convictions and join us in UKIP.”
One of the party’s current East Midlands MEPs, Derek Clark, added: “I was pleased to see that two local MPs and a prospective MP are taking up UKIP’s battle cry to hold an in/out referendum on the EU. This is exactly what we are pushing for.”
In 2011, 81 Tory MPs rebelled against the Government by calling for a referendum on the EU, the biggest ever Conservative rebellion on Europe. Mr Bone and Mr Hollobone were both among the 81 and acted as tellers for the rebels.
The MPs also joined a smaller rebellion last year which called for a 2014 vote on Britain’s continuing membership of the EU.
Mr Hollobone has also been approached by UKIP over the possibility of a defection.