LONDON, April 12 (Xinhua) — Actions by the British government during the European Union referendum led to public mistrust, a committee of MPs said Wednesday in a parliamentary report.
The House of Common’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report said any future referendum in Britain should take note of the lessons learned from the way Brexit referendum was handled, including damage to the reputation of the civil service and the lack of preparation for either of the possible outcomes.
The report said that while the then prime minister David Cameron’s government did not support a Leave vote, they had a constitutional and public obligation to prepare for both outcomes from the referendum.
“Unfortunately, many of the government’s actions in the run-up to the referendum, which were easily avoidable, appear to have increased public distrust. The use of the machinery of government during the referendum contributed to a perception that the civil service were, in some way, biased,” the report said in its conclusions.
The MPs also said the presentation of government reports, particularly those from the Treasury, and the decision to spend 9.3 million pounds (11.7 million U.S. dollars) on sending a leaflet, advocating a Remain vote, to every home in Britain, were inappropriate and counterproductive for the government.
The committee has recommended that in the event of future referendums, civil servants should be tasked with preparing for both possible outcomes.
“Confusion as to the possible consequences of a referendum result serves only to heighten the potential tensions between referendums and representative democracy and risks increasing the public’s disenchantment with politics,” added the MPs.
Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, said: “The use of the machinery of government during referendums has a significant effect on public trust and confidence. Referendums need to be designed in such a way as to provide the utmost clarity for parliamentarians, campaigners and, above all, the electorate.”
“It is of the highest importance that the referendum process is seen to be fair, by both sides, and that the result is agreed to, even if not with, by both sides,” Jenkin added.
The committee has made recommendations which would improve the legislation and regulatory framework for referendums, as well as for the government, civil service and the country’s electoral commission.
In last June’s EU referendum, the majority of voters ignored the government recommendation for Britain to remain as a member of the 28-nation bloc. By a margin of 52 to 48, the British people voted in favor of leaving the EU.
Last month, Theresa May, who succeeded Cameron as prime minister after the result was declared, started the Brexit process by triggering the Article 50.
Remain supporters have argued that as the referendum gave people a simple remain or leave choice, many people were not aware of the full consequences of a leave vote.