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07.04.16

Referendum debate grows as government produces pro-EU booklet

As the EU referendum draws closer, the government has produced a leaflet explaining to the public why it believes Britain should vote to stay in Europe.

The leaflets, which cost £9.3m to produce, will be distributed to households in England on 9-11 April and to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the week beginning 9 May.

They argue that the benefits of staying in the EU include lower prices, increased employment, control over migration, better security and an increased international standing for the UK. They are accompanied by a new website.

Liz Truss, environment secretary, said: “This referendum will be a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest we will make in our lifetimes and it is crucial that the public have clear and accessible information. The document makes clear why EU membership brings economic security, peace and stability.”

However, the Conservative government is divided over EU membership, which is thought to have contributed to Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation as work and pensions secretary.

London mayor Boris Johnson criticised the leaflets in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, saying: “It's crazy to use quite so much taxpayers' money on stuff that is basically intended to scare people and to stampede people in one direction. I think what we want is a proper, informed debate and if you are going to use taxpayers' money, you should allow people to put the other side of the case as well.”

Publishing such leaflets is lawful up to 28 days before a referendum or election, and it follows a precedent of similar leaflets before the 1975 EU membership referendum, the referenda on the creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in 1997 and the London Assembly in 1998, and the 2014 Scottish independence vote.

The leaflets also urge members of the public to register to vote ahead of the referendum.

Although the LGA are officially neutral on the referendum, the Core Cities group of council leaders have stated their support for remaining, saying continued EU membership will bring in jobs and investment.

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