General referendum

The government holds a referendum when it wants to consult people on a particular issue.  They can also be held to consult on local issues, such as electing a mayor.

If you’re eligible to vote and are registered on the electoral list, you can take part in a referendum.

To date, the following UK-wide referendums have been held:

  • 1975 - to determine whether or not Britain should remain in the Common Market 
  • 2011 - to determine whether the system for electing the UK Parliament should change from the current first-past-the-post system to the Alternative Vote system
  • 2016 - to determine whether or not Britain should remain in or leave the European Union

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) sets out the legal framework for the conduct of any referendum held across the UK, or a referendum held in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.  It also applies to any regional referendums within England.