A debate on the European Union led to over 80% of audience members wishing to remain in the EU. That was the outcome of a poll of audience members of a debate held by Durham University’s International Office and Durham County Council, which featured the Labour Party’s Jude Kirton-Darling, and UKIP’s Jonathan Arnott, two of the North East’s three MEPs.
It featured contributions from Erasmus students, a five minute hust from each candidates on the benefits of voting to remain or leave the EU, and a ‘Question Time’ event, chaired by Durham University’s Dr Christian Schweiger.
Kirton-Darling started strongly, putting forward the case for staying in Europe. In her hust she said that the EU “generates jobs, investment, guarantees protections for workers, keeps us safe, and for tackling climate change.”
She continued: “Being part of Europe gives countless opportunities for students. We live in an ear of trillion dollar trades and billion person countries, and the EU keeps Britain’s voice strong in the world.
“The EU gives strong social rights. Pressure from Labour meant that those rights are guaranteed to future
“Staying in EU gives us an advantageous place in the world. Pound for pound we get out more from EU than we put in.
Arnott then put forward the case for leaving the EU: “Having a political union holds the UK back. It is protectionist market, a 1950s idea.
“We give so much to Europe and get little in return. The UK pays £55m a day into the EU, bt only gets £31m back, and we have to spend this in a certain way.
“We should be able to make our own trade deals”.
The event then went onto a Q&A with members of the audience. Two questions were particularly interesting. Firstly, a query about the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s recent assertation that Vladimir Putin would be ‘delighted’ if Britain were to leave the EU. Kirton-Darling suggested that Putin wanted to see Europe fragment, because it makes the protection of their near neighbours weaker. However, Jonathan Arnott suggested that the EU was irrelevant in this debate. It was NATO, he suggested, that kept Britain safe, rather than the EU.
Another interesting question was the question of the referendum result, and when it might be. Both suggested that the referendum would come early compared to what is normally suggested, possibly on the 23rd June. Both suggested that the referendum would be close, with Kirton-Darling saying that it would be a ‘national tragedy’ if Britain voted to leave on a low turnout. She suggested that it was vital for students and young people to vote in large numbers so that their voice could be heard.