Egham debate

Yesterday Strode’s College in Egham held an EU referendum debate. About 300 students filled their sports hall on what was a rainy afternoon. I’d participated in an excellent election debate in the same hall last year. It was good to be back.
I shared the platform with Royal Holloway History Professor Justin Champion, Diane James UKIP MEP for the South East and Kwasi Kwarteng MP for Spelthorne. Also, two student representative put the case on either side of the argument. Questions came thick and fast from the students and included the topics of: Democracy, Scotland, Tourism, Taxation, Currencies, Free Movement, Trade, Culture and Voting at 16. Everyone understood that this was a once in a generation opportunity to voice an opinion on EU membership.
On the leave side; UKIP painted a picture of “them” and “us”. Always hostile to the EU. Viewing the UK as always being ganged up on by others who are intent on creating a super state.
Spelthorne’s Tory MP emphasised that we were a trading nation long before the EU came along. For him trade within the EU was not vital to the UK when compared with the rest of the world.
On the remain side: Justin Champion reminded us all our European cultural roots. He did not wish to see the UK become a big gated community. The debate is not just about economics.
I took 3 points to make in my 3-minute introduction: For Europe to be a force for good in the world – promoting peace and stability. To grow the single market to prosper and to have a global impact as we forge ahead in science and technology.
Just as for the Strode’s students this is a first for me too. I was too young to get a vote in 1975. The decision we make in a few weeks will shape our world for the next 40 years.
At the end of the debate, the students were asked to vote on whether they think the UK should remain in or leave the European Union. The result is awaited.

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