‘Better in or Out’ – BBC EU Referendum – The Audience Verdict
On Sunday night, Epic Studios hosted what can only be described as a fiery debate about how the East would fare if we exited the European Union.
A full audience looked on as ‘Remain’ campaigners Elizabeth Truss (Conservative) and Richard Howitt (Labour) and ‘Leave’ campaign panelists, David Campbell Bannerman (Conservative) and Douglas Carswell (UKIP), gave their views on what kind of deal could be negotiated if we left the EU.
Amongst the main issues discussed were immigration, farming, fishing, scientific research grants to our region and employment. The state of our region’s fishing industry however, became the most heated topic raised. Audience member Paul Lines – Chairman of the Anglia Fishermen’s Association – got the opportunity to raise his concerns directly to Elizabeth Truss and asked why, “our industry has disappeared, whilst the European fleet is modernised, and is growing, and has been subsidised up to the hilt?”
Ms Truss responded by raising the issue of overfishing and claiming that “If we didn’t have quotas there would be overfishing and we would have no fish left”. Paul Lines was not convinced.
“I went to work in Lowestoft in 1973 and from the first day we joined the European Union we’ve been kicking good, saleable fish through the scuppers dead, wasting them,” he said. This comment received a loud reaction from the audience before he went on to question how fish ending up in landfill could be considered positive for the environment.
Mr David Campbell Bannerman chipped in, “I’m right with you sir, I know Lowestoft well”, before going on to imply that if we left the EU we could have an Icelandic or Norwegian policy, with “no dumping or discards”. He suggested that, “a complete renaissance of our fishing industry” was required. His comments appeared to resonate much better with Paul, as well as many other audience members who were visibly angered at the decline of our region’s fishing industry.
The youngest of those asking the panel questions was 19yr old student Louise Horne. Following the programme she said that it was a good debate, but that some members of the audience were so fired up by it that she found getting her point of view forward difficult.
“I think there could have been more discussion on it, [her question], and I would have liked to have given my view on it as well; which is that I think it’s naive to believe that the UK can negotiate trade deals with Europe if we left, and I think the risk of leaving puts investors off. The debate has not changed my mind.”
The final audience member who received the opportunity to ask the panel a direct question was a scientist who works in the Sainsbury Lab in Norwich. Professor Jonathan Jones, 61, asked the panel what would happen to the EU funding in our region if we left the European Union.
Professor Jones recently won a second European Research Council Grant for 2.5M euros, enabling the employment of 4 people for over 5 years. He expressed frustration at the answers given by the ‘Leave’ members of the panel, regarding whether or not the money would still be awarded, or whether those 4 employees would find themselves out of work should we leave the EU:
“I was not comforted by the answers from the Brexit crowd today. I think Lizz Truss answered much better and came across extremely well.”
What do you think? Who gave the best arguments out of the ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ experts? You can view the entire programme by clicking the link given at the bottom of this article and we would love to hear your views.
Stuart White, the host of the debate, says he remains undecided as to whether or not we should remain in, or leave the European Union:
“I currently haven’t decided, I listen to the arguments from both sides and feel as though my mind is changed daily.”
When asked whether he thinks a Brexit is likely, the BBC Look East presenter said that there are ‘regional splits’ in how likely a Brexit feels:
“I recently visited some students near where I grew up in Wiltshere and there were no immigrants at the college at all. Despite this, every student appeared to be swaying towards leaving the EU due to the fears of immigration. I, of course, came away swaying towards remaining in the EU that day,” Mr White joked.
Many audience members undoubtedly left the BBC’s debate at Epic Studios still undecided on which way to vote on June 23rd but a lot of those interviewed later said that they felt better informed to make a decision.
Richard Howitt MEP urged everyone to use their vote in a few days time: “Please encourage all those registered to make sure they do go and use their vote. It is very important that all those wanting their say do not miss out on such a historic decision.”
If you are still undecided, or missed the debate airing, you can catch up on BBC I-Player by clicking the link below: