Bracknell MP Phillip Lee hosts EU discussion at Wellington College
by Mary Naylor (feat. Julian Lindley-French)
June 7, 2016
People in Bracknell unsure of which way to vote in the upcoming EU referendum were given a helping hand last week.
Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell, chaired a discussion at Wellington College for those who hadn't decided if they would be making a vote to remain or leave the European Union next month.
The event, held at the college on Duke's Ride, Crowthorne on Friday, June 3 , pitted four panelists against each other.
They were: backing a vote to remain Strategic analyst Professor Dr Julian Lindley-French and Financial Times writer Charles Grant CMG.
Backing the leave campaign, co-chair of Women for Britain Anna Firth and head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs Ryan Bourne.
Before opening the discussion Dr Lee explained why he had remained neutral so far in the debate. He said: "My vote is no more important than yours.
"My duty was to help my constituents understand the facts, by not declaring my position, but by highlighting articles from either side."
After the four panelists shared their views the floor was opened up to the audience who were given a chance question the speakers.
In his opening speech Dr Lindley-French, vice president of the Atlantic Treaty Association, said he believed the UK would be better off inside the EU, post-referendum, with a voice to make decisions inside the political machine.
He said: "The campaigns on both sides are rubbish, this is an issue of judgement.
"The only statistics are those concerning British influence. Britain has the fifth biggest economy, the fourth biggest defence spend.
"We need to start acting like a top five world power and start exerting our influence.
"Government in London right now is paralysed, we are increasingly absent from world affairs."
Mr Grant added the EU "has done a good job of spreading democracy in Eastern Europe."
He said: "If the British leave the EU it will be weaker and less good at standing up to Russia.
"I think [the EU] is a force for good in the world as a whole, look at what happened when Russia went into part of the Ukraine, it imposed much harsher sanctions than Russia expected."
He added: "We could have cleaned up our beaches but we didn't until the EU told us to do it, and air quality and drinking water."
Ms Firth, who is a councillor in Kent with a focus on legal, governance and democracy, said: "I don't believe the EU is reformable. I believe it was set up for very good reasons but it's not serving it's own people.
"It wastes billions and billions of tax payers money, it stops this country having a sensible immigration policy and the common agricultural policy keeps the third world poor."
She said she believed the EU was heading towards a United States of Europe, and asked the audience if they wished to be a part of that or if they wanted to "break free and become an independent country again like Canada."
Following her speech, Mr Bourne, who writes for The Times and the Daily Telegraph, focused on the economic arguments and said governments could "really mess up" the economy.
He said to leave the EU was a chance for economic improvement but also "a chance to get things wrong".
Mr Bourne also advised the audience not to be swayed by the idea of a consensus between economic bodies like the IMF and OECD.
He pointed out similar consensuses, like Britain would be better off in the Euro, didn't amount to much.
Dr Lee's thoughts
Closing the evening, Dr Lee announced he would be declaring for one side on Thursday, June 9, at a gathering in London.
Having made a concentrated effort to remain neutral up until this point Dr Lee revealed at the end of the evening he would be declaring for one side on Thursday at an event in London.