First EU debate: Cagey and Close

The opening statements set the tone of the evening with Clegg warning that leaving the European Union would put Britain at risk, whilst Farage’s statement offered an idea that if we were applying to join today, people would be deterred by the open board and the loss of sovereignty.

The opening question addressed the trust politicians have the the public, asking “why politicians don’t trust the public’s decision and have a referendum now?” Farage offered an answer suggesting the leaders of the major domestic parties fear the result of the British public, he claimed that the politicians regularly make false promises to the electorate, which guarantees a referendum only when it would be a vote winner.

Clegg’s response, slightly subdued by the force of Farage’s answer was that he agreed with the audience member, and that there should be a referendum, but only when a significant piece of legislation is put forward that requires the British public’s blessing, unlike that which has happened in the past, where Brussels has gone over the heads of the public.

The leaders were invited to discuss the mass influx of migrants from Eastern Europe. Farage went on to discuss that there was an issue not just of quantity, but quality too. He suggested that 100,000s of unskilled workers came to the UK and took the places of migrants from India or China with the skills that Britain needs.

Clegg parried this argument by stating that 9/10 new jobs created in the last 2 years have gone to British workers, and that 1/7 new businesses in Britain are created by those who have come here to work, finishing his point with, “what everyone is owed is the facts – since 2004, 2 million people have come here, with half that returning, at the same time 1.5 million British people have lived elsewhere, what is to happen to them if the drawbridge is pulled up?”

The leaders were then asked questions on both the shortage of skilled workers if Britain were to leave the EU, and questions over Britain’s ability to compete with the world powers if it was not part of a larger block before their closing statements. These were addressed by both leaders in a slightly more heated manner as the debate wore on.

Farage promised the development of work visas which would be available to migrants in areas which have a surplus of vacancies, whilst also suggesting that Britain’s position on the world stage would not be weakened by a move away from Europe.

He stated that Britain had the largest import market of anyone in the European Union and that many large American companies would express interest in direct foreign investment, if it were not for the regulations of the European Union. This was before his closing statement addressing the potential 480 million immigrants that have an ‘open door to Britain.’ Suggesting this is the reason for people waking up to this debate.

Clegg’s response to the questions addressed to him by stating that the government has created a huge number of new apprenticeships in the last 4 years, but the idea that jobs would open up and appear for these people if Britain were to leave the EU is lunacy. He provided the example of the Nissan factory which is placed in Britain due to the free trade incentive of the EU.

He went on to suggest that to get better deals like Nissan investing in Britain, we need to be part of the EU to have more economic clout. This was then followed by his closing statement echoing his opening, stating “I believe in Great Britain not little England and if you feel the same, then support us.”

Matt Harding