UCB hosts European Referendum debate

May 2016

Political heavyweights from both sides of the European Referendum debate went head-to-head in front of a packed audience of UCB students, lecturers and staff today (May 26).

Arguing to remain in the EU were former leader of Birmingham City Council Sir Albert Bore, and businessman and former Conservative MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews.

On the opposite side were Bill Good, who has more than three decades experience working within manufacturing and service related companies, and chairman of the Stratford upon Avon Conservative Association Brian Tustain.

Chairman Michael Hibbs, an employment lawyer, said the most important decision of a generation would be made when the country goes to the polls on June 23.

A show of hands before the debate suggested that many of the 200-plus audience members intended to vote ‘Remain’, but a high proportion were still undecided.

Sir Albert Bore said it would be the ‘gamble of a lifetime’ if the population voted to leave the EU. He asked the audience consider that 67 per cent of manufacturing in the West Midlands is linked to exports in the EU. He commented: “We should be building bridges, not erecting walls. We do not want to be a small country looking in from the outside whilst the rest of Europe moves its economy and conditions for residents onwards.”

Mr Bushill-Matthews, who was elected leader of the Conservative MEPs in 2008 before standing down a year later, said the Brexit campaign was based on ‘fantasy’ and urged people to vote for unity, adding: “If you are not at the table, you end up on the menu.”

Mr Tustain, himself a UCB alumnus, provoked a lively response when he listed the ‘unnecessary’ number of food-related EU directives, including the 454 directives on toast. Branding the EU ‘complicated, costly and unaccountable’ he said: “The UK will be better off out of it. The process may provide a short period of economic uncertainty, but we are strong enough and we will flourish on a global stage.”

Mr Good, a graduate of Birmingham University, put forward a passionate argument to exit the EU, saying: “We have the fifth largest economy in the world, I want to trade with the world. But the world is leaving Europe behind.

“We are great traders, we are free traders, and we are being prevented from doing just that. EU rules and regulations are preventing our enterprising spirit.”

Following the debate, which was hosted at UCB’s award-winning McIntyre House, a second show of hands revealed a proportion of audience members had changed their minds as a result of what was said.   

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