Young Fabians discuss the EU Referendum
Three weeks ago, the Young Fabians International Network held a debate on the EU referendum. The event was chaired by Kirith Ahluwalia, Vice-Chair of the Young Fabians International Network. Panellists included Suzanne Evans, who is a board member for the Women for Britain campaign and former parliamentary spokesperson for UKIP, Dan Callaghan from the Young Fabians Finance Network and a Vote Leave campaigner, Emma Reynolds MP who is a board member for the Labour In for Britain campaign, and Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton North East. Finally, we had Kieran O’Halloran from the Stronger In campaign, who gave the audience his personal views on Britain and the EU.
We had a lively and open debate amongst the panellists for 45 minutes. It was interesting to have a non-Labour Party perspective from Suzanne Evans, and also to see how her views aligned with Dan Callaghan’s from the Young Fabians Finance Network. Emma Reynolds provided excellent counter-arguments and did not hesitate to jump in and correct the Leave side where she felt necessary.
Kieran provided key points for why the UK should remain in the EU, as well as delivering a Labour Party perspective. Questions from the audience were then asked. Some of the most notable questions included whether the Out campaign agreed that it has been dismissive on the EU helping to achieve peace – a fact that was also highlighted in Patrick Stewart’s parody video that was used by the Guardian to how what the ECHR had done for Britain. Fears were raised about whether or not we would still have the same preferential treatment that the UK currently has with the EU if we were to leave, and panellists were also asked what their vision for immigration would be if we did leave.
Suzanne argued that leaving the EU would mean:
- Taking back control of our borders
- Higher wages for workers
- Cutting flows of EU migrants who would be happy working on lower wages
She also emphasised that a vote to leave would allow Britain to regain its vote and voice and that nothing would change upon leaving the union.
On the other hand, both Emma Reynolds and Kieran O’Halloran noted that a vote to leave would:
- Hinder worker’s rights and could lead to unfair dismissals
- Free-trade deals wouldn’t be as meaningful outside of the EU
- We would be in a weaker position if we were to leave as there is no guarantee we would be treated the same way by the EU
Countless news articles, video clips, and campaign material has been posted and issued from both sides on the EU Referendum, but I wanted to get a sense of what people were really thinking.
Surveys were issued out to the audience members, who were asked to take part in the poll and give their views on why they had selected either to remain in the EU or leave. Audience members were also asked if they were undecided and why. The results and comments provided deeper insight into how people are feeling about our relationship with the EU.
Out of 34 participants who were surveyed, 25 voted to remain, arguing that the key reasons for voting this way were that there was a lack of a sufficient alternative and that it was more about
Britain’s place in the world. Scotland’s future as part of the UK also came up as a concern if we were to leave, and it was thought that EU membership would be better for agriculture, global issues – such as environmentalism, and national security. The sentiment was that we are stronger in the EU in terms of our global position and that we could reform and develop the EU from within.
Six people said they would vote out of the EU because of the EU having a pro-austerity agenda, which would conflict with their personal political beliefs. Other issues that came into the firing line were women’s rights – which has been a topic of debate when it comes to the EU. Suzanne Evans highlighted that a Brexit would fare better for women at the debate, which Emma Reynolds suggested was not going to be the case. It was argued that the EU has done more for women’s rights and employee rights than Britain could have done. Immigration and the impact this would have on the labour market if we were to remain in the EU, was listed as a key reason to vote leave, as well as the pressure this puts on the NHS. A lack of democracy was also associated with our membership of the EU, and there was a fear that this discourages political participation.
Other factors in people’s decision-making included trade agreements, which both Suzanne and Dan argued would be better if we were to leave the EU, and rather unsurprisingly, immigration and the labour market. This survey demonstrated that both the leave and remain camps have done their research and that they are focusing on the issues that people care about the most. However, there is still distrust amongst people as to whether or not the facts being presented by both campaigns are correct or not, and it appears we still have some work to do to help people decide how to vote. We had three people who were undecided, and I suspect there are much more that have yet to choose their side.