EU Referendum: BBC Debate

(Title Image: BBC)

Both sides of the referendum debate took one of the few chances left on the UK-wide stage to put their arguments across before the vote on Thursday, with the BBC hosting an extraordinary event at Wembley Arena last night, attended by around 6,000 people.

It was all a bit weird and Americanised to be honest.

As last time, I’m only going to cover the contributions as a team, not as individuals.

Leave Campaign

  • Boris Johnson MP (Con, Uxbridge & South Rislip); former Mayor of London (2008-2016).
  • Andrea Leadsom MP (Con, South Northamptonshire); UK Minister of State for Energy.
  • Gisela Stuart MP (Lab, Birmingham Edgebaston); drafted proposed European Constitution under Tony Blair.

“Would you join the EU now if you had the choice?”If the answer is no, then you should vote Leave. The EU was a noble dream, but it’s failed and turned into a nightmare. We can “take back control” in a number of policy areas and whilst voting may be scoffed at as making little significance, that’s different on Thursday.

There’s minimal risk of tariffs as the EU exports more to the UK; Germany exports a fifth of its cars to the UK. Only 6% of businesses actually do any trade with the EU, but 100% are bound by EU laws and regulations. We will pay for the failed EU project “forever”. Big companies prefer Brussels because they have effective lobbying machines, which disadvantages small businesses. The EU has also done a terrible job of negotiating free trade agreements, with many smaller non-EU economies out-performing the UK.

UK governments led the way in workers rights before the EU existed and we don’t need bureaucrats to tell the UK what our rights should be. The Remain side can’t think of a single directive they would scrap and the EU is “a job-destroying entity” – Tata Steel was mentioned, with claims the EU is preventing the UK government cutting energy costs.

We need to look in an informed way at the pressures brought by uncontrolled immigration, and how it discriminates against non-EU citizens to favour of the EU; an Australian-style points system would ensure we get skilled migrants, and it’s important that public services can be planned for by knowing how many people are coming or going.

Democracy is important in its own right, and the EU has outgrown its roots and become cumbersome, particularly since the introduction of the euro. The UK has also been outvoted in the EU several times. NATO and American leadership has provided military security, while the EU is an open door to terrorists.

The Leave campaign offers hope, as they believe in Britain. The Remain campaign are woefully underestimating the country. We can take back control of our borders, trade policy and law-making system. If we stand up for democracy, we will speak up for hundreds of millions of people around Europe who have no voice – Thursday is “independence day”.

Remain Campaign

  • Ruth Davidson MSP (Con, Edinburgh Central); Leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
  • Sadiq Khan (Lab); Mayor of London, former MP for Tooting (2005-2016).
  • Frances O’Grady; General Secretary of UK Trade Union Congress (2013-).


Jobs are more secure, wages are higher, shop prices are lower and your rights are better protected in the EU – backed by expert opinion. There’s no going back if we vote Leave, and having sought to build relationships with other countries, the patriotic choice is to vote Remain.

Some people can find the EU “stuffy” but it provides a level playing field so small businesses can’t be undercut by those in other countries. Having a seat at the top table prevents other countries introducing tariffs, and the Leave campaign haven’t said anything on how big the hit would be and what would come after, possibly causing a recession.

When Leave campaigners talk about “red tape”they talk about vital rights at work that were fought for for generations and which the EU guarantees; 2 million people got paid holidays for the first time via the Working Time Directive.

There needs to be a fair immigration policy, and the agreement with the EU means immigrants will have to work four years before they can fully access welfare. More than 130,000 EU migrants work in the NHS and social care alone – there would be a staffing crisis without them. The Leave campaign’s message on immigration has been hateful and there’s “no silver bullet” to deal with the issue.

The UK is a sovereign independent country that retains control over defence and currency etc – we’re no less British by being in the EU. It’s up to the UK as to how deep our membership of the EU is as the UK has used opt-outs before to ensure the EU works for us. There’s nothing patriotic about not having a plan for an EU exit and putting the economy at risk. All of our major allies and security organisations say we’re safer in the EU. The EU has also played a major role in the peace process in Northern Ireland – by the creation of a common citizenship – and a Brexit could lead to border controls in Ireland.

The Leave campaign completely failed to show what a post-Brexit UK would look like and there’s no going back on the decision on Friday morning. The UK works with its friends and neighbours and doesn’t walk away from them. There’s nothing more positive than having a stronger economy supporting jobs and opportunities.

Conclusions & Predictions

Despite having all the glitz of The Oscars it still ended up as, in the main, six people shouting over each other (….followed by a larger applause than usual). At points it was unwatchable and I wish I watched the football instead.

As I said it was a bit weird. Amidst the whooping I was half expecting David Cameron or Michael Gove to appear to a nu-metal soundtrack to hit someone over the head with a folding chair or throw someone through a table. This was dumbing down at its finest.

As for the “performances”, Team Leave were more consistent and on-message, but didn’t have it all their own way like last time. The parroting got tiresome fairly quickly. Also, having come under personal attack last time, Boris Johnson went on the offensive against Sadiq Khan in particular.

Remain had the strongest performer of the night – Ruth Davidson, who was absolutely brilliant and I can see why she’s so highly-rated in Scotland now – and also the weakest performer in Frances O’Grady who seemed to undo Ruth’s work every time she opened her mouth.

So overall this was a better performance by Remain, but it was probably still inconclusive as a debate.

I suppose the only question left is what do I think will happen?

My head says it’s still far too close to call to make any firm predictions, so all that’s left is gut instinct.

My guess is that there’s going to be a very narrow Remain vote – something like 51%-49% on a turnout similar to a UK general election (mid-60s), with Leave winning lots of counting areas but losing the popular vote. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London in particular could shift things, with densely-populated urban areas across the UK voting Remain and larger, rural areas and economically depressed area like seaside towns/local authorities voting Leave.

Wales could go either way but the result will be closer to England than Scotland. I’d expect Cardiff, Ceredigion and Gwynedd to produce the most pro-Remain results, while the Costa Geriatrica (Denbighshire, Conwy, Flintshire), Pembrokeshire and the Gwent valleys will vote Leave. The results in the M4 corridor authorities (Bridgend, RCT, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, NPT, Newport) will determine whether Wales goes one way or the other.