The Spectator

Leave wins The Spectator’s second Brexit debate

Leave wins The Spectator's second Brexit debate
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There’s just over a week to go until the polls open for the EU referendum and Britain decides what it would like its future to look like. The debate has been fierce – and no more so than when The Spectator brought together key figures from both campaigns to make the case for Leave and Remain for our last debate, when Leave won. Tonight, Andrew Neil chaired a second debate between key members of both sides. The Leaves had it again - they initially had 308 votes, and swung to 369. Remain had 138 and swung to 160 - and the undecideds had 144 and swung to 69.

This was the line-up:

  • Suzanne Evans, Ukip, Vote Leave board member (Vote Leave)
  • Lord Falconer, Labour Peer, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice (Stronger In)
  • Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England (Vote Leave)
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative, former Foreign Secretary (Stronger In)
  • Here's commentary and audio from the debate:

    Summary of opening speeches:

    OUT - Suzanne Evans

    Do something amazing. We have the opportunity to vote for our own independence day. We should believe in Britain; together we have vast creative wealth, we are the 5

    th

    largest economy, and the 7

    th

     largest manufacturing nation. We are a key player in the UN security council, the G7, the G20 and Nato. Nobody could ever call us isolated.

    But it is painful to see Britain as it is today. We should release ourselves into the big wide world. Yes, change can be difficult. Familiarity can be comfortable even when it is holding us back. It's less scary to stay. But we must remember how big and strong we are. The Remain side are relying on Fear - don't let them patronise you with their sly political trickery.

    One remain myth not to fall for is the idea of the status quo – there is no status quo. Voting for remain isn’t voting for no change – every ballot will be interpreted as passion for the EU and federal state. If that’s not what you want  then don’t be bullied into voting by fear. Vote Leave even if it pushes you beyond your comfort zone – that’s where life begins. Inside the EU Britain is limited – outside its possibilities are limitless. Cast a vote of confidence in our country. Vote Leave – and give our country the power to take back control.

    Here's James Forsyth's analysis:

    Suzanne Evans tried to do the optimistic leave pitch, emphasising that Britain is plenty big enough to succeed outside the EU. She argued that being in the EU led to the UK being trapped in a box of 28 countries and that the UK should head out into the world. Her other aim was to emphasise that there is no ‘status quo’ option on the ballot paper, that if the UK voted to say IN then Brussels will push on with further integration.

    OUT - Daniel Hannan

    I heard the single worst argument today for Remain, and it came from Ed Balls. Vote to remain and then reform it, he said. Why has nobody thought of it before?

    But we can’t reform the EU. We can’t change it into something different to what it was designed to be. Think of the last two years. Cameron tried to get a better deal. He came back with nothing – not one power was repatriated, no pennys, not even a new treaty. The EU is unable and unwilling to make concessions.

    Ask yourself one question – if this is how it treats us now, when we are about to vote, how will we be treated the day after voting to stay? Voting to stay in is not the same as voting to stay put. It means acquiescing to everything the Eurocrats sight as their goal: plan for total political union. We would have just had our best chance to get reform –and we failed.

    So we need a different kind of relationship. There isn’t a status quo on the ballot paper – think of it as a fork in the road. One is towards a common market, not a common government.  The other road is close political union.

    If the country that has been the biggest headache votes in – then it will leave us with no power. We will be laughed at if we try and change things. Our countrymen voted for unchanged membership, they will tell me.

    I want to support Project Cheer. An internationalist Britain – linked by language and law, custom and kinship. A Britain that raises its eyes to more distant horizons. A Britain which reclaims the sublime right to hire and fire the people who pass laws. A secure Britain. A global Britain, linked to more opulent markets across the seas.

    The road that leads to globalism and independence will be a slow one – it will be a gradual recovery of power. There’s no magic wand. It will be a gentle process. Brexit is a process not an event – it means we can begin to follow a different trajectory. We can reorient from the Eurozone. It doesn’t mean we turn our backs on Europe.

    Here's James Forsyth's analysis:

    It is striking how Dan Hannan wanted to emphasise that Britain leaving the EU would not be a ‘sudden process’. He stressed that it would be a ‘gradual recovery of power’, rather than a big bang moment. His message was that ‘Brexit is a process not an event’. I suspect that this is an attempt to reassure voters that it wouldn’t be too dramatic a change, and that there would be time to work things out.

    IN - Malcolm Rifkind

    I haven’t always been fully supportive of the EU but I’ve come to the decision that we are better off in the European Union. As it is, the EU is not a one-size-fits-all union and being in the EU gives us the best of both worlds. I’ve based my decision to back Remain on three main reasons. Firstly, the question goes back to why the EU was formed in the first place. The EU was not set up for economic reasons but because Europe had been fighting. We suffered in the world wars and so did other European countries. So instead of having a fragmented Europe, which could be a consequence of voting out, we should vote to stay in the EU because it would be a serious setback if one of the most important countries turned its back on the EU. It could also possibly kick start the process of fragmentation.

     Secondly it's about the importance of the single market. The single market was the one thing Margaret Thatcher said we must have. And that is what we now have. Leaving would put that at risk and it would be a great irony if the country responsible for the single market walked away from it and missed out from its benefits.

    And lastly my final point is about sovereignty. The most important expression of sovereignty is deciding about whether you go to war. And we have retained that decision while we’ve been in the EU. And who decides the taxes we pay? Overwhelmingly, it’s the British government. The NHS is not run by Brussels: no one in their right mind believes that. So, do we really want our children and grandchildren to live in a world where all the big decisions are taken by the US and China?

    Here's James Forsyth's analysis:

    Malcolm Rifkind set out the sceptical case for In. He argued that the divide between the Euro Ins and Outs meant that the EU was no longer a one size fits all project and that the merits of the single market meant it was worth staying in. But he had little to say on the issue that is causing such trouble for the IN campaign: immigration.

    IN - Charles Falconer

    I so agree with Daniel Hannan that we are at a fork in the road. Interest in the EU referendum has only been matched by interest in the Scottish referendum. I believe the answer is Remain. If we leave the EU, we leave a market of 27 other nations. It strikes me as inconceivable that if we leave that market, we will be allowed to trade into that market on the same terms as we do now.

    In relation to control, all of those countries that trade into the EU from outside have to accept free movement, most of them make a contribution to the budget and most have to accept the rules of the single market. Our control over our destiny would be decreased if we left.

    And in relation to our safety: We share information with our EU neighbours on a number of things, including fingerprints and number plates. We also have the European arrest warrant. If we leave, we will be less safe. We will become a haven for people who commit criminal acts. Imagine if we were the one country outside those arrangements.

    Finally, values: for me we are an internationalist Britain. If we turn our back on the EU, we don’t just turn our back on the organisation, we also turn our back on our natural market.

    I would much prefer to be in a country that embraces Europe. So for all these reasons, I will be voting to remain and I urge you all to do the same.

    Here's James Forsyth's analysis:

    Charles Falconer began by saying that he agreed that the country was at a fork in the road and that the voters knew it. He said he had not seen them so engaged in any other vote apart from the Scottish referendum. But once he had finished his speech, Falconer challenged the Out speakers to say what level they would like immigration to be reduced to? He argued that any reduction in the freedom of movement would come at an economic cost.

     The debate: 

    Immigration: Suzanne Evans is trying to explain how she would reduce migration. She would establish a commission to look at what skills the country needs. Charles Falconer suggests that the Leave campaign aren't being honest about immigration. Daniel Hannan says he is pro-immigration but that the levels should be decided by the people of the UK.

    Pensions: The country as a whole will prosper more, if we leave says Daniel Hannan. It will benefit all of us, he says. Charles Falconer says there will be uncertainty and a drop in financial investment - and it is a risk.

    Turkey: Dan Hannan says his position is completely relaxed towards Turkey, so long as we leave the EU (having originally been a part of the same group lobbying for Turkey to join - with Boris). Malcolm Rifkind says Turkey is still a long way off becoming a member. Whatever is being said, there is no prospect of Turkey becoming a serious candidate for membership.

    Trade: Charles Falconer says we could do a specific deal with the whole of the EU. But areas of the EU would like to protect itself.

    Financial markets: They dislike uncertainty, says Dan Hannan. There's always a bounce back after though. The Prime Minister is right to say that there will be risk - what is already happening is exactly what was being predicted by the financial experts, says Charles Falconer.

    NHS: Yes the bigwigs are saying the NHS will be worse off, says Suzanne Evans. But the money we pay to Brussels should go to the NHS. Charles Falconer says we will be £40 billion less well off - if that is right, then our ability as a nation to fund the NHS will be damaged.

    Financial institutions: We have to weigh up the benefits of EU regulation versus our own control, says Dan Hannan. We are better off with our own regulation, rather than EU regulation, because the decline of the EU economically is important to financial services. When we are competing with New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, we need to have our own regulation. Charles Falconer says this is a mistake - the competitive nature means the financial services will move from London to another European capital.

    The Commonwealth: Malcolm Rifkind says the Commonwealth wants us to remain in the EU. They want the best deal and this is easiest if Britain is in the EU. We can't assume the Anglosphere wants us to leave; they don't and they have told us that.

    War: Just because we haven't had war, doesn't mean we don't need the EU. It's like saying we didn't need Nato when Russia was more friendly, says Malcolm Rifkind. Europe has for hundreds of years been at war. If Britain leaves, other countries may too, and that may lead to a fragmented Europe, which is the Europe we have been trying to escape from.

    Here's James Forsyth's summary of the whole debate:

    Tonight’s debate gave a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides of the EU referendum debate. With immigration dominating the referendum discussion in recent days, perhaps the most telling exchanges came on this issue. Charlie Falconer emphasised that any changes Labour would make to free movement would come within an EU context. But he then challenged Dan Hannan and Suzanne Evans to say what level of EU immigration into Britain they would want post-Brexit, arguing that any reduction in free movement would have economic consequences. Hannan said that he thought that immigration was at roughly the right level now but stressed that, as he was not an MP, he would not have a vote on the law and that the issue was who made the decision not the decision itself.

    In a sign of the state of the race, several of the audience questions tonight came from passionate Remainers—worried about their pension portfolio, the NHS or passporting rights for EU City banks. But the Leave side’s argument about control enabled them to parry most of these points. Interestingly, at the end of the debate, Leave picked up the support of more of those who had arrived undecided than Remain did.

    One thing to watch for in the final days of this campaign is whether more people on the Leave side follow Hannan’s lead in emphasising that Brexit will be ‘a process not an event’ and very gradual. The aim of this is presumably to reassure people, and the markets, that there won’t be some dramatic rupture following the referendum.

    Will Britain vote to leave the EU? Can the Tories survive the aftermath? Join James Forsyth, Isabel Hardman and Fraser Nelson to discuss at a subscriber-only event at the Royal Institution, Mayfair, on Monday 20 June. Tickets are on sale now. Not a subscriber? Click here to join us, from just £1 a week.