Members of both the Britain ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns, with varied political outlooks, took to the stage at the University of Westminster’s panel discussion Brexit: Is the Future of the UK in or out of the European Union? Held at Regent Campus on Wednesday 23 March, the event was chaired by international broadcaster and long-time BBC World news anchor Keshini Navaratnam.

Organised and hosted by the University of Westminster’s Department of Politics and International Relations and the Centre for the Study of Democracy, the aim of the discussion was to bring together leading figures from both sides of the debate, students, alumni and staff, to explore the main arguments for remaining in and leaving the European Union.

Speakers representing the ‘In’ campaign included:

  • The Rt. Hon. Lord Tyler, Principal Spokesperson for the Constitutional and Political Reform, Liberal Democrats
  • Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations
  • Michael McManus, Policy Advisor to Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud

Supporting his views for Britain staying in the EU, Lord Tyler stated the importance of young people registering to vote, saying; “73 per cent of Londoners think we should remain in the EU…and younger people have a bigger interest in the long-term outcomes of this decision.”

Nick Witney, who led the project team charged with developing the blueprints for the European Defence Agency, offered a European perspective, stating; “Remaining in the EU we have a best-of-both-worlds position. I think uniformly the member states want us to stay. We’re regarded generally still as a good influence and if we do leave there will remain a very big worry about what the impact within Europe will be.”

Speakers representing the ‘Out’ campaign were:

  • Brendan Chilton, Director of Labour Leave
  • Anna Firth, Co-Chair of Women for Britain and former parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party

Speaking to the audience, Anna Firth stated: “The European Parliament is a sham. A large amount of our laws are made by a government elite in Brussels.” She added: “The EU – for me, it should be about democracy not bureaucracy.”

Brendan Chilton offered a similar outlook, asking: “We have a wholly unelected EU parliament. How can we campaign to stay in the EU, when at its very heart it is against democracy?”

An informal poll conducted both before and towards the end of the debate showed that the vast majority of the audience were planning to vote for Britain to stay in the EU.

Dr Dibyesh Anand, Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations said; “The reason why we have organised this event is because when I have asked my students about whether they’ve made their choices regarding Brexit, most of them have been unsure.”

Chair Keshini Navaratnam commented on the upcoming EU referendum on 23 June and its significance saying: “We’re three months away from when we will vote to remain in or out of the EU. It’s a very important topic – not just for Britain, but for the rest of the world.”

The University of Westminster’s Department of Politics and International Relations is a centre of excellence for research and teaching in politics, international relations and development studies. The department has a longstanding tradition of innovative research, concentrated in the areas of democracy, emerging powers, and security and international relations.

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