Canterbury District Green Party's Press Officer, Michelle Freeman, represented us extremely capably in a debate on whether or not to remain in the European Union held at All Saints' Church in Whitstable on Friday 22nd April at 7.30pm.
She not only gave well-prepared and concise answers to the questioners in the debate but also intervened several times to make well-informed and convincing arguments in support of staying in the EU.
There were questions on the economic repercussions of leaving the EU or remaining, the issues around migration from EU countries to the UK and the control of UK borders, whether the UK will be better placed to deal with the threats to our environment inside or outside the EU, a question on the possible accession of Turkey to the EU, and another on the State of Israel and its relationship to Palestinians from an EU/ British position.
About 230 people attended the debate and a straw poll of hands at the beginning showed a majority in favour of staying in the EU, with the second most popular group being undecided.
At the end of the debate a straw poll of hands was conducted again and those undecided were in the chairman's opinion marginally fewer than before, with some having joined the Leave vote and others having joined the Remain group.
Here is Michelle's introductory speech:
I think leaving the EU would be very expensive and very messy. We’d have years of uncertainty while we negotiated. We are just coming out of recession and have many problems facing us and our children. It would be more efficient for us to stay in and help deal with the problems together.
One major challenge facing us is the environment. From a UK perspective, agreements within the EU have improved our beaches and rivers and added protection from toxic chemicals. From a wider perspective, environmental factors are a major cause of political unrest; severe droughts in Syria were certainly a factor in its instability. Maybe we can do more to reduce these problems in the EU, rather than leaving it and dealing with the consequences. The EU champions global action on managing environmental issues.
By far the largest share of regulation we have to implement as part of our deal with the EU concerns trade. If we want to continue trade with the EU, we are still going to have to follow these regulations.
Defra’s Regulation Assessment 2015 found that for every £1 spent in regulation - by a company managing its by-products for example - £3 is saved in other areas, such as public health. When the rules are clear, a level playing field is created and efficient companies thrive.
Companies in the EU need to have confirmation about what we want to do so they can invest appropriately. I don’t think UK companies can afford the uncertainty that a Brexit would have.
The EU has provided a range of workers’ rights. These are not rights that have been foisted upon us, they are rights we have fought for and agreed to.
We have far better potential to get a fair share of taxes from international companies if we work together in the massive trade bloc that is the EU rather than offering improved terms for companies individually; zero hour contracts and lower returns in taxes don't seem like a good deal for the UK to me.
The recent crisis regarding refugees has shown both the EU’s strengths and weaknesses. That each country could react in such individual ways shows the degree of sovereignty of our individual nations. Countries returning to discuss what can be done is a result of our EU association.
I think we are better off in and that the EU is better with the UK.
Read more about the debate here: https://www.facebook.com/allsaintswhitstable/posts/1095582027129707