AN MEP who asked voters to sack him by opting to leave the European Union took the Brexit battle to Steyning on Sunday (June 5).
High-profile Vote Leave campaigner Daniel Hannan debated with Nick Hopkinson, chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group, in front of a packed Steyning Centre crowd.
Mr Hannan argued the EU had become the ‘world’s only stagnant customs union’, ruled by unelected Eurocrats – but his debating partner argued Britain had a favourable deal and would become a ‘rule taker rather than a rule maker’ if it left.
Kicking off the debate, Mr Hannan said: “I have come here to ask you to serve me with my notice. I am asking you to make me redundant from a comfortable, well-renumerated job with large, tax-free incentives and I would not be doing that if I were not confident that the impact of leaving the EU on the economy as a whole would be positive.”
Mr Hannan asked whether Britain would be clamouring to join the EU in today’s climate, highlighting how the country was the ‘sick man of Europe’ at the time of the 1975 European Economic Community referendum.
He said the country was ‘shackled to a corpse’, linked to the world’s ‘only stagnant customs union’ and ‘paying for the privilege’.
Heavy criticism was aimed at EU governance, a system he described as ‘anti-democratic’ and unwilling to reform.
He said: “If the EU were just a club of nations getting together to achieve what they wanted to achieve no-one would be against it.
“The problem with the EU is it has become remote and undemocratic and corrupt and cut off from the people it purports to speak for.”
Mr Hopkinson, meanwhile, painted a more positive democratic picture, arguing many decisions were made by elected MEPs, with 94 per cent of votes going in the UK’s favour.
Benefits of EU membership were, he said, single market access, higher investment, lower prices, higher standards and a fairer less-divisive society.
He added: “The EU is best-placed to address transnational challenges such as climate change and international crime. Each penny in the pound we pay for our membership is worth the best access to the world’s largest market and has the added benefit of some added insurance against another war in Europe.”
Mr Hopkinson warned a vote to leave would give Britain ‘no say’ and the country would still have to adopt or approximate a raft of EU laws.
He said the EU had provided visa-free travel, the ability to study across the continent, closed the gender pay gap for women and created useful regulations on things such as data roaming charges.
The duo took questions from the audience after their pitches, with topics ranging from migration to pros and cons for businesses.
On migration, Mr Hannan admitted Brexit may not drastically reduce the headline figures but would enable checks to be introduced.
Mr Hopkinson argued there was a ‘positive case’ for migration, with migrants contributing 33 per cent more in tax than what they received in benefits.
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