Preston is learning towards staying in the European Union is what a debate on the referendum revealed on Thursday.Advertisement
More than 500 people attended a University of Central Lancashire hosted public debate.
Preston MP Mark Hendrick and the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Mike Thomas led the remain argument.
While UKIP party treasurer John Bickley and Dr Mark Baimbridge, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Bradford, lead the leave campaign.
The crowd marginally voted to remain in the EU.
Mark Hendrick said during his speech: “The anti-Europeans and xenophobes who say Europe is a threat totally disregard the decades of successful membership which has contributed into making Britain into the world’s fifth largest economy.
“Yes we could “survive” outside the European Union, yes we could “manage” outside the European Union, but at what price? The benefits of being a member of the largest single market in the world has costs and that’s why we pay contributions for membership as you would by joining any club.”
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Professor Mike Thomas, who represented the university sector at the debate, said: “Alongside over 100 other University leaders I am a wholehearted supporter of the ‘in’ campaign with regards to EU membership. In my view, and in the collective view of the vast majority of universities, EU membership is essential if we are to compete in the future global knowledge economy.
“For instance, EU students spent £2.27 billion in the UK, creating 19,000. In short, what’s good for universities is good for business.”
Dr Mark Baimbridge argued the option to leave the EU would boost trade.
He said: “The UK has a trade deficit with the EU but a trade surplus with the rest of the world. If we leave the rest of the EU won’t simply stop trading with us, there’s a reason they call us Treasure Island.”
“If we leave we have to think about how we develop new trade relationships with the EU. We could stay very close and still be part of the Single Internal Market, which would be very similar to where we are now, or we could be more radical and consider opening up a free trade agreement with the EU which would open up opportunities to establish other free trade agreements with other parts of the world.”
Asked about the impact of leaving the EU on BAE, one of Preston’s biggest employers, Mr Bickley said: “Nothing significant would happen. BAE’s biggest contracts are outside of the EU in the Middle East. We live in a globalised economy and should have no fear when we have the skills and business acumen to trade with the rest of the world.”
Nursing student Sam Charlton said his strong feelings toward protecting the NHS meant he was firmly in the remain camp. “The NHS is protected in the EU as are workers’ rights. I don’t believe that the money we give to the EU would be ploughed into saving our NHS if we left it would end up in the bankers’ pockets.”
Gary Church from Lostock Hall commented: “I thought it was very interesting. For me the leave campaign edged it. I thought the stay campaign arguments was a bit scripted and not as passionate. I think we should leave, the debate tonight didn’t change my opinion.”
Donald Thomas from Fulwood said: “From all the information I’ve had, from watching television and listening to politicians, the economic case to stay or leave is going to be highly marginal.
“This was confirmed to me tonight. One thing I firmly believe is that change, and the resulting legislation, costs money and therefore if there is no clear economic case, one way or the other, then why spend the money? Keep what you’ve got.”
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