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IDEA UK: Britain’s EU referendum debate

David Cameron's deal with Europe

23rd June. On that day British voters will make the biggest decision since the start of this century; whether to stay in the European Union or to leave. The official campaign does not kick off for more than a month yet; the 14th April. However there have already been twists and turns since the unofficial starting gun of Cameron returning from Brussels clutching the fruits of his renegotiation and declaring Britain’s special status in Europe. Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor and one of the most recognised figures in UK politics, has backed the leave campaign meaning that there is a major split within the Prime Minister’s own Conservative party.

The next four months will see an extended campaign between those who want to leave the EU entirely. They argue that leaving:

  • Is the only way the UK can control its borders and reduce migration.
  • Will cut bureaucratic red tape (although the renegotiation deal went some way to addressing this concern).
  • Britain will be safer from terrorists due to increased border control.
  • The UK can develop better relationships with rising economic powers such as China and India.
  • Will allow Britain to take back its sovereignty and democracy.

And on the other side the stay in campaign arguing:

  • Britain needs to be part of the world’s biggest market.
  • Leaving will damage the economy – companies will leave, there will be damage to higher education and research through less collaboration, etc.
  • Britain will be less important internationally – it will no longer be the English speaking entry point to the EU.
  • There are many areas where working together is necessary and Europe is stronger together; environmental protection, curbing multinationals, even responding to threats such as Russia.

One big question from a neutral perspective is how the tone of the campaigns will run; will the in campaign be based upon fear? Essentially will it be about the negatives of leaving Europe or will they seek to paint a positive vision of Britain’s future in Europe? The leave campaign may also have its own version of a fear campaign; one that focuses on migration particularly as the migration from the Middle East is likely to pick up again by June.

IDEA will be looking at many of the issues that the referendum will raise over the next few months through a series of Debatabase debates exploring all aspects of the issue. Our first is ‘This House would vote to stay in the EU after Cameron’s deal’.

The Debatabase already has a few old debates that have relevance to this issue:

This House believes the European Union should be a trade bloc rather than a political union; This is one of the key arguments for why the UK wants to leave; the EU is moving far beyond just being about free trade.

This House would dissolve the Schengen Agreement; Migration as a result of Schengen is one of the key issues for those wanting to leave.

This House would hold a referendum on UK membership in the EU; an old debate and now one that is decided. But the reasons for and against are still relevant.

This House believes the best way to protect Scottish interests in the EUI is to vote for independence; Relating to last year’s Scottish independence referendum it is however still significant due to questions about what happens if Scotland votes to stay in the EU while the rest of the UK votes to leave.

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