Britain’s future in the EU debated at Institute of Directors
British MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Stephen Kinnock went head-to-head in an EU Referendum debate in Central London on Wednesday night.
The Brexit Business Case Debate took place at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall in Central London, where Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green Iain Duncan Smith was joined by former Director General of the BCC, John Longworth, both of whom support the 'Leave' campaign. CBI President, Paul Drechsler CBE, sat alongside Labour MP for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock representing the 'Remain' camp.
Opportunity and influence
With focus on access and opportunity, Mr Drechsler was first to identify the benefits of remaining inside the European Union (EU). “Tariff free access to 500 million consumers is an opportunity,” he said. “We need to access the best talent and the global market gives us that advantage. Common sense says if you don’t have trade deals, your products and services will cost more money.”
Mr Duncan Smith retaliated, stating that the EU Referendum isn’t simply a matter of trade, or even purely economics. “No businessman should isolate themselves with the idea that this is solely an issue about trade - it’s not even solely about economics. You shut your business in the evening, you go home and you have a wider sense of responsibility.
“We’ve sent £500 billion to the EU since we became members. These [fees] are borne by tax payers and borne through businesses by their business taxes. This market place isn’t free.”
Mr Kinnock hit back at Mr Duncan Smith, saying: “It’s clear to me that pulling up the drawbridge will seriously damage our influence; we’ve been the architects of the Single Market. The critical issue here is what is going to enhance our influence and floating off into the Atlantic would have the opposite effect.”
Eurozone in turmoil
Asked how people who work together yet support different sides of the argument can overcome their differences, Mr Kinnock emphasised that cordial relationships are vital. “It’s important to have cordial relationships in parliament and elsewhere. [We need] a cross party commission to really look at our relationship with the EU because we can’t stay the way we are. If we vote to remain and have a positive agenda, that can help to bind the country back together.”
Mr Duncan Smith argued: “You are binding yourself to the EU when the euro is close to collapse. That is what we are tying ourselves to. The UK business has made its mind up about the EU: we’re taking our investment out of the EU and we’re sticking it somewhere else.”
Mr Kinnock then posed the following question in reference to the ongoing Eurozone crisis in Greece: “How on earth would it help the Greek people if the UK were to leave the EU? What sort of message does it send? ‘You lot are in trouble, we’re going to up sticks.’ That’s not what it means to be British.”
Mr Duncan Smith retorted that the EU has treated Greece appallingly, arguing that the UK needs to ‘set ourselves free and set the example for the rest of the EU’.
During the debate, Ladbrokes’ Head of Political Betting, Matthew Shaddick, revealed that their stakes suggest a 19 per cent chance of a Brexit vote. The EU Referendum will take place on 23 June.