TO stay or not to stay – that was the question for hundreds of people who flocked to a special debate in Preston.
A public debate on the future of Britain’s place in the European Union hosted by the University of Central Lancashire saw a slim majority backing the Yes campaigners.
More than 500 people attended the debate with many of the unsure voters swaying towards the exit camp, although the overall majority said they wanted to remain inthe EU.
The audience heard UCLan vice-chancellor Professor Mike Thomas and Preston MP Mark Hendrick voicing their opinions for the UK to remain in the EU while John Bickley, UKIP party treasurer, and Dr Mark Baimbridge, senior economics lecturer at the University of Bradford, spoke about the benefits of withdrawing from the Union.
Mark Hendrick said that the EU membership “should be treasured and valued.”
He added: “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?”
Prof Thomas added: “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. In short, what’s good for universities is good for business.”
Economist Dr Mark Baimbridge argued that leaving the EU offers opportunity to rejoin the European Free Trade area or seek alternative trade alliances.
He added: “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.”
John Bickley said leaving would have little impact on BAE Systems adding: “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.”