The question facing South Holland voters in next month’s European Union (EU) referendum was the main debate in Spalding on Monday.
A panel of academics, along with ex-South Holland and the Deepings parliamentary candidate George Smid, discussed the UK’s possible future, both in and out of the EU, at South Holland Centre in front of at least 100 people.
The Question Time-style debate was organised by The UK in a Changing Europe, an independent group analysing the country’s role in the EU.
One of the panellists, Professor Simon Hix from the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “Much of the economic argument is a lot stronger for the Remain campaign, but a lot of the political and democratic argument (favours) the Leave campaign.
“The EU is nowhere near as democratic as it should be, but it’s not a dictatorship where you can’t get anything done.”
The seven panellists largely faced questions about immigration and the impact of EU migrants on the UK economy.
Much of the economic argument is a lot stronger for the Remain campaign, but a lot of the political and democratic argument (favours) the Leave campaignProfessor Simon Hix from the London School of Economics and Political Science
Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, based in London, said: “Immigration to this country started rising quite sharply in 1997 and then we had the biggest financial crash since the 1930s Great Depression when the National Debt went up pretty high.
“As far as we can project over the next 50 years, migrants are good for the economy because they pay more money into the national exchequer than they take out.”
But the opposite view was taken by ex-Spalding Grammar School student Dr Lee Rotherham who said: “By leaving the EU, the UK would have its own migration policy.
“There are a range of treaty types we can move to if we leave the EU, so the world is our oyster and we should take it.”
After the debate, host Dr Amy Ludlow of Cambridge University said: “I felt confident about having this debate in this area and confident too that the panel would contribute meaningfully to help people decide which way to vote in the crucial EU referendum on June 23.
“I felt like Spalding deserved no less than this event which has generated a lot of lively discussion, the panel did a brilliant job in communication some important information to their audience and I’m very confident that our job has been done very well.”
Professor Catherine Barnard, Dr Ludlow’s colleague at Cambridge University, said: “It was a wide-ranging discussion covering some of the most vexed and suggestive issues that go to the heart of the referendum.
“The audience was really engaged which was wonderful for Amy in coming back to Spalding and being front of her own community.”