Representatives of Stronger In and Brexit debated key issues at Petroc on Thursday.

Arguments for and against the United Kingdom’s European Union (EU) membership were heard on Thursday at a special event at Petroc.

The hustings-style event was held in front of a busy lecture hall on the Sticklepath Campus, chaired by assistant principal Craig Litster.

Making the case for Brexit was local businessman Philip Milton, his daugher Leonie Milton and Stuart Robertson of UKIP.

Northern Devon’s Stronger In co-ordinator David Chalmers and Petroc staff Andrew Penfold, Jon Price and campaigner Becca Ridley made the case for staying in.

Economy

Mr Penfold compared the UK’s EU membership spending to other figures, and said: “The cost of EU membership is £13billion, and £4.5billion of that comes back to the UK, which makes an £8.5billion net figure – a small expense when expenditure by the Government is more than £700billion and government spending on international economic aid is £8.7billion.”

Mr Milton said the UK’s economic power meant the EU needed UK trade ‘more than we need the EU’s’.

He said: “We have the fifth largest economy in the world, and the second largest in the EU.”

Mr Milton said a UK exit would give ‘a bloody nose’ to the EU, and allow a better membership package for the UK.

But Mr Chalmers felt that trade could suffer:

“The EU isn’t perfect but turning away is not the way forward for this country.”

Migration

Mr Chalmers said the benefits of membership included being able to ‘work, travel and be in any country in the EU’.

But Ms Ridley argued leaving the EU could impact on young people and their opportunities to study and work in other countries within Europe.

Miss Milton said the relationship between non-EU members such as Norway and Switzerland was an example of countries being able to coexist without the union.

Mr Robertson felt movement around Europe had never been an issue before open borders.

Mr Penfold said Britain’s exit could have a negative impact on the crisis in Calais, adding: “France may not be so accommodating in making sure they aren’t enterting the country.”

The campaign so far

Both sides admitted the current campaign featured a lot of ‘scare tactics’, and there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen after the referendum on June 23.

Miss Milton said: “We don’t know what will happen on both sides but something needs to change.”

Mr Robertson echoed that sentiment: “We can’t believe that so many people would vote to stay in the European Union, and we can’t tell you what will happen when we leave.”

Mr Price felt there was a belief from Brexit ‘they can stick up a parochial fence and hope people will leave them alone.’

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