The Spectator’s Brexit Debate, Part II The night before declaring for Leave, the magazine hosted its second public clash of ideas

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This week, the Spectator announced it would be backing Brexit, repeating the headline it opted for when opposing entry to the European Economic Community in 1975, “Out – and into to the world”, is it’s headline. Last night, the magazine staged its second referendum debate. If its audience served as a national opinion poll, the Leave campaign could be confident of a landslide. Daniel Hannan and Suzanne Evans defeated Lord Charles Falconer and Sir Malcolm Rifkind by 369 votes to 160.

Suzanne Evans opened the argument for Leave with an urge for courage and resolution. In contemplating to leave the European Union we’re experiencing the same kind of angst and uncertainty as one does when thinking about quitting a job we don’t like, she said. In wanting to remain, we feel a sense of security that stems from familiarity. We’re apprehensive about the risks and uncertainties of change. But we have an underlying and undeniable feeling that something isn’t right, and needs to change. Change is often required for growth. If we’re confident in our own abilities, and are determined to reach our unique potential, we’ll be bold enough to make the move. And since we’re perfectly competent, we’ll do more than just fine. We’ll be much happier than before.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind made the case that the EU is changing more than we think – it is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ institution. By now there are different kinds of EU membership, there are varied groupings with diverse interests. Think of the single currency and the Schengen area, not all countries belong to them. David Cameron’s opt out of ‘ever closer union’ is a real thing and a true achievement. True sovereignty, moreover, still resides in the British parliament. This is the only body that can declare our wars, determine our taxes, and control our National Health Service, schools and universities.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, formerly John Major's Foreign Secretary
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, formerly John Major’s Foreign Secretary

Daniel Hannan ridiculed Ed Balls’ recent suggestion that the UK should remain in the EU and then reform it. “Reform! If only we had thought of that!” For forty years the EU has proven itself over and again to be immune to reform. The Prime Minister’s failed negotiations are the proof that it does not desire fundamental change. Moreover, Brussels would interpret a British vote to remain as full-blown consent to continue along its current trajectory. We must think of leaving as a process, not an event. Almost nothing would change until the precise deal by which the UK ceases to be a member of the EU is clinched. We should be encouraging ‘Project Cheer’, an optimistic vision of an internationalist Britain, cooperating on the basis of language and law, culture and kinship. Most importantly, a Britain with the power to hire and fire its lawmakers.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan

Lord Falconer closed by insisting that Britain’s influence on the world stage would be markedly reduced if it left. It would reflect a poor choice of values, in a choice about whether to turn one’s back on an organisation that has been instrumental to peace in Europe since the Second World War, or to continue to benefit from the fruits of cooperation. One such example being increased security, brought about by the likes of the European Arrest Warrant. A loud chorus of hissing was issued from the crowd on this point, as Lord Falconer suggested that leaving would cause Britain to become “a haven for people who commit criminal acts”.

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