Is it time for the UK to leave the EU?

Tuesday 22 September, 18.00 until 19.30, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham ME13 7BQ UK Satellites

The election of a Conservative government in May of this year activated a manifesto pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. The UK joined the forerunner of the European Union, the European Economic Community, in 1973, a decision later endorsed by referendum in 1975. But 40 years on, the organisation we joined has morphed into a very different one. Many argue that the various evolutions of European community have maintained unprecedented peace and stability on the continent. But for many others, this is an out-dated view that has far more to do with elitist suspicions about mass democracy. Even some who believe the EU was supposed to help safeguard freedom and democracy now argue it has moved towards oligarchy, a means for the elites of Europe to avoid interference in decisions by the electorate.

Nevertheless, fans of the EU also point to its benefits in terms of free trade and the prosperity it has brought. Ever increasing numbers of British businesses trade with our EU partners, and many warn about the unknown effects of leaving the union. Others argue that a UK free to go its own way would do better forging links with the Commonwealth or the emerging BRIC countries. Many argue that EU regulations have benefited workers, with rules on maximum working hours and improved working conditions, though others counter that any benefits of EU regulations are offset by their stifling effects on small businesses and entrepreneurs. The free movement of people has been one of the most contentious issues in play. What is great for the cosmopolitan tourist and the migrant worker is seen as detrimental to traditional local communities and distinctive cultures. It has also raised big issues around the viability of welfarism: is a twentieth-century welfare state compatible with the principles of ‘ever closer union’?

At the heart of this debate are fundamental questions about who governs our lives. Does the EU represent a threat to national sovereignty?  Is it right to characterise Brussels as having fundamentally shifted sovereignty, or is this simply a twenty-first-century adaptation for a globalised world? Does pooled sovereignty among like-minded nations give us more clout on the international stage or is it simply a way for the powerful to remove the demos from the political process?

Rob Killick
CEO, Clerkswell; author, The UK After The Recession

Rod Liddle
associate editor, Spectator; columnist, The Sunday Times; author, Selfish Whining Monkeys

Jonathan Neame
chief executive, Shepherd Neame Ltd

Adrian Pabst
senior lecturer in politics, University of Kent

Helen Whately
member of parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent

Rob Lyons
science and technology director, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Economy Forum

follow the Academy of Ideas


Keep up to date with Academy of Ideas news and events by joining our mailing list.

Next year's festival will be packed with more debates like this one. If you would like to come, get your ticket now via our 2016 tickets page.