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Prospective MEPs battle at EU debate in Bournemouth University

MEP candidates in this year’s European Parliament elections debated at an event held at Bournemouth University last week to reach out to younger voters.

The MEP candidates gathered to debate the EU at Bournemouth university © H WONG

The hustings event was attended by six MEP candidates for the South West. Current Conservative MEP Ashley Fox was in attendance, with other candidates including Mark Chivers from the Green party, Amanda Hopwood from the English Democrats party, Clare Moody from Labour, Lib Dem candidate Jay Risbridger, David Smith from the Independence from Europe and UKIP candidate Dr Julia Reid.

The event was organised ahead of tomorrow’s European Parliament elections by Bournemouth University students. Organiser and Television Production student, Edward Lawrence said: “I am a big fan of political debate programmes like BBC Question Time that give the public a voice to challenge their politicians and to hold them accountable.

“I was keen to organise a hustings event with MEP candidates from each of the parties to challenge this perception of a growing voter disengagement in regard to the European Parliament Elections. EU elections are important and MEPs provide us with a voice in Europe.”

The debate discussed broad issues such as EU immigration policy, the crisis in Ukraine and a prospective EU referendum for Britain. Dominating the debate was questions over Britain’s membership of the EU.

With three out of the seven candidates calling for ending our EU membership, the debate became heated as much of the audience were were also split between being in or out of Europe.

Ashley Fox and Clare Moody disagreed about EU reform. Ashley Fox urged for reform and also a referendum for the British people. He said: “I’m an optimist. If we go to our European partners and we seek a new deal I think we will get one.”

Clare Moody doesn’t want to renegotiate with the EU and instead wants an EU market with greater ‘protection’ for workers and consumers.

David Smith from the Independence from Europe party and UKIP candidate Dr Julia Reid both urged for separation from the EU but differed in their reasons.

Dr Julia Reid emphasised the danger of immigration to Britain but after the debate David Smith said: “Everything depends on the economy, UKIP have got it wrong because they’re going to much towards immigration, that isn’t going to solve all our problems, it’s the economy. Immigration should be a function of our economic development.”

Liberal Democrat MEP candidate Jay Risbridger differed from the rest of the opposition in actually calling for EU expansion. He said Britain needs ‘more immigration’ to fund our aging population.

Prospective Green party MEP, Mark Chivers was a popular candidate on the night after emphasising the humanitarian issues in the Ukraine crisis and criticising the ‘corporate boardroom’ decision-making style of the EU.

Amanda Hopwood from the English Democrats party struggled throughout the debate after telling the audience she had not prepared sufficiently, she did however urge for England’s independence and suggested English people to be ‘second-class citizens’ in their own country.

The BNP candidate for tomorrow’s elections was not invited to attend due to the university’s anti-racism policy.

Bournemouth university students are conducting live coverage of tomorrow’s elections which will be uploaded to YouTube over the next few days.