Mock EU referendum debate sees an overwhelming number in Portsmouth wanting to remain in the union

People at the University of Portsmouth's referendum debate
People at the University of Portsmouth's referendum debate

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THE city’s Tory-led council may want Portsmouth to vote to leave the European Union – but residents at a debate were overwhelmingly against the move.

At a mock EU referendum vote at the University of Portsmouth, almost three-quarters voted to stay in the EU compared with 22 per cent who wanted to sever ties.

The event, at the university’s Milldam building, in Burnaby Road, comes exactly three months ahead of the real thing, on June 23, which will see the nation deciding its future within the union.

The afternoon was led by experts who argued their points on why the UK should stay or leave the EU.

Among those speaking at the referendum included Portsmouth’s former council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is firmly in the ‘pro-Europe’ camp.

He told the audience leaving the EU could put three million jobs at risk and argued recent surveys showed the majority of UK businesses wanted to remain in Europe.

The Lib Dem councillor added: ‘Being a simple person, I try to look at the balance of opportunities and risks; the opportunities pulling out seem very small and highly nebulous. So for me, the risks of pulling out seem clear and much higher.’

But Dr Paul McVeigh, a former lecturer in political economy and Europe studies, disagreed. He argued being part of the union was infringing on the UK’s right to determine how it governs itself.

He said if the UK left it would get back ‘policy choices’ and give Britain the chance to make its own decisions.

He said: ‘I want a country that thinks long-term about sorting out profound social and economic problems that have been massing for decades.

‘I can’t see how we can do that if we are a member of the European Union – not because there is anything wrong with Europeans.

‘It’s because the EU has gone too deep, does too much and is so difficult to reform.’

The debate came a day after the city council called on Portsmouth to vote to leave the EU.