Comedian Eddie Izzard was the star attraction at the University of Portsmouth, trying to convince a sold-out crowd to keep Britain in the European Union.
The appearance last night was part of the his Stand Up For Europe campaign, which will see him talk in 31 cities over 31 days before the referendum on June 23.
Eddie debated against Vote Leave representative Enrico Tortolano, campaign director of Trade Unionists against the EU, on the registration deadline day for voters.
Using amusing anecdotes to reinforce his ‘positive campaigning’, Eddie, 53, described how Britain needs to stay in the EU if people ‘want to live together and work together’.
He told the audience: ‘We have got to be heading in the direction of a world where everyone has a fair chance.
‘We have to be moving forwards and upwards, not backwards and downwards.’
Enrico contested Eddie’s claims of peace, claiming that the UK doesn’t have democracy in the EU.
He said: ‘The idea that there’s peace in the European Union and there’s this massive brotherhood of man and woman is false.
‘The EU is not a brotherhood of man, it’s an area of conflict. I’m not against Europe – Europe is a wonderful place. But we need to take democracy back.’
Taking questions from the audience, Enrico and Eddie discussed the impact of the referendum on topics including the NHS, the economy, and the future of young people and students.
Enrico said: ‘One of the great things about the EU referendum is that it’s got university campuses, church halls, community centres, all sorts of places having rigorous robust debates.
‘You want a participatory democracy, you don’t want to leave politics to the politicians. You’ve got to get active.’
Eddie agreed: ‘With all these positive things, I don’t believe that there’s a small group of people running the whole thing and trying to do us down.’
Chairing the debate was Mike Mannin, director of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for the Study of Transnational Europe at the university.
He urged the crowd: ‘Whatever position you’re going to take, go and talk to other people about it, demonstrate that you’ve got a valid position and do your best to convert those people to your position.
‘Get involved because it’s important – be political.’