Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013: Cheltenham Decides: Is It Time to Leave the European Union?

Last night I went to a debate on the European Union at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, The Times Berlin Correspondent David Charter, and The Times columnist Oliver Kamm were discussing the issue of leaving the EU, and what effect this would have on Britain.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of it really… It was certainly an interesting and lively debate – but all it has done is remind me why I do not like Nigel Farage or UKIP at all! He was very direct, in a way that has always put me off him.

In fact the two panelists who made the best points were David Charter and Martin Horwood – with Charter suggesting that at some point Britain and Turkey could become the two ‘bookeneds’ of the European Union – not part of the ‘real’ union, but not completely out either – with a sort of Associate Membership status.

If we ever do get a referendum on the EU, I’ve got quite a decision to make. At the age of 20 (nearly 21), I’ve never known life in Britain before the EU. I think I’d vote to stay IN, on the basis that I generally like Europe. But the issue of whether too many powers are being transferred to Europe still troubles me. There’s a line in one Yes, Minister episode which sums things up perfectly: I am pro-Europe, but anti-Brussels.

As Martin Horwood said at last night’s debate: the EU isn’t perfect, but neither is the British government. And Cheltenham can’t vote to leave Britain simply because it doesn’t like what the government is doing. (Though, that would be an interesting thing to do)!

Next month, I will be travelling to Brussels: a trip to the European Parliament organised by Conservative MEP Ashley Fox. As well as eating food with very complicated names (the menu looks like something out of Masterchef), I’m hoping that maybe the visit will help me understand more about how the European Parliament works…and then, should we get a refurendum in 2017 (or sooner) I can make a more informed decision.

I’d better get going now… Off to see David Davis, Alan Johnson, Andrew Neil and Polly Toynbee at 12. and then the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson at 4.

Bye for now,

FH.

Fred Hart

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