Three of Lancashire’s Euro MPs squared up for a heated debate on the UK’s membership of the EU during an event organised by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.
Conservative Sajjad Karim, Labour’s Julie Ward and Steven Woolfe of UKIP took part in the Question Time-style event at Chamber patron members Preston’s College.
The event was chaired by Blackpool Gazette business editor Tim Gavell and hosted by Chamber president Norman Tenray, with a number of Lancashire business leaders joined by college students to pose some difficult questions.
During the debate, Steven Woolfe unsurprisingly put forward his party’s argument that the EU was not beneficial to the UK and the country should withdraw from it once the Government-promised referendum takes place.
Mr Woolfe told the audience: “Us three on this table have no power whatsoever.
“It is run by the European Commission. That is your government, led by President Juncker. He makes the rules and none of you can ever vote him out or get rid of him.
“When it comes down to that, that for me is one of the fundamental parts of the debate on whether we remain in the European Union.
“Will you have the power to control your governments and make them do what they do or will you be like Greece, voting in a government that is actually then over-turned by the European Commission and now lives in austerity?”
During a debate on what the EU has actually done for the country, Julie Ward said: “Most of our social rights and protections were made in the European Union.
“Maternity rights, holiday pay, sickness pay, all those benefits and important things that make work safer, more secure, better for you and give you a better quality of family life because the EU accepts that you can’t work all the time and shouldn’t work all the time.
“Those things have come from the European Union.”
And asked what the difference between being a member of the EU and a non-member such as Norway was, Mr Karim said: “You must bear in mind that every single regulation that is produced by Brussels, Norway is bound by it and Switzerland is bound by it and we take the decision and we inform them what they are required to do.
“That is the choice you have. Either you can be at the table making the decision or you have to sit and wait for the decision to be conveyed to you and you will be paying the same for the privilege.”
Chamber chief executive Babs Murphy said: “It was a fascinating debate between three good speakers and there was plenty of heated discussion.
“It was great to see a good mix of businessmen and women sitting alongside Preston’s College students and I know everyone will have taken something away from the event.
“My thanks go to our patron members Preston’s College for hosting the event in its new state-of-the-art iStem Centre.”