Despite all six panellists agreeing that nobody can know for sure what will happen if the UK was to leave the EU, Friday’s debate helped voters make up their minds.
The lively debate, organised by the Free Press and supported by The Friends of St Peter’s and Chris Storey from Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, saw an eight per cent swing in the number of attendees deciding which way they would vote in the EU referendum on June 23.
An entry poll taken before the debate showed that 50 per cent of audience members were voting to leave the EU, 33 per cent wished to remain, while 17 per cent were undecided.
However, the evening’s debate, held at Sudbury’s St Peter’s, helped inform those in attendance as the ‘undecided’ figure dropped to eight per cent.
Those voting to leave the EU rose to 54 per cent, with the remain vote increasing by five per cent to 38 per cent.
During the debate all six panellists attempted to move on from ‘scaremongering’ tactics, with general agreement that nobody truly knew what the impact of a vote to leave would be.
Robert Lindsay, chair of Babergh Green Party, admitted there were problems with the European Union but said: “The good things it does for us outweigh the bad things.”
He said he was concerned the country would be ‘throwing away the baby with the bath water’, with a vote to leave.
“It’s something that needs to be fixed and can be fixed,” he added.
Boxford businessman Hugo Johnsen said he hoped whatever the outcome it would be final, warning against letting it ‘fester’.
Despite South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge’s concerns about the risk to the economy and in particular industries such as finance and insurance, Mr Johnsen, who set up Castleacre Insurance in 2005, said he did not believe his clients in Europe would suddenly stop trading with him if the country was to break away.
Fellow leave campaigner Steven Whalley, chairman of South Suffolk UKIP, said trade would carry on as normal.
Another key point for Mr Whalley was the ability to use a points system with all immigrants, saying he was keen to make it easier to bring in skilled workers from both in and out of the EU.
Mr Cartlidge was concerned, however, that Governments and large companies could ‘come down hard’ on the UK if it was to leave, describing it as a gamble, with the UK economy still in a vulnerable position.
Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, instead believed a vote to leave would offer an opportunity to set up free trade deals with larger countries outside of Europe.
Asked about the benefit to the world, Liberal Democrat Babergh district councillor Sue Carpendale said the EU had brought in important legislation for climate change, to clean up rivers and support medical research.
Content editor Luke Page said: “The fact that the number of undecided voters dropped by nine per cent is the most important statistic here.
“Whether you are voting to leave or remain it is important people get chance to hear the facts, thoughts and opinions of those directly responsible for running the country, the local area and local businesses.
“The event was a great opportunity for residents to ask the questions that are important to them, from big business and immigration, to the impact on farming.
“The Free Press must say a massive thank you to The Friend’s of St Peter’s volunteers who ensured the debate took place and kept everybody refreshed on the night, to Chris Storey who not only chaired the evening but also helped organise, set up and clear away after the event, the volunteer wardens from Sudbury town council and Sudbury Town Team and to everybody who attended.”
on the night whether in the audience or on the panel.
“With more debates taking place in Bures and Hadleigh hopefully everybody can go into this election well informed.”