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Debate: We Were Right To Brexit

Featuring Daniel Hannan, Robert Tombs, Dominic Grieve, Stella Creasy and Jonny Dymond

It was always going to be a disaster. Queues of HGVs stretching miles from Dover. The Good Friday Agreement threatened by the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. Increased support for Scottish Independence. The promised lands of lucrative new trading partnerships exposed as nothing but carbon copies of pre-existing EU deals (with Australia the only exception). The livelihoods of fishermen, farmers, and small business owners threatened by extra costs and paperwork. All this, and we have yet to feel the long-term economic damage of leaving the EU, which the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts will cause a 4 per cent reduction to GDP. A recent poll shows that a majority of British people believe we are worse off having left the EU. Clearly, Brexit was a mistake.  

That’s the argument of the doomsters in this debate. But others claim that while short-term damage is inevitable – there is always blowback from a jilted partner – Brexit is a long-term project, one that is tied to the fundamental principle of sovereignty. The Referendum result was not just a reflection of disgruntlement with out-of-touch elites or the falsehoods of the Leave campaign, but a direct consequence of the EU’s failings. Instead of unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels, we should put our faith in the idea of the nation state – the best vehicle for democracy. Granted, our trade with our neighbours is reduced, but that was a political choice, and the bulk of Britain’s economic activity is domestic. There are plenty of opportunities for success outside the shackles of EU regulation – what better indicator than the speed of the vaccine roll-out, which far outstripped that of other EU countries? If we sit tight and play to our strengths as a country, we will reap the rewards. 

Which side is right?


For the motion

Daniel Hannan

Former Conservative MEP for South East England

Former Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England, who was a prominent campaigner for Brexit. He is a prolific journalist and author of nine books, including A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe.

Robert Tombs

Historian of France and Britain, whose most recent book is This Sovereign Isle: Britain In and Out of Europe.

Historian of France and Britain, and a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge.  His most recent book is This Sovereign Isle: Britain In and Out of Europe, of which an updated version is about to appear in paperback.  He is co-editor of the website Briefings for Britain.
Against the motion

Dominic Grieve

Former MP for Beaconsfield from 1997 to 2019.

Former MP for Beaconsfield from 1997 to 2019. He served as the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee from 2015 to 2019, Shadow Home Secretary from 2008 to 2009 and Attorney General for England and Wales from 2010 to 2014.

Stella Creasy

Labour MP for Walthamstow since 2010

Labour MP for Walthamstow since 2010. Since becoming elected Stella has served as a Shadow Minister for the Home Office and the Business Teams for the Labour front bench as well as a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Council of Europe, and is currently the chair of the Labour Movement for Europe. She has a track record of securing change from the back benches – winning the regulation of payday lending and buy-now-pay-later companies, helping secure access to abortion rights for the women of Northern Ireland and banning non-consensual photographs or video recordings of breastfeeding mothers.

Jonny Dymond

BBC News presenter and Royal Correspondent

Presenter of BBC Radio 4's The World at One and The World This Weekend and BBC World Service Radio's World QuestionsHe is also Royal Correspondent for BBC News.  He spent 20 years in foreign news, reporting across Europe, the Middle East and the US, based in Istanbul, Brussels and Washington DC.