EU Referendum Live-Blog: Cameron v Farage, But Not Really

David Cameron - Nigel Farage - Debate - ITV - EU Referendum - Brexit - Remain

Semi-Partisan Politics: EU Referendum Live Blog – Cameron vs Farage (but not really)



And that’s it. Cameron off the hook, with no major hits landed on him.

Combative and effective as usual from Nigel Farage, but nothing new to suggest a recalibration to reach the essential 50%+1 on Referendum Day. Once again Farage will have pleased his supporters and disgusted his detractors.

What an utterly pointless “debate”, and what a useless format. I sincerely doubt that anybody in the country learned a single new thing from watching that “showdown”. Generally weak audience questions served little purpose other than to tee up the usual soundbites we are tired of hearing from Vote Leave and Stronger In.

Weak moderation too – Julie Etchingham seemed to be imposing rules and time limits which existed solely in her head, and which often ended up cutting through some of the more eloquent and discursive points on each side.

All in all, this was yet another example of the media’s shameful, shallow coverage of the EU referendum – and the glibness and alarming lack of depth of those who lead us.


Polished, passionate and utterly vacuous.


David Cameron, directly asked by an audience member whether he is “finished” regardless of the result of the EU referendum, waffles and talks about anything and everything else.

But it is very hard to see Cameron continuing. This is a supposedly conservative prime minister who gladly, joyfully shares a platform with Labour and Green Party politicians campaigning for an outcome which most party members detest. There is no love for Cameron, who will go down in history as a second-rate version of Ted Heath.


More scepticism about David Cameron’s assertion that Brexit means “quitting”:


Good point by audience member. Hardly anyone can name their MEP. Because the European Parliament is a chamber representing a demos which does not exist. There is no European demos. Hardly anybody feels European first and foremost, above their national or regional identity. And yet the EU seeks to acquire all of the trappings and powers of statehood. Shouldn’t that be setting off alarm bells?


Contra Cameron, “quitting” is staying in the EU and giving up on the ability of the fifth largest economy and second (by some rankings) military power to influence world events.


True democracy is about whether you can fire the people in charge if they start to do a bad job or if the people want a change.

The British people can’t fire the people who run the EU. There is no democracy.


No, Cameron. We will not be like a country with our faced pressed against the glass while the EU makes key decisions on trade. On the contrary, by leaving the EU we will regain our voice, our seat and our vote at the true global top tables which set key regulations and standards – organisations like UNECE, the IMO, ILO, Codex Alimentarius and many others.

These are the true originators of much regulation today, and for as long as we are in the EU with the Commission acting as middleman, we have a limited voice and a diluted influence in shaping these regulations – even ones which could obliterate entire British industries at the stroke of a pen.

Here’s why the EU is no longer the “top table” for trade – and why David Cameron was just deceiving the audience.


Ooh, it’s NHS time. Everybody genuflect to our National Religion.

If you are basing your decision on whether Britain should leave or remain in the European union solely or primarily on the NHS, then you are doing it wrong.


I’m glad someone brought up Little England. Because it is the Remainers – with their declinist, pessimistic view of Britain – who have low horizons. Those who want Britain to be an independent country, fully participating in the true global top tables for trade (hint: not the EU) are the ones with bold, global aspirations.


Yes, David Cameron is doing his creepy “passion” thing again, in place of actually standing for things and leading:


Audience member takes David Cameron to task for his fraudulent renegotiation. Everything Cameron is saying now is false – the “agreement” he reached was negotiated with EU leaders acting in their capacity as heads of state and government. Many of them will soon no longer be in power. The EU is in no way obligated to honour the pitiful commitments in that agreement.


Immediately David Cameron pivots to talking about the single market, not the EU.

But leaving the single market is not on the ballot paper – we can (and almost certainly would, in the event of a Leave vote) leave the political institution of the EU while maintaining access to the single market – the so called interim EFTA/EEA or Norway Option. Adopting this plan immediately negates every single pessimistic, fearmongering argument put forward by the Remain campaign, which is why they are so desperate to slander or dismiss it.


David Cameron’s turn.

Good first question from the audience. 6 months ago Cameron was saying that Britain could thrive outside the EU, yet now he says it would mean economic Armageddon.

Was the prime minister lying then, or is he lying now?


Well, that was Farage. A typically assured performance. Ukippers will be happy. Liberal leavers like this blog and members of The Leave Alliance less so, for obvious reasons – Farage doubled down on all of the illiberal and protectionist arguments while doing nothing to reach those not already convinced that Brexit is the way to go.

In terms of moving the needle of public opinion, Nigel Farage certainly hasn’t done himself any harm. But it has made it harder for those of us arguing for a more progressive case for Brexit to do our work.


Moderator of this referendum is worse than useless so far. Staying silent when she should guide the debate, cutting across when actual interesting points are being made.


Audience member rightly notes that there are many separate means of cooperation between EU countries independent of the EU. Brexit doesn’t mean severing ourselves from the continent of Europe or from schemes like Europol. By freeing ourselves from the EU’s political union we restore our democracy and are able to choose the areas and nature of our cooperation.


Waving a passport around is not going to get us from 40-45% of the vote to the 50%+1 the Leave side needs to win the referendum. People who get misty eyed about blue passports are already going to turn out and vote to leave. We need to reach undecideds with a comprehensive, safe offering, showing them that it is possible to leave the EU while minimising economic risks.


I’m not the only one to note the markedly poor quality of questions coming from the audience so far. Roland Smith (author of the Liberal Case for Leave) sees it too:


Farage is a natural performer. One can only wonder what an asset he could have been to the Leave campaign had he only updated his 1990s-era euroscepticism and embraced a more progressive (or small-L liberal) case for Brexit.


Audience member with an utterly fatuous question about the Leave campaign supposedly whipping up anti-black fervour. As a mixed race person (not that it should matter), this is complete hogwash. Disagree with UKIP all you want (and I disagree with them on plenty), but disagree with their stance on immigration all you want, but fatuous, blanket assertions that their immigration stance is racist or “legitimises racism” is flat out false. And in fact it is this effort to slander euroscepticism and worries about immigration with the charge of racism that creates further resentment.


Oh, Justin Welby accuses Nigel Farage of legitimising racism, eh? The Archbishop of Canterbury might do better to look at the gaping hole in the public discourse where a rational, intellectual and moral Christian case for the European Union should be.

Shockingly, it doesn’t exist.


The good thing about Nigel Farage is that he doesn’t feel the need to flatter audience members, agree with them and accept their assumptions and premises. I think that some people do admire that, even if they disagree with him. Contrast it with David Cameron’s doubtless oleaginous performance once he takes the stage.


Every moment Nigel Farage spends talking about tariffs is time he could be spending reassuring wavering Brits that we can leave the EU’s political union while maintaining our access to the single market.


Tremulous audience member worried about Britain being “punished” if we vote to leave the EU. This takes us back nicely to the Remain side’s cognitive dissonance about whether the EU is a friendly club of countries who get together to knit and braid each other’s hair, or an abusive relationship where we will be beaten up if we try to leave. The Remain camp really do need to make up their minds…


Oh dear – the first appearance of “they need us more than we need them”. Farage is rightly being taken to task by an audience member for this point.

Far too much talking over one another going on already – Farage, audience members, the moderator.


Fair point from Farage – there is a marked difference between people in current positions of power in government and NGOs who tend to side with Remain, and those now out of power, who are more likely to back Leave. Something about the freedom of being able to speak one’s true mind seems to make people more likely to support Britain’s independence from the EU. Funny, that…


Okay, here’s Nigel Farage. The man who arguably did more than anyone else to secure this referendum, but failed to produce a plan for actually leaving the EU.


Well, here it is. The debate that is not a debate, because David Cameron doesn’t dare actually engage anyone in debate these days.

I’m far from certain that this event will be worth live-blogging, but it will be practice for the Semi-Partisan Politics live-blog of the referendum count and results on 23/24 June.



More about The Leave Alliance here.

More about Flexcit here.

The EU Referendum blog here.


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