Socialist Worker

Video and report of left EU debate with Caroline Lucas in Brighton

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2503

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Pic: Socialist Worker)


See the video of the debate at

Over 200 people joined a left wing debate on the European Union (EU) referendum in Brighton last night, Thursday.

Caroline Lucas, the local Green Party MP, argued the left should support remaining in the EU to reform it. Tom Hickey, a UCU union and Socialist Workers Party (SWP) member, argued for a left exit to break apart the EU bosses’ club.

The debate showed that it’s possible for the left to debate the EU, without it being dominated by right wing and racist arguments.

Tom opened the debate by taking on the “absurdities of the right”. He said, “Nigel Farage said leaving will restore democracy, Iain Duncan Smith said remaining would risk further welfare cuts and David Cameron said Britain leaving would risk another war.

“It has nothing to do with democracy or peace, the difference between them is on the best way of imposing neoliberalism”

He added, “Unfortunately many on the left are being lured into the false terms of this debate.”

Lucas’ main argument was that Britain would move to the right if it left the EU. She opened, “The people who are likely to be running the country are Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson, backed by Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.”

But some audience members pointed out that there’s nothing inevitable about a rightward shift. If Britain left the EU, David Cameron would probably be forced to resign and the deep divisions in the Tories wouldn’t disappear. 

Any rump government, even if it was led by Johnson, would be weak and could be toppled with resistance.


Lucas appealed to internationalism to justify EU membership. “How can Britain be more effective in cross border challenges? We need to defend the European story, it brought peace and helped free countries from dictatorship,” she said.

“The EU has helped rein in rich and transnational corporations and leads the way on combating tax avoidance.”

Hickey attacked the myth that the EU is a progressive force. He said, “The EU terrorised one of its own states to overturn the democratically elected Syriza government in Greece.

“This time the EU has come back with more privatisations, more tax cuts and the end of collective agreements for workers.”

Lucas argued that it’s right wing governments, not EU institutions that are the problem and used the refugee crisis as an example.

But the EU has signed a deal with Turkey that allows it to deport migrants from Greece to Turkey.

But Hickey said, “The EU is about voting for a world of Fortress Europe, not a world without frontiers. It’s the organisation that’s turning the Mediterranean into a sea of death, refugees are dying because of the EU’s immigration controls.” 

Some asked how refuges would be any better off if Britain left, but Britain leaving would weaken the EU’s rulers and help those fighting against its racism. 

At the beginning of the meeting 24 people were for Leave and 27 didn’t know and by the end of the debate 33 were for Leave and 36 didn’t know.

Lexit—the Left Leave campaign is organising a tour across Britain and will host an internationalist rally in London next Wednesday.

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