CHIPPING Sodbury Town Hall was full to capacity for a debate on whether we should leave or remain in the EU.

The free event, ahead of the national referendum on June 23, was organised by Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall and sponsored by the Gazette and saw Conservative speakers from both camps argue their reasons for wanting in or out.

Robert Buckland, MP for south Swindon and HM Solicitor General for England and Wales, said our EU membership had helped maintain a long period of ‘true peace’ and leaving would be a decision ‘we would live to regret’.

Speaking to leave Europe, East of England MEP David Campbell Bannerman said the electorate was charged with deciding between ‘sovereignty and a super-state’.

Both speakers gave their opening arguments before answering questions on four main topics; economy, immigration, sovereignty and security as well as questions on the impact a decision either way would have on small businesses, farming, the NHS and our place in the world.

Mr Buckland, a proud Welshman whose grandfather fought in World War Two, said a vote to leave the EU could endanger the peace we have known since NATO was established in 1948.

“What has helped guarantee peace, and a true peace, is our membership of the EU,” he said in an impassioned closing speech.

“I would rather be faced with first world problems of negotiation and red tape than having to shed blood like my grandfather.”

He said the UK could have the best of both worlds.

“We don’t need to make this false choice,” said Mr Buckland. “We have the deals that make us a special case and whilst I don’t want to be in a state called Europe, I think we have the confidence and the ability to share some of our power with other countries in the EU in order to get better economic and political deals for our country.”

Mr Bannerman spoke passionately to leave the EU, arguing a super-state would be formed if we vote to remain.

“If we vote remain don’t expect the super-state to stop," he said.

“They want a common welfare system, an EU minimum wage and ultimately an EU pension and they are already talking about an EU Army.”

He added: “Leaving would give us £10billion a year more to spend on infrastructure and border control.

“Believe in Britain again – if you vote remain you will deserve turning Britain into a super-state.”

In an online poll before the debate on Friday (June 3) we asked readers if they had made up their mind how they intended to vote.

Steve Hampson, from Yate, said he found the debate helpful.

“I am still not sure but I am lot surer than I was,” he told the Gazette after the debate. “They did both answer questions and both made good points for their sides but it is hard.”

Campaigner to leave the EU, Nicholas Allen, said: “David and Robert were both elegant and impressive with their arguments but on the whole they more or less cancelled each other out.

“I was very pleased the event was put on but they didn’t answer my questions.”

Mr Hall said: "The community coming together to hear both sides of the arguments showed our local area at its best.

“The involvement of those attending, and the way the debate evolved, really ensured the event was a success.

“I hope the debate helped local people feel as informed as possible when making this very important decision on the future of our country and its place in the world."

Opinion Poll

An opinion poll was carried out by the Gazette at the debate asking people how they intended to vote before and after hearing the speakers. 

It was answered by 132 people.

The results found 44 people (34.8%) intended to vote leave before the debate, increasing to 68 people (51.15%) afterwards.

In the remain camp, 44 people (33.3%) intended to vote to stay in Europe before the debate dipping slightly to 42 (31.81%) afterwards.

There were 42 people (32.82%) undecided before and only 22 (16.67%) still to make up their minds after hearing the arguments.

Of the 35 swayed voters, the highest number of people changed from Not Sure to Leave (20 votes).

The results of swayed voters were: Not Sure to Remain: 6 Not Sure to Leave: 20 Remain to Not Sure: 6 Leave to not Sure: 1 Remain to Leave: 2.