Farage, Clegg & Barroso at EU debate

The Oxford Union this evening announced the speakers who will be taking part in its debate ‘This House believes Britain and the EU are better together’ this coming Monday.

Jose Manuel Barroso and Nick Clegg MP will be speaking in proposition of the motion, while Sir William Cash MP and Nigel Farage MEP will form the opposition.

The names of those taking part in this particular debate had not been included in the Oxford Union’s Michaelmas termcard stating security reasons and are only now publicly known.

Jose Manuel Barroso was the President of the European Commission until the end of October 2014 when he was succeeded by Jean-Claude Junker following the May 2014 European Parliament elections and had served as President for two five-year terms. The Commission presidency is the most powerful Office in the EU with the 28 Commission members, one per EU member state, determining policy agenda and legislative proposals. Prior to that, Barroso was the Prime Minister of Portugal between 2002 and 2004. He is a member of the European People’s Party, the main centre-right grouping of national European political parties.

Nick Clegg MP was the British Deputy Prime Minister throughout the last Parliament until this year’s General Election as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats at that time. An alumnus of the College of Europe in Belgium as well as Cambridge, he is a leading figure in the UK in favour of Britain’s EU membership and his is the most pro-European UK-wide party in Parliament. Clegg now serves his Sheffield Hallam constituency as a backbench MP. In April 2014 he took part in a head to head debate with Nigel Farage on Britain’s EU membership.

Sir William Cash MP, speaking for the opposition, is the Conservative MP for Stone and is the Chair of the House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee. The Oxford Union’s event announcement for the debate states that he has been described as “the most eurosceptic Member of Parliament”. Cash was the founder of the Maastricht Referendum Campaign in the early 1990s, leading the internal opposition to then Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s request for his party to vote in favour of implementing the Maastricht Treaty (which took the European Economic Community and re-established it as the European Union with greater powers).

Nigel Farage MEP, who will speak last in the debate, is the Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and is a member of the European Parliament for the South-East of England region, which includes Oxford. He led his eurosceptic party to first place in the UK in last years European elections, although was disappointed to have only had one MP elected to Parliament at May’s General Election. While it remains unclear precisely what role he will have in the upcoming EU referendum he will certainly be prominent. He is currently touring the country as part of the ‘Say No to the EU Tour.’

Jan Nedvidek, OUCA President, commented to Cherwell, “It’s so important and fortunate that we as a nation are going to have a very serious debate about the UK’s position in the EU in the run up to the referendum.

“Let’s remember though that it is only thanks to the Conservatives that we will be having this referendum, as both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats opposed it the run up to the General Election. Unlike them, I believe it is absolutely crucial that the public get a say on this most important constitutional issue, and I’m delighted that such prominent speakers will get us started in Oxford.”

The referendum on Britain’s EU membership will take place by the end of 2017 and could be as early as next Autumn.

The Oxford Union has been contacted for comment.