House of Commons leader Chris Grayling and UKIP MP Douglas Carswell led a Vote Leave public meeting in St Hugh’s College on Saturday. Addressing a crowd of over 150 people, including many activists and volunteers, they presented the case for leaving and stressed the need for more volunteers and donations.
“We’re having to say no to doctors from India and engineers from Singapore and we can’t say no to people with criminal records from Eastern Europe. It’s an absurd system and we need to take back control.”
Vote Leave was designated the official leave campaign last week. It is a cross-party platform chaired by Labour MP Gisela Stewart and featuring members from UKIP and the Conservative party. There was also a member of Liberal Leave attending the public meeting.
Carswell’s opening speech focused on the need to reclaim border controls, the £350 million sent to the EU each week and the lack of democracy in the EU.
He claimed that open borders hurt the university, “Oxford University needs to be able to attract the brightest and the best… But look at the effects of the immigration system. We’re having to say no to doctors from India and engineers from Singapore and we can’t say no to people with criminal records from Eastern Europe. It’s an absurd system and we need to take back control.”
Grayling targeted Oxford students regarding a ‘housing crisis’ in the UK, “The official statisticians of this country are saying that our population is going to rise over the next twenty years from 63 million to around 80 million. I do not believe we can possibly sustain an increase in population that big…We don’t have the houses.
“This is not about the people that are already here paying into our economy. It’s about looking to the future.”
“For the next generation, for those of you who are students in this room it really matters to you. How on earth are we going to deal with an already very difficult housing situation in this country if we are bringing into Britain every year a city the size of Newcastle? Yes, if we stay in the European Union we cannot limit flows of immigration to this country.”
Grayling dismissed the idea that any students would be deported, and said, “One of the things being put out by the other side is that somehow [all your European friends will] have to go home. That does not happen… There are clear international conventions that are under the United Nations, not under the European Union, that say if migration rules change you can’t deport somebody afterwards. And we wouldn’t want to. This is not about the people that are already here paying into our economy. It’s about looking to the future.”
Carswell noted that everyone in Oxford has received the government’s recent pro-EU leaflet. “The government can spend £9.3 million and deliver one of those to every household in the country by simply pushing a few buttons. But when we do it, we need an army of leafleters to deliver it. They spent more on that one leaflet than Vote Leave is allowed to spend in the entire campaign.”
Liz St Clair, an organising member of Vote Leave, commented, “We’re working with various groups all over the country including in London, Oxford, Reading, Southampton. We’ve got strong student teams active for Leave under both Vote Leave and Students for Britain.”
An attending representative of Oxford students for Britain, the Eurosceptic counterpart to Oxford Students for Europe, told Cherwell, “I think that much of what was discussed here was of real importance in coming to understand our oft vexed relationship with Europe. The high turnout was very heartening for the Eurosceptic cause that OSfB promotes.
“Students for Britain is a really nice group of friends, working our hardest to spread our Eurosceptic ideals to the student body at large.”
Grayling was a last minute replacement for John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who was under pressure over an alleged relationship with a sex worker.