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Eddie Izzard and DUP's Sammy Wilson lock horns in EU debate and it's all tears, fears and cheers

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 03/06/2016

Comedian Eddie Izzard and DUP MP Sammy Wilson exchange pleasantries following yesterday’s debate
Comedian Eddie Izzard and DUP MP Sammy Wilson exchange pleasantries following yesterday’s debate
Thomas Copeland, Eddie Izzard, Jim Fitzpatrick, Sammy Wilson and Sian Barker during the debate at Whitla Hall

Sammy Wilson is renowned for his joke-filled speeches at the DUP's annual conference.

And he famously traded one-liners with Sacha Baron-Cohen's Ali G character for a Channel 4 show.

Last night the affable East Antrim MP - sporting a deep tan - went head-to-head on the issue of the EU referendum with comedian Eddie Izzard, who was sporting a pink beret and matching lipstick.

The debate, hosted by Methodist College in Belfast, was a good natured exchange of views.

There were facts and figures, claims and counter-claims, a few laughs and a poignant moment when Izzard fought back tears as he reminisced about his childhood in Bangor. "We lived in Ballyholme for three years, leaving in 1967," he said.

"My mother died a few months after we left. I loved Bangor. It was a beautiful time, the memories are locked in."

The comedian, who describes himself as transgender, and who's taking part in 31 debates in 31 days across the UK, said he was "positive about Northern Ireland and positive about Europe".

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He pointed out that the region benefits from £100m of European funding per year and claimed "there will definitely be Customs checks and more bureaucracy" if the UK votes to leave the EU.

This point was disputed by Wilson.

"It won't be necessary to restore border controls. The Common Travel Area existed long before we joined the EU. For 40 years of a terrorist campaign, the Irish Government told us it could not seal the border. Now, suddenly, gun turrets can be put up."

In response to pupils' questions about security, Izzard said that working together within the EU alongside the other member states to push back against terrorism was the "logical thing to do".

To a resounding cheer from the audience, he added: "Despair is the fuel of terrorism, hope is the fuel of civilisation."

Mr Wilson countered that there would always be close co-operation between European security agencies. He added that the free movement of people was allowing "jihadists to rove across our continent like terrorist nomads, committing atrocities".

Although Izzard and Wilson were poles apart in their views on Europe, the MP revealed that they had at least one thing in common.

"As a child I also lived in Bangor," Mr Wilson said. "And I delivered newspapers around Ballyholme, but unlike Eddie, I don't speak French.

"I'll challenge him to speak Ulster-Scots."

Belfast Telegraph

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