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Anarchy in the UK? Andy Burnham slams the filth and the fury of EU poll debate

Published 27/05/2016

Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon and his former bandmates were invoked during a debate on the EU referendum
Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon and his former bandmates were invoked during a debate on the EU referendum

Politicians talked "bollocks" on Friday during a Euro referendum debate.

Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham referenced the venue he was speaking in Manchester, the former Free Trade Hall, where the Sex Pistols' 1976 concert heralded the birth of punk in one of the most important gigs in music history.

Mr Burnham, debating with the Tory MP Graham Brady, said: "I was reminded of their most famous album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols, well it's probably a good motto for this campaign at the moment, isn't it?

"Because there's a lot it being spoken and a lot of it around on both sides and people are confused as to how to make sense of this question."

Mr Burnham said he worried that "grumpy old people" would vote Britain out - denying younger generations the benefits of post-war European peace and prosperity.

And he said the public had not been given a proper debate yet, adding: "Let's have facts, not soaring rhetoric but real arguments."

During the debate, hosted by Duff and Phelps, a corporate finance firm, at the Radisson Blu hotel in Manchester, Mr Brady, chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, himself questioned the contentious £350 million figure, the Vote Leave campaign claims EU membership costs the UK each week.

He was asked by debate chairman, broadcaster Rob McLoughlin: "What bollocks is Boris talking?" to which Mr Burnham interjected: "How long have you got?"

Mr Brady replied: "I would have no hesitation, I wouldn't quite call it bollocks but I will say it wouldn't have been my judgment to use the £350 million per week figure."

Mr Burnham said there was a need now for "clarity and objectivity" and the UK leaving the EU would mean "crossing our fingers and taking a leap into the dark" in a "volatile" world.

He claimed Vote Leave had "lost the argument" on economics, with the weight of expert opinion, from the IMF, Bank of England, the Treasury, Office of Budget Responsibility and the Institute of Fiscal studies, all saying prosperity would be hit by voting out.

And if Britain left the EU it would mean the rest of the globe thinking Britain, part of the Commonwealth, Nato and the EU, had turned its back on the world.

He added: "This isn't a technical dry debate with all of these statistics, this is about who we are going to be in the 21st century.

"I'm worried and I feel nervous for the next generation.

"I get the feeling there's a lot of kind of grumpy old people who are going to vote to take us out, the generation that's had all the benefits in the post war period of (being in a) benign part of the European Union and they are about to deny it to young people who are trying to make sense of this globalised modern world that they are in and they are about to tie their hands behind their back.

"Don't have it. Don't let it happen. Let's be outward looking, open, welcoming."

But Mr Brady said Britain should continue working with European nations but outside the EU structure.

He said remaining inside would mean Britain signing up for "this continuing process of more integration" and "uncontrolled net migration from the EU".

He said the UK was stable but political instability was being generated on the continent with extremes of left and right on the rise and "more barbed wire across Europe" than any time since the Second World War.

But he said the most important matter was the question of democracy.

He added: "The thing I care about most is we, the British people, ought to be able to make our own decisions, we ought to be able to decide our own laws, we ought to be able to fix our own taxes and, yes, we ought to be able to control our own borders.

"If you can't do those things, you have taken an enormous risk with your future."

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