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We need proper debate on EU before referendum

Published 08/09/2015

Angela McGowan (Business Telegraph, August 25) was correct to welcome more information and public participation in the upcoming referendum (probably in the autumn of 2016) on the UK's membership of the EU. Sadly, such a constructive debate is all too often lacking across the UK.

Without clear information from successive governments about treaty changes and without regular attention from the regional media in Northern Ireland, we have grown accustomed to a familiar set of stories about the EU in relation to areas such as the EU budget, bureaucracy, free movement of people and fishing (to name but a few).

Stories about the EU often comprise a mixture of some truths, some half-truths and some misinformation - but exactly which is which?

It is time for an open debate on the EU. Ahead of a referendum on the membership issue, we need to know much more. For example: what are the responsibilities of the EU? How important is the EU for jobs and the economy? Where do EU finances come from and where are they spent and who spends them?

Is the EU an expensive club with little benefit? What are the implications of the UK leaving the EU for Northern Ireland? Would we see a return of a physical border between north and south and what would this mean?

Do we still need the Common Agricultural Policy? Is the UK best outside the eurozone? Is free movement to be welcomed? Is there an alternative to EU membership and is the UK stronger, or weaker, in political terms being a member?

With so many questions to explore, it is now time for an objective debate on the EU.

LEE MCGOWAN

School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy

Queen's University, Belfast

Belfast Telegraph

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