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Author and journalist Toby Young opens his side of the debate

Central Foundation welcomed two distinguished guests in the first week of February for a topical debate on the upcoming EU Referendum.

The day after Prime Minister David Cameron returned from Europe with his EU negotiation package, around 180 Central Foundation pupils were treated to a fiery debate on the motion This House believes the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. Arguing in favour of the motion was journalist, author and educationalist Toby Young, best known for his book How To Lose Friends and Alienate People covering his time at Vanity Fair. Opposing the motion was Hugo Dixon, former columnist for the Financial Times, founder of Reuters’ financial commentary brand BreakingViews and chairman of InFacts, a journalistic enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU.

Hugo Dixon, columnist and fact checker, responds to Toby Young's points

Before the debate, a quick poll was taken by way of show of hands on where the pupils stood on the motion. Overwhelmingly the pupils voted against it but many students had still not made their minds up and waited to vote. With the actual referendum due to take place any time between 23rd June this year and the end of 2017, at least 50 of the pupils in attendance will be able to cast a ballot in the vote.

After the initial poll, Toby Young put forward his arguments in favour of the motion, arguing that voting to stay in Europe would result in the UK having to join the Euro currency and dilute the voting power of UK citizens. Hugo Dixon responded, arguing that voting to remain in Europe would keep the political situation as it currently is, also citing the membership of NATO as a strong parallel for why the UK should work with its closest neighbours.

The votes taken either side of the debate. The top row are in favour of the motion, the bottom opposite the motion; left is before and right is after the debate.

The two then had a further chance to talk, rebutting the others’ initial arguments. After this, they opened the floor to the pupils who spent a lot of time grilling both speakers on what they had said, and also asking for further clarification or their opinions on other subjects of interest that had not been covered.

The debate ended with another vote. The room was still largely opposed to the motion, however people from both sides had changed their vote and most abstaining voters became inclined to take a stance as well.

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