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Mills & Reeve EU referendum debate hears concerns over trade deal uncertainty

PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 April 2016

Europe: In or Out? Debate organised by Mills and Reeve and held at the Centrum, Norwich Research Park.
David Campbell-Bannerman, Conservative MEP for Eastern Counties.

Picture: James Bass

Europe: In or Out? Debate organised by Mills and Reeve and held at the Centrum, Norwich Research Park. David Campbell-Bannerman, Conservative MEP for Eastern Counties. Picture: James Bass

(C) Archant Norfolk 2016

How will the political landscape look in 10 years’ time – whether or not Britain votes to leave the European Union?

Europe: In or Out? Debate organised by Mills and Reeve and held at the Centrum, Norwich Research Park.

Picture: James BassEurope: In or Out? Debate organised by Mills and Reeve and held at the Centrum, Norwich Research Park. Picture: James Bass

That was the question neither side of the referendum debate could put its finger on, as a debate among business leaders yesterday demonstrated the uncertainty in both camps.

The debate, held at the Centrum building at Norwich Research Park by law firm Mills & Reeve, saw a panel of MEP Vicky Ford and South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller (Remain), and MEP David Campbell-Bannerman, with Broadland district councillor Tamsin Lodge (Leave) take questions from the audience of 200.

Questions ranged from uncertainty over trade agreements, to agriculture, health care, and the potential for a “European army”, with a text vote taken at the start and finish of the 90-minute debate showing a slight shift towards Remain.

Mills & Reeve partner James Hunter said: “I think what people will have taken away is a continuing frustration with how difficult it is to pierce through the rhetoric of the positions of both sides, and to understand the consequences of stay or go.”

Mr Fuller said it was important to realise the effects of the decision taken on June 23 would be felt across the region. “When all the brave talking in the golf club has consequences for local families, it’s time to sober up,” he said.

Mr Campbell-Bannerman said he was not discouraged by the text vote results, which showed Remain raise by nine points to 77pc by the debate’s end. “Businesses are always conservative with a small C, because change is a fiddle for them,” he said.

“From my discussions, I believe there are a lot of undecideds out there moving over from the remain group.”

For Mrs Ford the debate came on the back of more than a dozen similar events, which she said were key to the public hearing a both sides of the argument.

Have you got a business story? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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