Acceptance declined

    Brexit campaigner claims free speech is stifled after being ‘banned’ from referendum debate

    Jacques Arnold
    Jacques Arnold

    The closing stages of the EU referendum debate found the Remain campaigners and Brexiteers at loggerheads last week over a public forum debate. Both sides claimed the moral high ground.

    Jacques Arnold, a Brexit supporter, had intended to share a platform with six pro-remain supporters at a Britain Stronger In Europe event on Thursday evening hosted at the Camden Centre after receiving an invite from the local Liberal Democrats.

    The invite, which was sent to members of the Tunbridge Wells Town Forum – a body representing local community groups – stated it was ‘strictly a cross-party event’, with a follow-up email stating ‘both Remain and Leave supporters’ were welcome.

    Mr Arnold, a former Conservative MP for Gravesham in the 1980’s, said he would attend: “Provided that the Leave and Remain camps get equal speaking time.”

    But with just hours before the discussion was due to take place, Mr Arnold’s invite to speak as a member of the panel was rescinded.

    In an email, seen by the Times, the Secretary of the local Liberal Democrats said: “I am sorry but the meeting
    is strictly for Remain campaigners and so I will have to decline your acceptance.

    “The other members of the panel did not agree to your participation as they feel that it will disrupt their Remain message.”

    Speaking to the Times after Mr Arnold had given them a deadline by which to rectify the situation, he said: “They invited me to speak and then banned me.

    “All they want is a Remain love-in and not free speech even though the audience is supposed to be made up of both Remain and Leave supporters.

    “It just shows their frame of mind. They like debate provided its pro-Remain.”

    However, a spokesman for the event said: “I’m afraid that Mr Arnold has only told you half the story. Yes, he was invited to speak but he did ask for an assurance that he would not be outnumbered by the Remain speakers.

    “He asked for that assurance again today (June 2) and I could not give him any assurance. There are going to be six speakers on the podium who speak for Remain and I told Mr Arnold that this was a Britain Stronger In Europe event, so it would have to be pro-Remain arguments as that is the purpose of the group.

    “We are in no way trying to stifle opposition as he suggests. If it were a Vote Leave public meeting, would they have invited someone from the Remain group to speak at the meeting? I doubt it.

    “This is a totally wrong assertion made on Mr Arnold’s part. He has drawn the wrong conclusions. That is the real truth.”