Members of the Tonbridge and Malling Seniors Forum (TAMS) gathered for a highly charged debate on next month’s European referendum.
More than 70 people packed into Age UK’s Bradford Street hall as former Gravesham MP Jacques Arnold and former borough council Leader Derek Still argued for and against Britain’s continued EU membership.
Mr Still opened the meeting, and spoke in support of EU membership, citing workers rights and the environment as his two key topics.
Among his core points was a belief that paternal leave, equal rights for women and guarantees for part-time workers enshrined in European law could be at risk if we left the Union. He also said EU environmental legislation was important for Britain, and urged voters to think of the future when they voted next month.
Mr Still said: “Think of our children and grandchildren. Britain is a stronger country in the EU. Coming out of it would make us a smaller, less able nation.”
In response, Jacques Arnold said he would rather put his faith in the British people and the vision that always inspired them, rather than cling fearfully to an outdated EU that might capsize any moment given the current problems with the Euro and immigration.
He felt the European structure is inward-looking, protectionist, expensive, even corrupt, fundamentally undemocratic and in depressing decline.
Mr Arnold said: “I believe we still have the spark of inspiration which originally put the ‘Great’ into Britain. We are capable of making our own way in a 21st century world. Asia, Australasia and Latin America have created a massive global market for us to trade with and invest in.”
David Cure, chairman of the seniors’ forum, said he was pleased so many people had taken an interest in the issue.