Trinity and Cambridge University debate Impact of a Brexit on EU

4 December 2015

Teams from Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University debated the motion This House Believes that a Brexit would be good for the EU at the recent Student Economic Review debate co-hosted with the College Historical society (The Hist).

Trinity captain Liam Hunt was awarded the Gold Medal for best speaker while the Cambridge team were announced winners by a narrow margin and were presented with the Vinay Nair Cup.

Chaired by Trinity’s Professor Patrick Geoghegan, an expert on 18th and 19th century Anglo-Irish relations and host of Newstalk’s Talking History programme, it was the first of the two annual Student Economic Review debates.

The Trinity Team of Sophie Donnelly (SF PPES), Cormac Henehan (SS Neuroscience) and Liam Hunt (SS History and Politics) proposed the motion with the Cambridge team of Alasdair Donovan (first year History), James Riseley (sixth year Veterinary Science) and Matt Hazell (second year Politics) opposing.

Both teams offered different visions of a post-Brexit Europe, with the proposition describing a Europe free to pursue ever-closer union, and which would hold the upper hand in any trade negotiations with Britain following a Brexit. The opposition on the other hand spoke of a Europe that would come to be dominated by protectionism with the loss of a British veto in the current free trade block. Their version of a post-Brexit Europe was a far less stable one, with Brexit leading to a contagion effect, providing a framework for other countries to leave and giving fuel to anti-European voices across the Continent.

One of the central questions of the debate was the nature of Britain’s role in the EU. On one hand the proposition described Britain as an agent for positive reform (pointing towards its role in reforming the CAP and EU fisheries policy) and a champion of free trade, desperately needed in the EU. On the other side Britain was described by the proposition as being interested only in the economic advantages of membership to Britain, and not in the European Project as a political and social union. They argued that because of this Britain is an obstacle to progress, specifically the further political and economic integration, which they contended is essential to the EU’s future.

While the judges left the packed GMB chamber to deliberate the audience heard floor speeches from Jamie Donnelly, Oisín Vince Coulter, Olly Donnelly and Ronan Mac Giolla Rua before Professor Geoghegan offered his highly entertaining take on proceedings.

The judging panel, chaired by Professor Frances Ruane, former director of the ESRI and former professor in Trinity’s Department of Economics, deliberated for twenty minutes before returning to the chamber to announce the winners. 

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