On 5 May 2016, Mishcon de Reya hosted an EU Referendum Debate in partnership with the City Property Association. Chaired by Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics, the panel consisted of six ardent campaigners, evenly representing both camps.
Supporting the 'remain' initiative were: Mark Boleat, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, Corporation of London; Sir George Iacobescu, chairman of Canary Wharf Group; and Gina Miller, Britain Stronger In and founding partner, head of sales & marketing, SCM Direct. While those in favour of leaving the EU were: David Buik, market commentator at Panmure Gordon; Lord Howard Emerson Flight, Vote Leave and Conservative politician; and Richard Tice, co-founder of Leave.EU and property entrepreneur.
A poll conducted at the start of the event saw the audience firmly in favour of remaining in the EU at 84%, with just 16% voting to leave. The 'leave' proponents, undeterred, were determined to sway the tide, and a lively debate around issues including security, immigration, trade, the law, finance and the effect on the property market ensued.
Sir George Iacobescu warned that leaving the EU would worsen the severe skills shortage already prevalent in the construction industry. In the event of a British exit, he cautioned, "we will lose 30% of the work force, thus increasing construction costs by 20%-30%." He added, "It's already enormously expensive with inflation in the double digits in construction, and it will be very difficult to provide good space."
Richard Tice was of the view that Britain's finest attributes, including our legal system, financial centre, economy, military and property market had nothing to do with our membership of the EU and would not change if we left. He argued that we are no longer a sovereign nation. Instead, "we are a 9% voting subsidiary of a bureaucratic, unaccountable Brussels institution which hasn't signed its accounts for 21 years."
While the closing poll indicated that the 'leave' camp had managed to influence the audience, if only slightly, a clear majority of 78% were still in favour of remaining in the EU. Only time will tell what the result on 23 June will be.
Click here to view a selection of photos from the debate.