'A Better Referendum': How to Open Up the EU Debate

20/05/2016 11:58

If you think the EU referendum debate so far has been focused far too much on the personalities and internal party spats than the real issues that affect you and the country, you're not on your own.

Of course, it doesn't have to be like this - we can have a vibrant and lively EU referendum debate, looking at the real issues: from health and education to the economy and immigration. The Scottish referendum showed that these ballots don't have to be boring - we can turn them into festivals of democracy: genuinely engaging national conversations that bring in every community.

So we, together with three British universities, are proud to be launching an online democratic tool for a 'Better Referendum' on Monday.

Better Referendum is a project to open up the EU referendum debate by allowing people to organise 'meetups' where all the issues are discussed and debated. Anyone who wants to can organise a meetup. They'll hear from leading experts and from different sides of the debate, including videos from the official Remain and Leave campaigns. Then they'll get to debate the issues in full - and even vote on them.

We'll be launching the project offline too, with an event in Sheffield, 'A Better Referendum: The Big EU Debate' hosted by Professor Matthew Flinders, Director of the Crick Centre, one of the project partners . This event - the first of its kind - is a chance to hear all the arguments from both sides, from experts and citizens, and to discuss them in an open and innovative forum.

There'll be great conversations, great (free!) food, videos, votes, and short pitches from the main campaigns, so that you'll have a chance to hear the arguments and have your say in an engaging environment.

Whether you're in Sheffield or elsewhere, this tool is the first of its kind. We can cut through the spin and have a grassroots referendum debate that we deserve. Let's have a Better Referendum.

Keep an eye on the ERS website on Monday for a link to the newly-launched site - and tell your friends!

'A Better Referendum - The Big EU Debate' will be held at St Mary's Church & Conference Centre on Monday 23rd May - exactly a month before the referendum. Members of the public can sign up to the event here for free:

Better Referendum is being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).