Immigration was first on the agenda on a heated Question Time debate from Folkestone. Joining David Dimbleby were the leader of Ukip Nigel Farage, comedian Eddie Izzard, journalist Allison Pearson, Labour "Remain" MP Hillary Benn and Conservative Chris Grayling, who also wants to leave the EU.
Asked by an audience member about controlling immigration, Nigel Farage said that although the economic case was unproven, what was beyond doubt was that immigration was the number one issue and having an adverse effect on the quality of life. Eddie Izzard asked why Farage, who is married to a migrant and descended from migrants, was so obsessed with the subject.
Hillary Benn admitted immigration was having an effect on some communities but was overall a good thing. Chris Grayling perhaps unsurprisingly took an opposing view. Dimbleby was puzzled how Grayling could claim to be able to control immigration after leaving the EU when immigration from non-EU countries was huge. Pearson — describing how mass migration impacted on education — responded angrily to a comment by Izzard — in a dazzling pink beret - by saying too many "men" were speaking.
Several members of the audience made the point that immigration in itself wasn't the issue: it was the knock-on impact on housing and the environment. However Farage and Izzard — sat next to each other — spent much of the debate niggling each other to the extent Dimbleby said he may get them to swap seats with others on the panel. In the end a member of the audience yelled at Izzard to "shut up!"
The debate soon deteriorated to the extent Benn was allowed to mutter darkly about taxes on fruit rising 22% in the event of Brexit. Like most stats it was impossible to prove or disprove. The debate touched on to the looming economic crisis in Europe and whether leaving the EU would insulate the UK from its effects. The debate moved on to tariffs - much to the fury of Izzard, who was more interested in Farage's family background.
Izzard and Farage were asked to stop interrupting and Izzard made the case for peace — namely that the European project had ended war in Europe. After his rousing speech Chris Grayling brought the tone down to earth with a big bump, returning the conversation to tariffs and trade.
The next question asked if the public could believe anything the Leave camp said following the exit from Brexit of Sarah Wollaston. Hilary Benn referred to a tweet by Allison Pearson in the wake of the Brussels terror attack, saying 'We should stand by our neighbours not run away'. Pearson defended her comments, saying some of those behind recent atrocities on the continent had been to the UK.
Farage clarified the figures on rebates and grants, saying overall the UK paid in £10bn more to the EU than it took out. Farage said he'd like to spend it on communities in Britain which had been damaged by Labour. Eddie Izzard said President Barack Obama wanted the UK to remain — apparently thinking this would work in his favour.
Asked if a vote for Brexit would break up the UK — as warned by former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major — Eddie Izzard said it would, as Scotland and Wales would probably break away. Chris Grayling however said the UK would remain as one. Izzard — to cap an appalling performance — had a row with a woman in the audience which ended up in a panto-like "Oh yes I am!" "Oh no you're not!" to the embarrassment of all. Overall the programme was tetchy, unpleasant, and unsatisfying — all sound and fury, signifying nothing. A microcosm for the campaign as a whole, perhaps.