Brexit blind dates: Stanley Johnson and Ella Whelan

By Emma Ailes and Esme Ash
BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme

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media caption'Let's chuck Chequers'

What happens when two strong-minded individuals from opposite sides of the Brexit debate sit down for dinner? To find out, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has organised a series of blind dates.

Stanley Johnson, Boris Johnson's father, is a former Conservative MEP and founder of Environmentalists for Europe, who believes the UK would be better off remaining in the EU.

Ella Whelan, author and journalist at Spiked, staunchly believes in Brexit.

They went into the meal without knowing whom they would be meeting.

But did they get on?

Stanley Johnson

How would you describe yourself? Barely blonde public-school boy.

What are your views on Brexit? In the run-up to Brexit, I was very much for Remain. However, when Britain voted, I said, "OK, we're going to leave." But I am absolutely not in favour of Brexit along the terms the government is discussing.

What was your initial impression? A real pleasure to meet her and obviously a first-class brain there. I found it hard to keep up, actually.

How was your date? Lively stuff - it did me a lot of good to be exposed to someone who was deeply committed to the Brexit deal.

What was the best thing about the date? The sausages were very good.

What was the worst thing? Possibly being forced to concentrate for about two hours.

What did you talk about? I argued that during my time in the EU, it was in a way quite exciting to be able to use the EU mechanisms to drive through projects and programmes and political decisions which it might have been harder to get through if you just worked at a national level, country by country.

What was her most convincing argument? She did convince me that there are a lot of people out there who take Brexit very seriously indeed - it's not just a political football to be kicked around. Even if it did come to a second vote... I don't think that the Remainers would necessarily find it any easier to win the argument than they did last time round.

media captionStanley Johnson jokes that they have "found the solution" to the Irish border issue

Did you convince her on anything? Well I very much doubt that. That would be a first. I don't think I've ever convinced anyone about anything.

Would you see her again? Absolutely, with great pleasure.

Describe her in three words: Intelligent, articulate, attractive.

Marks out of 10 for the date: Sounds a bit like Strictly Come Dancing - I'd give it an eight or a nine because I was intrigued and absorbed and actually fairly challenged by our discussion.

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Ella Whelan

What was your initial impression? A very, very, charming man - I was a little intimidated as he has been an MEP and is very knowledgeable in relation to the EU but we got on very well.

How was your date? It went well, we agreed more than I thought we would, which was a nice surprise because it meant that we could actually talk about some of the finer points rather than going at each other's throats.

What was the best thing about the date? Being taken out by a gentleman was a very nice thing to do.

media captionElla Whelan: "If you speak against immigration you're labelled a bigot"

What was the worst thing? That we didn't get to finish the dinners because we were talking about Brexit too much.

What did you talk about? We talked about the Irish border a lot, which I think is one of the most interesting things for me about looking at what's gone wrong with the Brexit discussion.

Any common ground? We both agreed that what has happened to Brexit is a terrible sham.

What was your biggest disagreement? We really disagreed on immigration and not how you'd think because I'm very pro-immigration and Stanley is quite anti it because he is very concerned about population growth. In another discussion, about immigration, we may not have got along as well as we did.

Did he convince you on anything? No, but that's not because he wasn't thoughtful but because I think that this debate is the centre of my political outlook, so it would take more than an earthquake to change my mind on this.

image captionStanley insists to Ella that he pays for their meal

Would you see him again? We come from totally different backgrounds but sometimes once in a while that works. And he's a gentleman, so yes, why not?

Describe him in three words: Charming, ardent and patient.

Marks out of 10 for the date: Nine, because the conversation was very interesting but we didn't get to finish our dinner.

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