Stijn, 47, Norwich
Occupation Humanitarian aid worker
Voting record Stijn, who is from Belgium, can’t vote in general elections in the UK, and couldn’t vote in the EU referendum; in Belgium he voted Green
Amuse bouche After a typhoon in the Philippines, Stijn organised karaoke: “People cried from feeling human again”
David, 72, Cambridgeshire
Occupation Owns a property portfolio
Voting record Ukip when there has been a candidate, otherwise Conservative – he stood for Ukip in local elections
Amuse bouche David reads the Guardian online every morning and agrees with very little of it
Stijn I told him I am Belgian and my wife is German. My job is not in the UK. I’m here because I like it. I love Norwich.
David I found him a little hard to understand. Normally Dutch speakers have a very good command of English.
Stijn My mother tongue is Dutch, second language French. I made him ask questions – an achievement as he tends to talk rather than do that.
David When I travel in Europe, people like to practise their English on me. Some even invite me to correct them.
The big beef
Stijn I didn’t see a very pro-EU stance in the referendum campaign. I saw the leave campaign, which was basically: “Press this button and the whole thing blows up”, while the other side said: “Let’s not press this button because it’s scary.” It’s easy to point out that the EU is a mess, badly organised and inefficient – you won’t find anyone in Belgium or Germany who disagrees. We take that as the price to pay for sitting down and working something out.
David It’s very strange when people who are leftwing like Stijn are pro the EU when the common agricultural policy, which even now is nearly 40% of the EU budget, is a huge transfer of money from the poor to the rich. In the year of the referendum, the biggest subsidy receivers in the country were the Queen, the Duke of Westminster and James Dyson.
Stijn He said the bigger the institution, the more corrupt it is. I’ve worked around the world – there’s a lot of small-town nepotism and corruption, and here there is a government that likes to give contracts to their fellow Etonians and other friends. Corruption has many faces.
David I think a common market is great. A free trade area is excellent. What we don’t need is political union.
Stijn I have a lot of criticisms of the EU, but I also want national governments to be accountable, and for citizens to be not only at the mercy of their own governments. Working around the world, I see how that can be for minorities, for poorer communities, for refugees. I want institutions above that.
David When I went to Ukip meetings, I made a very deliberate effort to go to Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem meetings, too – and Stijn said he was pro that kind of approach.
Stijn Polarisation is not necessarily a big problem. I don’t think the ideal is that everyone gets along – there should be strong disagreement in society.
David We talked about the anglophone world – dominated by the US in GDP and by India in population. There is an inescapable cultural link between these countries that we don’t necessarily have with our European neighbours.
Stijn An imperial state of mind is still very present in England. He talked fondly about the anglophone world – I was like: “Yeah, but it’s the result of colonisation and mass migration.”
David My instincts have always been for small government. He said that’s great for people who do well, but bad for people who fall through the cracks. He’s got a point, but you have to decide which is a better big picture to run with. I’m in favour of equality of opportunity, but not equality of outcome.
Stijn He looks at the world from the perspective of somebody who can fend for himself, but it disregards what happens to people who are not so fortunate.
David On one or two issues we were on opposite sides of the fence, but that didn’t mean we were enemies. That would be a hopeless way of living.
Stijn While Ukip is one of the most horrible vehicles in this country in the last 10 years, he is still a dad, and a person. I think some of the ideas are horrible, and Nigel Farage is particularly horrible. But it’s nice to sit in front of another human being and talk.
Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson
David and Stijn ate at Franklins Brasserie at the Thomas Paine hotel in Thetford, Norfolk
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