Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for December 5th, 2008

Taking Europe into Schools

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 5th December, 2008

This morning I was taking part in a Year 12 (sixth form) debate at Langley Grammar School in Slough, on the motion ‘This House believes that the UK should pursue further integration into the EU’. No prizes for guessing which side I was asked to speak on. There was a proposer and a seconder on each side from among the pupils, rather like an Oxford Union debate. The guest speaker against the motion was meant to be the former Conservative MP and permanent Euro-sceptic (and long-standing member of the Gladstone Club), my fellow Quaker, Sir Richard Body, who unfortunately had an accident last night, so ended up in hospital today, rather than in the school debating chamber.

There were spirited performances by all four student debaters, who had the daunting task of performing in front of 150 of their peers. The pupils at Langley are drawn from the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Hounslow, as well as Slough and surrounding districts. It was interesting to see from their questions that their over-riding concerns related to the impact of immigration from central and eastern Europe, and the threat of rising unemployment. I was not surprised that the motion was defeated, though interestingly this was only by a narrow margin, rather than the 70:30 split that opinion polls suggest a nationwide poll of adult electors would produce. Of course, as a prospective Euro-candidate in a PR election, fighting on a pro-EU platform, it’s that 30 per cent that interests me — or even higher among among young people! Quite apart from the political angle, however, it is important that sixth formers in Britain learn more about the EU so that they can make up their own minds about it, rather than relying on the half-truths and misconcepions propagated by so much of the UK media.


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