Sixth Form students at Brentwood School were treated to a series of lively debates on the future of Britain’s membership of the European Union this week, in advance of the national referendum on 23rd June.
Mr Mike Willis, Head of Politics at the School, invited Mr Jacques Arnold, a businessman and former Conservative MP, and leading economist Professor Vicky Pryce to come and attempt to convince the students to ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ respectively, leading to a lively exchange over such issues as trade and investment, corruption, climate change and competition laws.
Mr Arnold, the former Member of Parliament for Gravesham in Kent, spoke passionately about Britain’s reputation as the fifth largest economy in the world and the bureaucracy that exists in the European Union, often dramatically disagreeing with his counterpart’s claims.
Professor Pryce, who often appears on television to discuss economic matters, appealed to the young audience with warnings that prices would rise if we left the EU, especially for flights. She pointed out that the EU had kept Europe stable and improved welfare, prosperity and social care across the continent since it was set up.
After the debate, students were invited to ask questions, and were forthcoming on such issues as the justice system, the free movement of people and Britain’s international influence. Several questions were from knowledgeable Upper Sixth students Tom Raffan and Saif Imran, who themselves held a debate in assembly later in the week in front of their peers. The debate was followed by a mock vote, in which the majority of students voted to remain, by 173 votes to 77.
Mr Willis concluded the debate by urging everyone who is eligible to use their vote regardless of which camp they are in. He added “This is much more important than a General Election when you have another five years before casting another vote. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that could affect this country forever.”
Photo from left: Saif Imran (U6), Mr Jacques Arnold, Isabelle Marsh (U6), Prof Vicky Pryce, Tom Raffan (U6), Mr Mike Willis, Head of Politics