Yesterday (21st June) Beacon Academy hosted a European Union debate for sixth formers. Along with guest speakers, two students, Megan Middleton and Alfie Cooper, put the case for Leave and Remain campaigns.
The debate was due to have been held on Friday with Wealden MP Nus Ghani arguing for Brexit, however following the killing of Jo Cox the event was rescheduled.
Originally, the school had intended to welcome Nus Ghani to the debate. However, due to many events having to be reorganised due to the death of Jo Cox, she was unable to attend. Thankfully, Phil Dixon stepped in as her representative for which everyone was grateful and he represented the Leave campaign. Mike Coyne, a former EU candidate, was for the Remain campaign.
The motion argued was: “This house believes that the UK should leave the EU”. The Chair of the debate was Molly Byford, former Head Girl, and she ensured proper debating rules were stuck to; this included protected time and correct Points of Information (POIs). Each speaker spoke for eight minutes and had opening and closing protected time with the opposition able to interrupt outside these timings with valid questions. Alfie and Phil concentrated on the ideas of sovereignty, trading and migrants with Megan and Mike focusing on the economy, studying abroad and the aim for peace in our time. Alfie, who opened the debate, brought up many interesting points such as how we will control immigrants if we remain in the EU due to the freedom of movement act. Whereas, interestingly Megan highlighted that this was the only generation in which Europe has not been involved in an internal war and emphasised that if we didn’t want a war torn Europe, staying in the EU would be a better aim for anything close to world peace.
The speeches were followed by questions from the floor. These covered topics such as terrorism, university funding, research funding, defections from the Leave campaign and whether or not sixteen year olds should have been able to vote in this referendum. The audience, largely made up of Year 12 students with the addition of the year 10 Sociology GCSE classes, were very engaged especially in the more passionate sections of the debate.
After an hour and a half of debating, the Chair asked people to cast their vote. With roughly 80% of the audience voting to remain in the EU, the motion failed. The Remain campaign triumphed. All of this took place only two days before the national referendum, but will it reflect the real result? It is clear to say that in the younger population, the Leave campaign can do little to sway opinions.