A pair of Year 13 students from Felpham Community College took part in a mock European Union council to discuss important issues.
Maisie Lovett and Hallum Cowell took part in the event, which was hosted on November 22 at the law society on Chancery Lane, London.
The council saw 32 schools take part by representing the member states of the European Union, as well as two schools each representing the UK delegation and EU commission. There was also a school representing the British press. The annual event is organised by the European Commission and the British Council. It aims is to give A-level students around the country an insight into the workings of international politics.
This year centred around two key issues: ‘Should the UK be part of Erasmus, if so, then how?’ and ‘Citizens rights once the UK has left the European Union’. Both of these issues were resolved by the end of the day and the UK left with a deal.
Schools taking part were selected earlier in the year through regional debating competitions, in which Masie and Hallum were successful. The pair were assigned Lithuania and had to represent the country’s agenda. Maisie focused on Erasmus + and Hallum focused on EU citizen’s rights post Brexit. They undertook research to prepare, including speaking with a member of the Lithuanian embassy.
Hallum said: “We attended a morning debate workshop at the regional competition earlier in the year to teach us to debate, which was remarkably useful as we had never done any kind of debating before and a number of the other schools have been doing it for years. Without the morning workshop we wouldn’t have stood a chance! I focused on the Brexit vote as I felt it was fuelled by a kind of reaction to heavy European migration into the UK. It seems to me that the UK will want the complete opposite of the EU and so it will be hard to find a compromise, but it will have to be reached. On the day, lunch was a very important time. For my group we wanted to secure family rights, lower the amount of years a EU citizen needed to live in the UK to be classed a permanent resident and enshrine the deal in international law. At our end, myself and the other Baltic delegates created a block of EU countries that pressured the EU commission to enter these items into the statement. In the end the Baltic, while not powerful nations in themselves, held a lot of diplomatic sway. After lunch we had the second half of the negotiations, which were essential to ensuring the completion of a deal, we (Lithuania and Latvia) had managed to get a bi-lateral meeting with the UK and during the meeting we managed to work out an area of contention. We pushed that the deal should be enshrined in international law rather than UK law, as UK can be overturned. By the end of the day, a citizens rights deal was found but with Germany, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania vetoing the agreement. The agreement laid out that the UK would count EU citizens who lived in the UK for over three years as permanent residents and would guarantee their rights, British citizens in the EU would be able to vote in their countries affairs on a state by state basis and the deal would be international law overlooked by an independent committee. Brexit is thrown around so much in the media it was interesting to delve into the meat of it, it has made me more interested in politics and it was interesting to see how Brexit is affecting other countries”
Maisie said: “We weren’t sure what it was going to be like as we have not be involved with any debating before the regional competitions and most of the other schools have. Lunch time was very busy as I spent my time trying to convince smaller countries to restrict UK voting rights in Erasmus +. At first we tried to propose the UK have no vote but not many countries were up for this, so instead we decided it would be more useful to instead support reduced voting rights. By the end of the day we had reached an agreement - it was agreed that the UK would have full voting rights until 2020 when a new Erasmus program would be made and until then the UK would pay 17 per cent of the budget. After these date all non-EU countries would be able to vote in Erasmus +, including the UK and the UK would pay 15 per cent of the budget”. This deal was agreed unanimously by all nations present. It was a really good day, we all worked hard and were very passionate about what we were debating. It was a brilliant experience to be involved with.”