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Debating the EU with the Minister for Europe

Published by Oakham School on Tuesday 1st of March 2016

The Minister for Europe, the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, took time out of his exceptionally busy schedule to visit Oakham School on Friday to discuss global politics. It was a packed evening of insights and debate, with the MP presenting his case for Europe, followed by students asking probing and insightful questions about both sides of the argument. The timing of his talk to Oakham’s Politics students, in the very same week he worked with the Prime Minister to secure a new agreement with the EU and the subsequent announcement of the referendum date, certainly made for a very interesting evening. The news ‘came to life’ as the students learnt, first hand, about the process of brokering a new EU deal, as well as listening to the MP rebutting some of the headlines which suggested it had all being ‘stage managed’. “He was an energetic and impactful speaker, drawing on his vast knowledge of political history to put his points across,” says Head of Politics, Laurence Ward. “The students were able to learn an incredible amount information during his session, putting some of the pertinent questions of the day into a much wider political context.” The MP admitted that he “made no secret of the fact" that he’s not unbiased, but he also acknowledged that “not everything about the EU is perfect.” Whilst he gave an interesting potted history about the EU’s successes and the reasons to vote to stay ‘in’, the students took their chance in the Q&A session to really probe him on some of the arguments to vote ‘out’. They asked a range of questions, from homegrown political ones including “Why has the Prime Minister risked a referendum when he’s not fully backed by his party?” to wider issues such as the future enlargement of the EU and the consequences of TTIP. He was also probed about migration, the refugee crisis and the future of Schengen. Students asked him outright about Boris’ stance on the EU, whether renegotiation has the potential to turn our relationship sour with the member states, and what his thoughts were on the situation in the Ukraine. It was no surprise that he praised some of the attendees for fielding ‘good questions’, as Oakham’s students have developed a strong reputation across Europe for their political debating skills. Indeed, for the past eight years, Oakham has had the honour of being the only UK school to be selected by the British Council to represent the UK as MEPs for the day, at the Euroscola conference held at the European Parliament. When asked whether this was possibly the most exciting time for students to study Politics, the Rt Hon David Lidington agreed, saying, “There is an awful lot of good material to choose as your subject matter”. Laurence Ward concurred, saying, “It’s not only an exciting time for students to study Politics generally, it’s a great time for Oakham’s Politics students, as they
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