On Saturday 6 February 2016, hundreds of students headed to the Palais des Congres for our annual Your Future in Europe Conference.
Shami Chakrabarti took to the stage first to educate us all on the importance of the Human Rights Acts and the consequences that would arise if it were to be abolished. Her interesting example regarding surveillance laws, predominantly on the importance of privacy in our own homes and questioning the idea of if having a camera watching you in every room of your home was morally and legally correct - made students consider whether or not mass surveillance is for our safety or an act of mass invasion.
Shami also covered the current refugee crisis and immigration laws, highlighting the importance of understanding between the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’.
Up next was Evan Davis who enhanced the European feel of the conference by briefly explaining the history of Europe and the Eurozone. With the EU Referendum ever increasingly approaching, many students questioned if Evan believed the UK would prosper or fall if we were to leave the EU.
Evan delivered a non-biased view on this, and highlighted successful examples of other countries such as Denmark and Switzerland who currently adopt and benefit from only specific policies of the EU – whilst pointing out that we are unable to predict the future but to remember that the UK is in fact a powerful economy.
After a short break, we were then joined by Paul and Marina from the British Council France. Marina who previously took part in the Erasmus programme in France highlighted a few of the exciting and life changing opportunities that are available whilst studying abroad, focusing on numerous personal and career skills that are gained during your time abroad, the opportunity to learn a new language and meet people from all over the world were also a few of exciting experiences mentioned.
Promoting EU mobility via the Erasmus+ programme was explained, which allows students to travel, volunteer or study abroad in the EU with the help of a grant and as Marina explained, will take you on an unforgettable European journey!
Ready to inspire, Linda Moir began her engaging presentation for the students - the next generation of successful leaders! Speaking about her time with Virgin Atlantic and her successful training that produced the award winning in-flight team, Linda highlighted the importance of excellent customer service and the crucial motivational training of all employees.
Moving on to a legacy that will stay with Britain for years to come, Linda covered the London 2012 Games and gave thanks to the outstanding team of volunteer ‘games-makers’ –85% of whom attended every shift and were part of delivering an unforgettable Games. Ending with the advert used to win the London 2012 bid, the audience were left feeling proud and motivated seeing what can be achieved.
We were then joined by our Question Time Panel hosted by Evan Davis, the panel was formed by the returning Alan Johnson (Labour) and Dominic Grieve (Conservative) with new representation for the Liberal Democrats – Baroness Parminter, the SNP’s Angela Constance and Shami Chakrabarti.
With an outstanding response from the students, dozens of questions covering a diverse range of topics were submitted for our panellists. Immigration laws were addressed by Chelmsford County High School for Girls who questioned whether or not there was indeed a way to successfully end the refugee crisis by eradicating the root of the problem. Streatham & Clapham High focused on Human Rights and the complications with freedom of speech when promoting hateful and discriminatory messages.
There were various questions directed at each panellists with Guildford High School addressing Trident, asking each panellist whether they believed ‘are nuclear weapons ever justified?’
The current situation of the EU was also a popular topic, with Ashford School raising the debate to whether or not the UK ‘would suffer from even severe trade deficit when leaving the EU’ prompting a relevant question from The London Oratory School to whether or not the legal voting age for should follow the footsteps of the Scottish Referendum and be lowered to 16 – with an overall response from our panellists agreeing that indeed it should!
The conference came to an end with chair Kirsty Lang asking the audience if they believed it was in the UK’s best interest to stay in Europe, with an overwhelming response believing saying Yes to Europe was the answer.
We want to thank Kirsty, our amazing guest speakers Shami, Evan, Paul and Marina, and our panelists for another exciting year with the Your Future in Europe conference! Many thanks to our groups and students for joining us! How are we going to top it next year!? Wait and see!
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