A special Question Time style event has been held at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) featuring two former Members of European Parliament (MEP).
Around 50 DMU students as well as members of staff and the general public attended the European Parliament to Campus event, where questions were posed to a panel consisting of former UK MEP Ben Patterson and former German MEP Doris Pack.
The participants discussed topics which covered the current direction of the EU, the implications of Brexit and Europe’s refugee crisis.
The audience were given a first-hand insight into the workings of the European Parliament and heard the panel’s views on what the impact of leaving the European Union will be to both the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
The first question from the audience came from DMU student Eve, who asked how leaving the EU will impact on Britain’s relationship with Europe.
Former Conservative politician Mr Patterson responding by saying: “Whatever the relationship is, it will not be anything like as good as what we have already.
“It is almost inconceivable that we could survive without being in the single market. There are things in the single market that you cannot possibly get out of.”
Mrs Pack, who served in European Parliament for 24 years, said: “Irresponsible men did something and didn’t know what would happen later on. Most things will be worse.
“I feel sorry for the youngsters here. We are living in a globalised world, we are living together and we have to work together. What is the UK without the people who are getting things from the UK? I cannot see anything that will be better.”
When asked whether there is a possibility that Great Britain could re-join the European Union, there was disagreement between the two panel members.
Mrs Pack said: “If you leave, I don’t think any government will go back. You have to start as a newcomer, the newcomer has to join Schengen and have the common currency. If you come again you have to follow the rules, like Croatia who are now coming in to the EU. All new countries have to accept they will join the common currency when they are in a position to it.”
However Mr Patterson said: “I actually think there is a very distinct possibility we will re-join, because of the demographics.
“If you look who voted in the referendum, those over 40 voted on balance to leave, but as you go down the age ranges, there were massive votes to stay in from younger people. My generation will die off soon and your generation will want to join the EU. It is quite possible to re-join.”
Other thought-provoking questions were posed such as what would happen if the UK fails to reach an exit deal with the EU, the possibility of withdrawing Article 50, the benefits of restoring more power to Westminster and whether there is a problem of bureaucracy in Brussels.
One of the final questions of the session asked for practical advice of how students can reduce any negative impact of Brexit and the panel members responded with a call for students to be more politically active.
Mrs Pack said: “You should at least try to convince the politicians. Be outspoken with citizens around you who have been manipulated by the press. I was shocked to see the way newspapers have been lying to normal people, if it is told each day they believe it and vote how they have been manipulated to.
“You can do it and you should never forget that the world is bigger than Great Britain. Europeans are happy to have you. In a globalised would you need to have a feeling of other people and understand them.”
Mr Patterson said: “Join the Young European Movement and inundate your member of parliament with letters saying young people won’t stand for what you’re doing.”
Book a place at our next open day
Capitol Hill veterans give DMU politics students priceless insight into US elections
EU students say yes to DMU as applications rise by nearly a third
Law student Ellie Jones, a member of the DMU Liberal Democrat Society, was pleased to have the chance to hear from politicians who had worked inside the European Parliament.
She said: “The discussion worked well in hearing from people who have actually worked inside the European Union telling us that they don’t actually understand what is going to happen.
“It’s definitely interesting to hear from someone who isn’t British and will stay in the European Union and hear what they think believe happen to Britain after we leave.”
Posted on Thursday 1st February 2018