What you might need to know

  • This lesson starts with a map of the EU showing the largest enlargement of the club in 2004 to 10 Central and Eastern European countries. It also shows the candidate countries to the entry inside the club as well as countries that are part of other clubs like the European Free Trade Association or EFTA. EFTA was created in 1960 and is made up of four countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It has lost six countries to the EU, including the UK, who could always decide to rejoin EFTA if they wanted to. They all participate in the Single Market, which means they pay into the EU budget but they have no seat at the decision table. They are not members of the Customs Union though which allows them to strike bilateral trade deals and not let the EU make those deals like it is the case for full members of the EU like Ireland.
  • After this little reminder about the geography of the EU and the diversity of arrangements, we look at the symbols of the EU. Just like countries with their flag and anthem, the EU also has symbols which represent the club. There are four: a flag, an anthem Ode to Joy, a special day called Europe Day which is on 9th May and a motto – ‘Unity in Diversity’. We get the children to listen to the anthem, identify the flag. There are 12 stars in a circle on the flag as it represents harmony and unity – 12 stars like the 12 hours on a clock or 12 months in a year. We get the children to reflect on why Europe Day isn’t really celebrated and we compare it with St Patrick’s Day. Finally the motto of Unity in Diversity, we look at it in the context of the 28 countries which are members – they are all different but united in the club.
  • The Euro isn’t fully a symbol of the EU because only 19 countries out of the 28 are using it. Some have decided not to use it (like the UK or Denmark) and some don’t meet the criteria to use it like Hungary or Poland. Looking at Euro coins, you can get the children to spot that the value face is identical for all the Euro coins with a map of the EU, the 12 stars and the value of the coin. But the tail side is all different depending on which country has minted the coin. Countries use their national symbols on the Euro coins. For Ireland, it’s a harp for all the coins no matter the amount. Same for Belgium. But for countries like France and Germany they use different symbols for different amounts.
  • We finish this lesson with Brexit: we try and get the children to take a balanced view on Brexit, that it is going to be difficult for the UK but also for the EU because the UK is a big partner and for Ireland. The UK is leaving because it wanted to take back control of the rules applying to their country. The EU is based on shared sovereignty. When countries sign up to be part of the EU, they agree to share their decisions with other countries and sometimes it goes against what you would have decided by yourself as a country. Overall countries in the EU still think that they are stronger by being inside the EU rather than being able to decide on the rules by themselves but being outside.
  • The biggest stumbling block in the Brexit process has been the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK agreed with the EU the mechanism of the backstop which makes sure that no matter what there will be no hard border between the two countries. But this means that Northern Ireland would stay in the Customs Union and the border would be in the Irish Sea, something that the Unionists who are holding up Theresa May’s government have rejected consistently. They want no difference in treatment between Great Britain and NI. For this lesson, children really need to understand that the UK is a four piece puzzle country and that it’s not England leaving but the whole of the UK despite Scotland and NI voting to remain in the EU.