As I’m a British person living abroad, I’ve found that my students are very keen to know what I think of Brexit and are generally relieved to hear that (like most people in my situation) I think it was a catastrophic decision. However, I think it’s very important not to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone who voted for it did so out of xenophobia or because they’re all thick, as the Guardian reporter John Harris patiently explains here. Many were frustrated with society, left out of globalisation and duped by nationalist politicians and self-interested newspaper moguls into thinking the EU was somehow to blame. So now you know what I think. Just for a change.
This lesson doesn’t focus on the causes of the vote, but rather uses a Guardian article from yesterday (March 29th) to help your students (and you) understand some complex issues involved in the negotiations which will now take place. This can be followed by a speaking activity in which they express their own opinions about the broader consequences. The lesson was designed for B2+ Politics students but could be used with any Upp Int+/Adv class interested in the issue.
- Show them this article and draw their attention to the subject (Brexit) and the date (March 29th). Ask them what happened on March 29th (Theresa May wrote a suicide note) (you don’t have to call it a suicide note).
- Draw their attention to the subheadline. Make sure they understand what civil servants are. Demonstrate what ‘untangle’ means and establish that in this case ‘distill’ means to reduce a list of 700 areas down to eight.
- Scroll down pointing out the categories (Timing, The ‘divorce’ bill, Citizenship, Borders, Trade, European Court of Justice, Transition, Ratification). Elicit a brief definition/translation for each.
- Show them the questions below and get them to copy them off the board. This will enable them to identify any which cause confusion. Point out that the answers can be found in the text and that they should only use their dictionaries as a last resort.
- Either handout printed copies of the article or get them to find it on their phones/tablets/pcs/etc.
- Students in pairs find the answers. Monitor to offer occasional hints to any pairs who are struggling.
- After 20 minutes or so, swap partners to check their answers.
- Go through the answers on the board (make sure you know the answers first).
- Tell them they’re going to be interviewed about the consequences of Brexit, and that there will be two questions: 1) What are the short-term consequences a) for the UK b) for Europe? 2) What are the long-term consequences a) for the UK b) for Europe?
- Give students three minutes to prepare, looking up vocab they will need and asking you for help if necessary. Make sure they are taking notes and not preparing a speech.
- Students interview a partner for 3-4 minutes and then swap roles and repeat.
- They change partners and repeat the exercise but this time film/record each other on their phones.
- HOMEWORK: Students write a transcript of the interview they gave, making corrections where necessary, and then email it to you for comments.
Questions for reading exercise
1) When will Brexit happen?
2) What’s the main disagreement between the UK Govt and the EU on this point?
1) How much does the EU think the UK should pay?
2) How much does the UK Govt think it should pay?
1) Why are a lot of people in Europe angry about this?
2) What does pretty much everyone agree on?
1) What do both the UK and the Irish Govts want to protect?
2) What do some people hope?
1) What do most Europeans believe is most important?
2) What is a “bespoke customs union”?
European Court of Justice
1) What doesn’t the UK Govt want to do after it leaves the EU?
2) What possible solution is the UK Govt considering?
1) What “painful concession” could May face?
2) What have business and the City insisted is important?
1) What are the names of the chief negotiators on each side?
2) Why would the UK Govt have problems obtaining a “generous trade deal”?