Peter Corr is an ex-army HGV driver who lost his job thanks to Brexit and decided to do something rather special to protest about that. He set up the campaign group ‘UK Rejoin the EU’ to fight against Brexit and recently organised the National Rejoin March – the biggest pro-EU, anti-Brexit demonstration and rally the UK has seen for years.
Lisa Burton: Through organising the National Rejoin March, you have been collaborating with many groups and organisations and therefore hearing a lot of voices and opinions. How have you found the experience?
I found the experience to be a huge learning exercise and really fun. I’ve met lots of different people, every single one of them enthusiastic and infinitely more knowledgeable than me. In just a few short months, I feel I’ve made more genuine friends than I have ever had before and it has shown, in my opinion, that working together in an equal and collaborative way can really get things done.
Did serving in the army have anything to do with your passion for being part of the EU?
Until recently if you’d have asked me that, I would probably have said no. But recently I began to think it has quite a lot to do with it. No matter what people think about the armed forces, while you are serving you genuinely feel like you are doing a public service, protecting your country and its people. It gets kind of engraved into you. Since leaving the Army, I can’t honestly say I continued that public service in any meaningful way. But seeing the country I love being utterly destroyed by politicians lying to win goals that can do nothing but harm made that sense of public duty kick back in. I wasn’t prepared to sit back and give up. I wanted to fight for what is clearly right for our country and the people in it. I think that sense of public duty is still in me and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Valerie Chaplin: What are your plans for the future re marches, protests and campaigning?
This is genuinely the start of something I want to continue and grow for as long as necessary until we have rejoined the EU. Not the single market. Not the customs union. But fully Rejoined the EU. Direct action takes many forms, from protests and marches like we started with (NRM London), to street stalls, concerts, petitions, lobbying, anything and everything we can think of, and as often as humanly possible. We all sat back and practically gave up for too long, mostly due to Covid in reality, but we need to now continue campaigning much stronger than we ever have and not give in.
Ruth Woodhouse: In June 2021 you organised the online event “Music Sounds Better with EU” to highlight the problems faced by musicians post Brexit. Has the situation for artists changed at all since then and what is the government’s current position?
Unfortunately no, not really. The creative industry is close to my heart, so I sometimes may give more precedence to it than other industries. Any job which involved working across Europe has been affected by Brexit. But back to the creative industries, for up-and-coming workers or artists (it affects everyone in the industry, from lighting technicians to DJs to full orchestras) it’s just over. A new artist can no longer afford to have a mini tour across Europe to help kick start a career like so many did during our time in the EU. It’s having an affect the other way round too. At festivals in the UK, for example, we’re missing out on seeing some amazing artists from Europe. It genuinely breaks my heart, and Music Sounds Better With EU is another thing which is just the start and we have plans for in the near future.
Steve Wilson: Did the National Rejoin March day go as anticipated and how do you feel about the fight to rejoin the EU going forward?
The first National Rejoin March honestly went way better than I or the team could have possibly hoped. The numbers that attended were phenomenal (50,000 according to our Police Liaison), the entire day was extremely positive and fun, and the goal was met – which was to get the word ‘Rejoin’ in as much of the UK media as possible. Even this exceeded our expectations, as we reached the news all over Europe, Australia and even America. The overwhelming message from the feedback since the day, is that people have ‘hope’ again, including me. We are going nowhere, until we’ve rejoined the EU.
David Eldridge: With the Labour party and Rejoin both polling at over 50%, surely Starmer can afford to lose a few pro-Brexit voters and adopt a more EU friendly stance. What do you think the Labour party should do now?
I completely agree that Labour can afford to lose the diminishing number of people who still, despite everything, support Brexit. The polls as I type this suggest a 57% support for Rejoining the EU. That is without ANY mainstream campaign. That is without ANY mainstream politician punting for it. It’s without practically anything at all advertising Rejoin as the solution to the problems we face. I honestly believe, with just a little bit of the above, that 57% number will rocket, and the first party to adopt a full-on Rejoin policy will massively benefit from it at any general election. We can ALL see now with our own eyes what life is like out the EU and compare it directly to what life was like in the EU. This makes for such an easy campaign for Rejoin, in my opinion, that it baffles me why the parties are still holding back from it. Just do it! People need you to do it. Now.
It’s clear that rejoining the EU will be a step-by-step process. What should the first steps be?
I don’t personally believe it is. For example, the single market. One of the biggest lies Brexit was won with, was that we can’t make our own rules and laws. So, if we were JUST in the single market, that lie would become a truth. We’d be accepting rules and laws made in the EU and we’d have no say in them, being out the EU. To me, that’s a harder thing to sell than just Rejoining the EU. Rejoin the EU and we have the single market, but with seats at the table (again) writing those rules and laws. If the UK-wide parties don’t step up and fast, then the first ‘step’ should be fighting for PR so those parties no longer hold the full power they used to. Then Rejoiners can get people in Parliament who are not from the traditional parties, such as people in the Rejoin the EU Party, who would argue for us. This is my personal view, not that of ‘NRM’.
Helen Johnston: Do you feel the public mood is changing in the UK as the harm Brexit has caused becomes more apparent and harder to blame on covid, Ukraine, etc.?
Absolutely! And it’s undeniable. Research piece after research piece clearly shows how economies in the rest of Europe and other parts of the world have almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels in so many ways, while the UK still lags behind. There’s only one thing different in the UK, we’ve imposed economic sanctions on ourselves. We’ve added costs to our imports and exports. We’ve ruined relationships with our biggest trading partner. We’ve opened up workers’ rights to a more and more far-right government that just wants to trash them. Again, the list is endless, and undeniably because of the effects of Brexit. Of course, other factors affect us too. But everything bad happening in the world is made worse in the UK because of Brexit. The polls clearly show people are waking up to this fact.
What do you think campaigners need to be doing to persuade more people to support the Rejoin movement?
Be positive. ONLY positive. No more “this is what we lose” campaigning. Flip it to “this is what we gain if we rejoin” campaigning. So ,don’t say “we lost freedom of movement because of Brexit”. Say “we will gain freedom to live, love and work in 27 other countries if we rejoin”. Don’t say “our NHS is crumbling due to staff shortages because of Brexit”. Say “Let’s Rejoin the EU to help the staff shortages in the NHS”. Every negative thing caused by Brexit can be flipped to be a positive for Rejoining the EU, and I believe that’s how we should all conduct the Rejoin campaign. Purely positively. And do it as often as possible, not just online in our bubbles, but offline, outside the bubble. Direct action. That’s what ‘National Rejoin March’ as a “brand” is all about.
Anon: Many seem to believe that the EU would be wary about any future application from the UK to rejoin. Are they right to be concerned, and if so, how do we convince the EU otherwise?
I don’t believe they are right to be concerned. But I understand why they are. Who would honestly blame the EU for not ever wanting us back after the nonsense we’ve caused for years now? However, the EU doesn’t work like that. It’s not working based on silly rhetoric or ‘feelings’. It works on reality, truth and what’s good for its citizens. The UK rejoining the EU, but taking it seriously this time, electing MEPs who want to go to the EU Parliament to help build futures, not wreck the place like Farage and co. did: that is a good thing for the UK, the EU and the world. We had both Guy Verhofstadt and Terry Reintke speak at the National Rejoin March, and we deliberately picked them because they both often say, as sitting MEPs, that the EU will take us back, that they’ve left a light on, and it will not take as long as some people say. So, use them as examples when you hear the argument that the EU wouldn’t have us back. They will, as soon as they know we want to – and we mean it. Check out both their speeches as soon as we release them, they should fill you with hope. They did for me
Finally, I would just like to say thank you to everyone at Bremain in Spain, for everything you’ve done for the NRM and everything you’ve been doing in your many years of pro-European campaigning. You are honestly an inspiration to us all.
Coming next month:
We are delighted to welcome Marina Purkiss – Political commentator, broadcaster and co-host of The Trawl Podcast. Marina is active on social media, with 288,000 Twitter followers, and has recently appeared on Bylines TV and the Jeremy Vine Show. If you wish to put a question to Marina, please email us at email@example.com before 8 November.