With mounting evidence of Brexit damage in plain sight, Sue Wilson asks whether now is the time to start a campaign to rejoin the EU? Bremain Chair Sue Wilson MBE writes for Yorkshire Bylines.
On Saturday 10 September, the National Rejoin March takes to the streets of London. It will be the first time since before the pandemic that pro Europeans will rally to the cause of rejoining the EU. The march will include many well-known speakers from the political world and from pro-EU campaign groups, all wanting to make the case for a reversal of Brexit and a return to common sense. But is now the right time?
Time for a serious debate?
Lord Alan Sugar recently raised the issue of rejoining the EU on Twitter. Lord Sugar had earlier tweeted that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – “the biggest liars in 2016” – should both go to jail for misleading the British public during the referendum. He followed this up with the question “what would it take for us to reverse Brexit and re join (sic) the EU”, and asked for a “serious debate” on the subject.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This might sound a stupid if not naive question but what would it take for us to reverse Brexit and re join the EU. Serious debate please. <a href=”https://t.co/T4l30EDpfo”>https://t.co/T4l30EDpfo</a></p>— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Lord_Sugar/status/1564157036975333376?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>August 29, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Whist that debate may be starting to happen on social media, there is no evidence, as yet, that it is happening in political circles, though it certainly ought to be.
Will the EU have us back?
There seem to be two main arguments against any serious debate on rejoining the EU, or even the single market and customs union.
Firstly, the EU won’t want us back. We’re a bunch of trouble-makers, any lost business can easily be made up elsewhere and we can’t be relied upon not to change our minds again at some future juncture.
What struck me during my UK trip:
There seemed to be strong doubt whether “the EU would take us back if we wanted to rejoin”.
So let me say this:
You still have millions and millions of friends in the EU.
No matter what happens, we will always leave a light on.
— Terry Reintke (@TerryReintke) July 3, 2022
Terry Reintke, German MEP, and one of the speakers at next weeks’ rally, begs to differ. On a recent trip to the UK, she was struck by the UK’s doubt that “the EU would take us back if we wanted to rejoin”. She responded by stating we have “millions and millions of friends in the EU” and that “no matter what happens, we will always leave a light on.”
This is a view that is supported by former Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, who has retweeted the details of the forthcoming rally with the following comment:
“Polls show British voters regret Brexit & want a European future, yet no opposition party dare represent them & the next Tory Government will be the most Eurosceptic yet. Britain needs a pro-European renaissance!”
Mike Galsworthy, founder of Scientists for EU, and Campaigns Strategy Manager at the European Movement UK, also tweeted recently that the EU’s attitude should not be a matter of concern. He said he has been reassured by trusted contacts in the EU that “there would be a real supportive appetite on the other side”, and even some room for flexibility.
Now is not the time
The other pervasive argument against rejoining the EU is to do with the timing. It’s too soon, they say. We must wait a decade, or even a generation, before the country is ready to even think about Brexit again.
That argument may have held some weight in the early days of Brexit, but it’s now over 6 years since the referendum, and Brexit still hasn’t been fully implemented. All the earlier government talk of not mentioning Brexit, then the realism that Brexit still wasn’t “done”, makes the waiting even more pointless. Are we supposed to wait for Brexit to be fully implemented before we can even start a sensible, serious discussion on Brexit damage, and how to rescue the country from the Brextremists?
Brexit is reversible.
It can be reversed in 5-6 years.
It is defeatist (& unfounded) to talk of 'decades' & 'generations' – that's what the Brexiters want, in hopes of entrenching divergence from our friends & kin in the rest of Europe.
Fight to get back our rightful place!
— A C Grayling #FBPE 3.5% #Reform #Rejoin #FBPA 🐟 (@acgrayling) August 23, 2022
Sorry, but no. How can it be too soon for debate? How can it be too soon to attempt to prevent further damage, or to start to fix the many problems that Brexit has, and is, causing?
As Professor A.C Grayling says, to talk of delay is “defeatist”, and plays into the Brexiters hands. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Brexit is reversible”, says Grayling, and rejoining can be achieved in 5-6 years, which means we are over halfway there already. Now that’s a timescale I can get on board with!
What would it take to rejoin the EU?
In answer to Lord Sugar’s question, Galsworthy responded with a list of four requirements for rejoining and an offer of drawing up a business plan:
A stable, substantial, popular majority for Rejoin.
A competent campaign to keep it in the spotlight.
Both Labour and Tories with high Rejoin numbers.
A willing EU.
It would take the following:
1) Stable, substantial, popular majority for Rejoin (stable majority already exists – needs to be bigger)
3) Both Labour & Tories w/ high Rejoin MP numbers.
4) Willing EU
— Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) August 29, 2022
Galsworthy added that the requirement that is not given enough consideration was point number 3). Not only was it important to prevent “the UK dancing the hokey-cokey down the decades (in out in out)”, as different parties took power, but also to rebuild the one nation, pro-EU, pro-single market, Conservative base.
The best catalyst for the rebuilding of the Conservative party would be a dramatic loss for the party at the next General Election, and the new government dispensing with the unfair and undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system. Considering the latest voter intention polls show a 14% lead for Labour over the Conservatives, and the public are increasingly dissatisfied with Brexit, then anything starts to look possible.
Nobody is suggesting that undoing Brexit will be easy, or quick. It’ll be a tough journey, with roadblocks and diversions along the way, and no doubt more Brexiteer lies, misinformation and anger. But after six years of this anti-Brexit fight, pro-EU numbers are swelling, our arguments are cutting through, and evidence of Brexit damage is in plain sight. Even the right-wing media are starting to take notice.
That’s why I, along with many more eloquent and informed speakers, will stand up on 10 September and say now is the time. The country cannot afford to wait a decade, or a generation, to save itself from Brexit. So, join the resistance now and demand a better Britain – one that is back at the heart of Europe where it belongs.