Bremainers Ask …….  James and Jack Dart

Bremainers Ask ……. James and Jack Dart

This month we are featuring James and Jack Dart from Inspire EU amongst other Remain projects. 

James Dart

Jack is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Torbay. In 2018, Jack deferred the 2nd year of his law degree in order to fight Brexit full time. Since then, Jack, along with his brother James, has organised, run and attended countless EU-related events all around the country, co-founding Inspire EU along the way. Jack is campaigning for a #FinalSay on the Brexit deal and won’t rest until the job is done. 

James is a former school teacher who left his job in 2017 to study European politics in the hope of better understanding the Brexit phenomenon. James co-founded Inspire EU with his brother Jack in order to campaign for a #FinalSay on the Brexit deal, as well as putting the positive case for the EU to people. 

Jack Dart

James answers our questions below on behalf of the two brothers.

1) What inspired you to take up the cause to fight Brexit and campaign for a #PeoplesVote?

The injustice, the lies, the faith-based mentality – they all worried me. The day after the result it quickly became clear that the Vote Leave leaders (Johnson and Gove) were already reneging on their promises and commitments – particularly around their central campaign pledge to spend £350 million a week on the NHS. The other aspect that concerned me was the flagrant disregard for detail, planning and expert opinion. As experts warned of economic damage, Brexit advocates – both in Parliament and on the street – waved away any criticisms or concerns in a way that I hadn’t ever seen before. A deeply defiant faith-based mentality had set in which prevented my brother and I from holding the most basic of conversations with our Leave-voting parents. We’d quiz them as to how Brexit would benefit them, but instead of calm, detailed responses, we’d get an angry bombardment of ad-hominem attacks, straw men and red herrings; they had absolutely nothing.

2) What do you think are the main barriers to getting young people to vote?

It’s no secret that young people turn out to vote in the fewest numbers. Indeed, when I type “voting by age” into Google, almost every graph tells the same story: the younger the age demographic, the less likely they are to 1) register to vote and 2) turn out on polling day.

It’s worth noting that this is not some recent phenomenon, but a historic one – though it did get especially bad between 1997 and 2015, recovering slightly in 2017. I think motivation plays an important role in this. I know a lot of people think that one vote won’t make a difference, but the fact is that if too many people think in this way, we lose the votes of a huge proportion of the electorate. Another thing that I think could play a role in this is that some young people who haven’t had access to as good an education as others feel like they don’t know enough about politics to make a decision about who to vote for. I think there needs to be better political education in schools especially, so that young voters feel not only more confident in choosing who to vote for but also more able to think critically about things said by politicians and decide for themselves what they believe in. Also, I think having to register to vote can be an obstacle. Not everyone may realise that they have to do this in order to vote and lots of people don’t know their national insurance number, either. I think there should be automatic voter registration as soon as a young person turns 18 to remove this obstacle.

Jack, James and Steve Bray

3) Are you concerned that – with the election on December 12 and with many universities breaking up for the holidays around this time – there will be a negative effect on young people voting?

We are aware of many students this time round who have registered for a postal vote if they want to vote in their home constituency. We have also witnessed more and more students being made aware that they can be registered in both their home and university constituencies and then can decide where they cast their vote. It is also likely that the political turmoil we have experienced in the past few years has led to an increased youth engagement or interest in politics, so hopefully this will translate into an increased youth and student turnout at the polls on December 12th. We really hope that students and all young people feel empowered and motivated enough to make the effort to vote in December.

4) What do you think still needs to be done to convince people who voted Leave in the last election to vote Remain in any subsequent referendum?

Be persistent. Our parents were sure that their vote to Leave was the right choice for over 2 years, and through constant sharing of facts, conversations and heart to hearts, they began to realise what Brexit symbolised. Never give up on the pursuit of the end goal, to stop Brexit entirely. Over 3 years have passed since the referendum, and that has proved to be key to outing the lies at the heart of the Leave campaign. The last election was a very strange one, but we know more about what is winning people over and we have stronger arguments. In summary, be vocal, be persistent, and communicate with others on what is and isn’t working. But remember, you don’t have to convince everyone, just 1 in 10 will do

Vote Tactically on Dec 12

5) Do you feel that young people will get behind a tactical voting strategy? If so, what can be done to spread this message?

Tactical voting is an absolute must in this election. It’s thought that if 30% of Remain voters vote tactically, then we can prevent a Johnson majority; that has to be our ultimate goal. Our advice has been, and continues to be, that voters young and old should consult the tactical voting sites out there, particularly getvoting.org, tactical-vote.uk and remainunited.org. These sites are continually updating their recommendations as new data comes in, so be sure to cross-check their recommendations right the way up until election day.

6) How have the last three years affected young people’s engagement in politics and their view of Parliament?  Has the turmoil made them less likely or more likely to vote?

Brexit (and the climate emergency) has done a huge amount to dent political apathy among young people. With that said, it’s still been challenging attempting to convert that anti-Brexit energy into activism. For many young people, this comes down to ownership, and a feeling that the Remain movement is for middle-class, middle-aged, polite, beret-wearing Englanders; it’s not cool, it’s not edgy and it’s desperately lacking in youth representation. We’ve had many conversations with young people who admit mobilising for the Donald Trump protest and the climate protests, but not for the EU events. With that said, when it comes to voting, we’ve just seen record numbers of young people registering to vote.

7) Do University students tend to participate more in election voting than other young people who are not in further education?

Students certainly benefit from the information and advice universities give out during an election period. Additionally, campuses tend to become highly political which may also help to advertise the election. We’re certain that this election will see an increase in young people voting, as Brexit, the climate emergency and issues around mental health, housing and the NHS dominate.

A university community exposes students to new ideas and political discourse and offers a space for students to educate themselves about parties and policies, particularly through committed political societies and events. Other young people who are not in further education may be working and may therefore be less exposed to politics or have less time to vote. It is also likely that university students may be more likely to vote on policies that have a direct impact on them, for example policies surrounding tuition fees.

Many thanks to the Dart brothers for taking time out from campaigning to answer our questions!

 

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Bremainers Ask….. Mike Galsworthy

Bremainers Ask….. Mike Galsworthy

This month’s edition of “Bremainers Ask” features Dr. Mike Galsworthy, Director of Scientists for EU, which he co-founded in May 2015. He is also Director of NHS for a People’s Vote. These are two of the founding groups of the PV campaign. Mike is also Head of the Social Media Intelligence Unit (SMIU) and a Director of the March for Change team. Previous to initiating the campaigns, Mike was an independent consultant in research and innovation policy. His work before that was in health services research, based at UCL and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Below, he answers a selection of questions put forward by Bremain members.

Roy Stonebridge: Once Brexit is cancelled, how will the UK begin to attract back foreign scientists and other talent who have left or become disenchanted with the UK over the last 3 years?

Mike Galsworthy: Hi Roy. A lot will come down to the tone of the country at the time. Will it suddenly look like an attractive place for scientists to work in? Yes, the pound would bounce and free movement would be back in force – hopefully with favourable visa rules for non-EU researchers too, Theresa May’s limits axed and the length of time students can stay after their degrees still two years. However, if the country is racked with political division and vitriolic narrative towards foreigners, that’ll hurt our attractiveness. So one of the best ways to mitigate against that would be to invest in abandoned communities. You can also, like Switzerland which also has free movement, require businesses to advertise jobs locally before they advertise to the rest of the country or internationally. That way you’re clearly protecting local communities. Then you need a public awareness campaign about just how many jobs for Brits foreign entrepreneurs create and how much boost foreign researchers provide to our world-leading universities and with it our students. Finally, you need more projects between universities – making sure that local communities are improved by their universities and can see that universities have their back and improve their local businesses, communities and opportunities.

Tracy Rolfe: What effect would Brexit have on medical research?

Mike Galsworthy: Hi Tracy. If you want the fullest answer to that question, you can read this!

What’s that? It’s probably the first ‘impact assessment’ done on health, health research and Brexit. In 2017, before the Government got caught bragging about impact assessments they hadn’t done, we actually did one and published it in ‘The Lancet’. We looked at what soft Brexit, hard Brexit and “failed Brexit” (i.e. no-deal Brexit) would mean for everything around healthcare, health research and medical research. In short – it is bad impacts across the board, with no-deal Brexit being the worst. Specifically, it impacts our role on the Horizon 2020 science programme (about 20-30% of which is in health/medicine). Theresa May’s deal would have preserved most of that – a no-deal trashes it. Inward investment into all science has dropped. In the pharma industry, companies have spent tens of millions shifting parts of their processing to the European mainland to prepare for changes in rules. If we leave the single market for medicines, then we suddenly become a smaller market which is devastating for our role in testing new medicines. Switzerland and Canada get their cutting-edge medicines 6 months after the EU on average. We’ve already lost the European Medicines Agency with 900 jobs, attendant industry and tens of thousands of business visits a year. That hugely hits our medical innovation ecosystem. Leaving the Single Market also hits the medical devices industry, as divergent rules make for a barrier. Hiring talent becomes harder with the utter mess left around free movement and citizens’ rights. This also then impacts on hospitals and the medical research they can do if they are stretched for money, collaborations and funds.

Pat Kennedy: Do you believe the Remain message is getting through and if not, why not?

 

Mike and Sue

Mike Galsworthy: Hello Pat. Not as much as we would like, of course! The major breakthrough has been that we now have enough parliamentarians to fight for the cause. The critical balance has been tipped and now Johnson is running a dead government which is handed instructions by a very live parliament. However, we still need to shift more public opinion. Although polling shows that more people think the Brexit vote was a bad idea than a good idea – and that gap is growing, nevertheless, there are many people who are buying the “just get on with it” narrative. They know Brexit is a mess, but just want to see it “done”. Now of course we know that “doing” Brexit means opening Pandora’s Box and causing more chaos – this isn’t yet cutting through as it should. Many people want to follow the path of least resistance… We *also* need the positive message about the future we all want – and that must be in the form of climate change demands, preserving jobs and traditions and tackling inequality – then showing why the EU structure is critical to achieving those. We’ll need communities peripheral to our own (e.g. youth on climate issues, conservatives on farming traditions) to help carry those messages.

Pat Laing: How much damage do you think Gove caused with his “we’ve had enough of experts” comment?

Mike Galsworthy: Not much, actually. The anti-expert sentiment was alive and well at the time – and that statement brought it all to a head. In a way, Gove called it out for us. During the referendum, our Scientists for EU Facebook page got so many messages about us being paid shills of the EU, on the gravy train etc. etc. It was just a case of attacking anyone who supported the EU by making personal accusations about motivation. All experts got thrown under the bus for the same thing. It was very hard to combat against by explaining, in detail, why that wasn’t the case. As soon as Gove said that thing – he gave us the perfect phrase to point at. If not experts, then whom do you trust? In fact, if you see public polls on who people do trust, nurses, doctors, scientists and teachers are still up there with journalists and politicians at the bottom. We just have to be very careful that we (like I said in my answer to Roy) make sure that we as scientists and experts always show how we have the backs of the average person in the street – how what we do is to the benefit of them and their kids, not ourselves.

Sue and Mike Galsworthy

Debbie Williams: Given how active a campaigner you are, how does your family feel about all the time given over to campaigning? How do you manage the work/campaign/life balance?

Mike Galsworthy: Hi Debbie – “Good one!” calls out my partner, Caroline, as I read out that question to her! Yes, it’s tricky. I don’t have a work/campaign balance as I’ve been doing this full-time now since the end of 2015. So it’s all about the campaign/life imbalance. Unfortunately, I’m a bit obsessive about this. And after setting up Scientists for EU, Healthier IN (which became NHS Against Brexit which became NHS for a People’s Vote), the Social Media Intelligence Unit, the funding plan for local Facebook pages and March for Change (with Tom Brufatto and others), I think it’s fair to say I’ve stretched myself quite thin and left little time for family life or relaxation time. The constant demands of internal politics, fundraising, and keeping up with the wild Brexit politics take a toll and I feel desperately guilty for not spending as much quality time as I should with friends and family – or often being preoccupied at such moments. So I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a marathon not a sprint – and I regularly need others to prompt me to take a break.

Elena Remigi: You have always been very supportive of the rights of the 5 million people living in limbo. How could we communicate with those that fail to understand our struggle?

Mike Galsworthy: Well, Elena, I should be asking you this as you’ve worked so tirelessly in this area. It’s really, really hard, I know. Everything seems to be fighting for attention – and the lives of those left in limbo seem to get side-lined in the noise again and again. I also know about the abuse that our non-Brit EU citizens have faced on social media simply for telling their stories – particularly women. It’s very depressing. I think sometimes the stories don’t cut through because many Brits don’t value their fellow EU citizens here as much as they should. When they hear the stories, they just think “stop complaining, you’ll be alright”. The mood is one of disinterest. We might do well to campaign on positives of immigration – how much it has helped build Britain. Getting out stats about how much foreign entrepreneurs have contributed to British jobs and the stats around how much Brits love high-skilled immigrants. Or how much Brits recognise the value of those that come to help in the care sector. That’s an easy win on validating how right the Brits are to love what immigrants can do. Then you point out how badly *the Government* has treated those very people that the British public (and British families) love and value. I think that is a powerful way to do it. But it needs more finances and more highly-visible champions.

Many thanks to Mike for taking part. You can read more about Scientists for EU here. 

Bremainers Ask…….. Hugo Dixon

Bremainers Ask…….. Hugo Dixon

This month we are delighted to bring you Hugo Dixon. Hugo is a journalist, entrepreneur and campaigner. He is Chair of InFacts and Deputy Chair of the People’s Vote campaign. He is also co-founder of CommonGround. He founded Breakingviews in 1999, which he chaired until it was sold to Thomson Reuters in 2009. He writes columns for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Financial Times, Politico and other publications. He is also author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better.

Sian Shaw: How can we combat Brexit apathy in the UK?

Hugo Dixon: We need to start making much more boldly the case for being in the EU – not just the case for a new referendum. And we need to connect the case for being in the EU to things that people already care deeply about – e.g. the NHS and care for the elderly, stopping knife crime, fighting the climate crisis, investing in parts of the country that have been neglected for decades, creating opportunities for young people. We also need to do this honestly. Happily, there are two really strong arguments that connect things people care about to our EU membership. First, we can fix the problems at home if we stop fixating about Brexit because we’ll have more money and politicians will be able to think about something different. Second, we’ll be able to help fix the problems abroad if we are an influential member of a powerful club rather than going solo and ending up either being bullied by the big powers or sucking up to them.

Ruth Woodhouse: Given that the EU & UK parliament will likely prevent Boris Johnson from negotiating a new deal, or leaving without one, do you believe stopping Brexit is more, or less likely with him as PM?

Hugo Dixon: The chances of stopping Brexit have risen now that Johnson is PM. He has antagonised the middle ground in Parliament. But the damage if we don’t stop Brexit has risen. It’s not just that we’ll probably crash out of the EU; Johnson may ride roughshod over constitutional conventions to get his way. So, there’s everything to play for and a huge amount at stake.

Mark Percival: What should be the best strategy now for Remain MPs – a referendum, to stop no- deal, a vote of no-confidence and/or a general election? If we are successful in securing a People’s Vote referendum, what options would you like to see on the ballot paper?

Hugo Dixon: The best strategy now is to pass legislation forcing Johnson to ask the EU for extra time so we can hold a referendum. If that fails, we should move to a vote of no confidence. If there’s a People’s Vote and Johnson is still PM, the question on the ballot should be a choice between whatever he is proposing (presumably “no deal”) and Remain. If a referendum took place under a different prime minister, e.g. Corbyn, the question might be different – but Remain would still be one of the options.

Sue and Hugo

Steve Wilson: Would you back Boris Johnson as Prime Minister if he did a 180 degree turn & supported revoking Article 50?

Hugo Dixon: The chance of that happening is virtually nil.

Juliet Smith: How do you maintain your optimism & positive outlook in the face of so much Brexit propaganda?

Hugo Dixon: At InFacts, we delight in exposing Brexit propaganda. Every morning I awake with a spring in my step. It is taking a long time to get an honest debate. But ultimately, the truth will come out. The big question is whether it happens before or after we’ve left. Everything is still in the balance. It would be wrong to be complacent or despairing. We need to strive every sinew as we can make a real difference.

Thank you to Hugo for agreeing to be our ‘Bremainers Ask’ for August. Our featured campaigner in the September newsletter will be Mike Galsworthy of Scientists for EU.

Links:

InFacts

People’s Vote

 

 

Bremainers Ask …… Julie Ward MEP

Bremainers Ask …… Julie Ward MEP

This month, Labour MEP Julie Ward has been kind enough to agree to answer some of our questions relating to Brexit. You can read more about Julie here, or listen to her speaking shortly after being re-elected in this video clip. We’re grateful for the time Julie’s taken out of her busy schedule to give us her thoughts and some very interesting insights into Brexit.

Q1: Apart from lobbying MPs, what else can Bremain in Spain members do to influence Labour thinking regarding a second referendum and remaining in the EU?

Be visible at all times across the traditional and new media outlets.

In respect of the UK Parliament, submit written evidence and offer to speak in front of select committees, such as Exiting the EU, Home Affairs, and the European Scrutiny Committee.

Learn about Labour values such as internationalism, workers’ rights and social justice, so that you can situate your arguments in the context of the Labour movement and its traditions.

Praise Labour for its efforts to support business and industry, and if you are a business owner demonstrate the damage Brexit will do to your business.

Write letters to Labour MPs and Labour MEPs. Ask family members in the UK to write about the threats to wider family life and the loss of accrued rights from Brexit. Champion Freedom of Movement and make links with the Labour Campaign for Freedom of Movement.

Also make sure to praise Labour (including the Leader) whenever a step in the right direction is made. Constant criticism is not perceived well. It’s important to remember that Labour does have a responsibility to both Leavers and Remainers – the top 20 Leave and Remain constituencies were both Labour.

Ensure your presence at key Labour events such as party conference, whether that be holding events, rallies or appearing on panels. Fringe events take place outside of the conference zone which means the general public can attend. In particular find out about The World Transformed which is a Momentum-backed arts and politics festival that runs alongside the main party conference. Attend events and speak from the floor where possible.

Build relationships with Labour’s sister party in Spain by writing to Spanish PSOE MPs and MEPs. Jeremy Corbyn attends regular meetings with his opposite number in Madrid and it would be good to get issues other than Gibraltar on the agenda.

Follow and sign up to Left platforms such as Another Europe is Possible, which is a pro-EU organisation campaigning to Remain and Reform. Many high profile Labour politicians are associated with AEIP.

Julie Ward MEP and Sue

Q2: Are you more or less confident that Brexit can be stopped than you were six months ago, and why?

It is not about Brexit being stopped as, regardless of what we think about the validity of the referendum in 2016, the main parties accepted the narrow majority to Leave. The focus must be on people having a final say on the deal that would implement Brexit. We now know what the UK economy would look like if we leave the EU – restrictions on travel for work, study and leisure, less of a say through losing our seat at the table, and our communities would be poorer outside the bloc. The sunlit uplands of the Leave campaign in 2016 have now been replaced with reality, one of stockpiling medicines and food, and job losses right across the UK in key sectors. Brexit will only lead to more austerity and we will be unable to implement our plans for a fairer, more prosperous Britain.

There is still time to say that this is not what we were promised and it is OK to change our minds. In a democracy we often change our minds at each general election!

Q3: How open do you believe the EU27 are to a further Brexit extension?

I know our European colleagues and indeed sister parties would prefer the Union to be strong and for us to remain a key player as a member state. Our Socialist and Democrat colleagues are particularly open to a change of heart by the UK. Our group leader in the last mandate, Udo Bullman, put a lot of effort into keeping the door open, and colleagues like Austrian MEP Josef Weidenholzer organised letters signed by many MEPs, which were published in the British media. These included a heartfelt open love letter to the citizens of the UK which was greatly appreciated and reciprocated by Women For Europe. The Commission, under President Juncker, has expressed regret at the UK’s decision but always respected the result.

As the March 29th deadline came and went, quickly followed by another missed deadline of April 12th, and then the inevitable European Parliament elections, Brexit began to seem more unlikely. The European Parliament and the Commission are now in the process of internal organisation, and with a long summer break ahead, there’s very little time for either side to conduct the necessary negotiations for any kind of Brexit, especially considering the Conservative Party leadership elections, summer recess and then conference season. The future is very uncertain from an EU perspective, and partly for that reason I am hopeful of a further extension. However, a word of warning: The centrist liberals now operating under the new name of ‘Renew’ answer largely to President Macron, who denied the UK a longer extension earlier this year. Some think he and his clique would simply like to see the back of the annoying Brits!

Q4: Do you believe there will be a general election in the UK in the next few months, and if so, how are you personally preparing for such an event?

A general election OR a final say on the Brexit deal is looking inevitable. There is an impasse that needs to be resolved so that whoever governs can begin to implement a domestic legislative agenda to tackle the issues of climate change, social care, housing, stagnation of wages, the gig-economy and productivity. Only the Labour party has a progressive platform to ensure that these fundamental issues can be resolved and for the economy to begin working for the many, and not the few. Personally, I think it unlikely that Boris Johnson will call an election as the Conservatives will not win. If there is an early general election I predict another hung parliament with Labour being the biggest party. That means we would need to make a coalition with the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru. Labour MEPs always campaign in general elections, even in local elections and by-elections. Although I am not interested in selection as a UK parliamentary candidate I still want my party to do well in all elections. Regarding preparation, it is important to keep the party focused on the need for a public vote on any Brexit deal regardless of who might win an election.

Q5: Do you anticipate any significant change in the Labour Party stance on Brexit in the coming weeks?

The Labour party has been on a journey and I believe it is now fully focused on campaigning for a second referendum where we will be the biggest advocate of remaining in a reformed European Union. It is important to note that 80% of our members want to remain in the EU and we are a membership-led party.

Q6: Should the Labour party collaborate with other pro-EU parties to form a Remain alliance? 

The Labour party always puts up candidates in all constituencies (except Northern Ireland) to ensure that communities across Great Britain have the opportunity to vote for Labour values and policies. I don’t see this changing in the future.

However, working more closely with other parties in the UK Parliament might help rebuild public confidence in politicians. It is something that we do on a daily basis in the European Parliament in our committee work. 

 

Thanks again to Julie, who we hope will have the chance to serve out another full term as an MEP!

Bremainers Ask …….. In Limbo Project

Bremainers Ask …….. In Limbo Project

We’re delighted that Debbie Williams and Elena Remigi of the In Limbo project have agreed to answer questions from Bremain members this month. Below you can find out more about the project and our two interviewees, followed by their answers to your questions.

Description of the project

The In Limbo Project is a not-for-profit, non-political initiative set up by a group of EU citizens to record testimonies from the five million victims of Brexit and to allow their voices to be heard. 

In Limbo project book, called ‘In Limbo: Brexit Testimonies from EU Citizens in the UK’. In 2018, it published its second book, ‘In Limbo Too: Brexit Testimonies from UK Citizens in the EU’. This second book is born of a collaboration between the In Limbo project’s group ‘In Limbo – Our Brexit Testimonies’ and the group ‘Brexpats – Hear Our Voice’. 

A true grassroots endeavour, the In Limbo project has gone from strength to strength as the books have become the go-to reference documents for understanding the harrowing human cost of Brexit for all those who, having embraced the European dream and built their life on it, have been plunged into an anguishing limbo since June 2016. These 5 million people risk losing everything (their homes, their friends, their jobs, their families, their sense of identity…) through no fault of their own and, for most of them, without their having had any say in what’s happening.

 Elena and Debbie

Elena Remigi

Elena Remigi is an interpreter and translator originally from Milan, Italy. She moved to the UK in 2005 with her husband and son, after spending 6 years in Ireland. She is Founder and Director of the In Limbo project and co-editor of ‘In Limbo & In Limbo Too: Brexit Testimonies for EU Citizens’. 

Debbie Williams

Debbie Williams is Welsh, and recently moved to Spain from the Netherlands. She founded ‘Brexpats – Hear our Voice’ in June 2016 and is on the Steering Committee of British in Europe. Debbie is co-editor of ‘In Limbo Too’.

Jo-Jo Chipper: “In the case histories you have collected, what is the most frequently-occurring fear voiced by the participants?”

Elena: “For EU citizens in the UK, the most recurring fear is that of not being allowed to stay in Britain due to a lack of documents and the presence of Theresa May’s hostile environment. Let’s not forget that some of our members have been dealing with this daily when trying, for instance, to obtain permanent residence. To give you a small example, in the summer of 2017, the HO sent some deportation letters ‘by mistake’. Some were sent to members of In Limbo. One was sent to a Finnish academic; another to a car factory worker upon his return from the holidays. In this context, you can understand why the most vulnerable ones in particular are very afraid about their future. 

The worries may differ but there is a common denominator: the fear of the unknown, a sense of betrayal because our rights have not been guaranteed and anger for not having had a voice in this referendum and what followed.”

Tracy Rolfe: “How much overlap is there between the two groups? Are they mirror images of each other or are there lots of differences?”

Debbie: “We are very much sister groups based on shared circumstances, and also that has now developed into personal friendships. There are many similar worries. Of course, each person is affected emotionally in different ways but the common denominator is one of anxiety based on the unknown.”

Elena: “In both groups, there’s a good mixture of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27. Working together has deepened our friendship and made us realise the importance of collaborating to ensure that all our rights are ring-fenced. Both groups of citizens are at serious risk, particularly in the case of a no-deal. The suffering is also the same, so in this sense we are mirror images of each other.”

Ruth Woodhouse: “Is there a difference in attitude between the way in which people view the plight of EU citizens in the UK and the way in which they view that of British citizens in the EU27?”

Debbie and Elena: “That’s a tricky one to answer. It depends on who you talk too. Within the two groups there is solidarity and understanding; outside of our safe places there are mixed messages. However, we will not be anything other than one united immigrant voice.”

EP group

Pat Kennedy: “Have there been any interesting or helpful responses from politicians who have been presented with the books?”

Debbie: “With ‘In Limbo Too’, yes – encouraging and supportive words from many MEPs, a couple of MPs, and in the Lords. Three MEPs supported us in our presentation to the European Parliament last October.”

Elena: “Both books have received a lot of supportive messages from MPs, MEPs, Ambassadors and other political figures. The first book in particular has been sent to over 1000 politicians and we aim to do the same with the second. It’s imperative that our voices be heard.”

Sandra Stretton: “Do you have another book in the pipeline?”

Elena: “The In Limbo project was conceived as a duology from the beginning. There is no other book in the pipeline, but we will continue to document everything that happens to EU citizens in the UK and to UK citizens in the EU27, as our rights have not been fully guaranteed yet. In the case of EU citizens in the UK, there are grave concerns regarding Settled Status, given it’s an application made in a country known for the hostile environment introduced by Theresa May. It’s already causing problems now, and we wonder what will come next. For Brits in the EU27, there are concerns linked to the various registration systems put in place, access to healthcare and loss of freedom of movement and what that will mean for people working across borders. So this will remain an open project which will give a voice to the voiceless and consign these testimonies to future generations to understand – and hopefully learn from – what happened.

In Limbo March

James Gambrill: “How has being involved with the In Limbo project changed your own personal outlook?”

Debbie: “I now have a better understanding about the issues surrounding migration, the preconceived ideas and stereotyping of people. It has opened my eyes to not only European migration but all migration and asylum issues. The human side always seems to be forgotten: Every individual is unique, and the treatment of people by some governments is a disgrace.”

Elena“Totally agree with Debbie – I would not add anything else.”

Malcolm Perry: “Has there been a difference between the reception of ‘In Limbo’ and ‘In Limbo Too’? Is there a difference between perception of migrants in your opinion?”

Debbie: “As a group, BHOV has had some understandable stick for the word ‘Brexpats’. I take full responsibility for naming it, and I’m hating it more as each day passes. But in consultation with the group we have decided to keep it as it is known and a reminder each day that we are not expats, we are immigrants, like all mobile citizens.”

Elena: “Personally, I think that in terms of the books, they have been equally well received. ‘In Limbo’ being the first volume, it created quite a stir when it came out in 2017, but I would have always felt it to be an incomplete work if the stories of the Brits in Europe hadn’t been told.

Regarding the perception of migrants, however, there is a difference. Since the referendum campaign, here in the UK, EU citizens have had to fight against a narrative which all of a sudden has depicted us as unwelcome migrants, as the ‘other’, the enemy, as people who weigh on the system. We have also had to deal with innumerable cases of xenophobia and hate crimes. The last we heard was yesterday by a member whose windows were vandalised. I don’t think that’s the case for most Brits in Europe, so in that I see a divergence.”

Zoe Adams Green: “What first gave you the idea of a book of testimonials?”

Elena: “The idea of the book came from my personal experience of dealing with the Home Office. When I obtained permanent residence after filling in the infamous 85-page document and sending 5 kilos of evidence, I decided to apply for citizenship.

On top of all the tests and documents already requested by the Home Office, I had to send an additional 3 kilos of evidence (including detailed bank statements and medical reports), as the Home Office simply wouldn’t believe that I had been living in this country for over 13 years even though I had a house, a car and a mortgage here. Sadly, I realised that I was not an isolated case, and this opened my eyes to the plight of many others.

Above all, after the referendum I noticed that many people had started sharing their feelings of anger, worry, disappointment and even betrayal on Facebook, and so I thought that if our voices could be collected in a book they could become a much stronger, collective voice. The aim of In Limbo is therefore to show the human side and the human cost of the Brexit story.”

Kay Adams: “Once Brexit is resolved, one way or the other, will you still be actively involved in citizens’/human rights campaigning?”

Debbie: “Absolutely yes for me. There is no way we should ever dehumanise people on the basis of their origins, we should never again see people be stripped of their rights without their permission.”

Dedication to Sue Wilson

Elena: “Definitely yes. This experience has opened my eyes to the plight of countless other people: EU citizens in the UK, UK citizens in the EU27, non-EU migrants or refugees, and it has given me a better insight into the hostile environment and the impact it has had on countless lives (for example on those of the Windrush generation). The fact is that I can no longer close my eyes after what I have heard from private chats or have read, so I think that I will continue to be involved in one way or another in these issues.” 

Many thanks from the Bremain team to Elena and Debbie – and thanks also to the Bremain members who sent in their testimonies to the In Limbo project. 

Bremainers Ask….. Seb Dance MEP

Bremainers Ask….. Seb Dance MEP

This month, Seb Dance MEP kindly agreed to answer a range of questions put forward by Bremain members. Seb is a Labour MEP for the London region and a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. He’s been an MEP since 2014, and is a strong supporter of remaining in the European Union. Seb is also a major proponent for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal – he puts his case forward in this article.
 
 

Pat Kennedy: “When we have managed to stop Brexit, which politician do you think would be the most capable of bringing the country back together and healing the wounds?”

Seb Dance: “The person who brings our country back together after Brexit will be an individual who has learned the lessons that the Brexit debate has taught us: That it serves to be honest with the public rather than trying to sell them a fantasy; that politicians must listen to – and engage with – the public and be prepared to have difficult conversations; lastly, that while we may disagree, there is more that unites than divides us. It is a politician who embodies these values who in my view will be able to unite the country.” 

Andrew Carter: “Would you consider running for political office in the UK Parliament at any stage?”

Seb Dance: “For the moment, all I am focused on is doing everything in my power to stop Brexit and, in the event Brexit does go through, to doing all I can to mitigate the consequences and to campaign for the UK to rejoin the EU. I will do that in whatever capacity I can, elected or not!”

Parliament_Farage_Sign

John Moffett: “The threat of Brexit has pushed us all to our limits. How do you cope with the extra pressure of dealing face-to-face with Batten, Farage, and so on in the European Parliament, and is a sense of humour important? – we all loved your impromptu “He’s Lying” poster!”  

Seb Dance: “A sense of humour is always important, particularly in the world we now live in, but as ridiculous as those two are, we must remember that they are at the same time extremely dangerous., Batten et al. have spent years poisoning the public discourse around the EU and immigration, and they have espoused their racist views on a platform far, far larger than they merit. When I wrote that sign in the chamber it came from a place of great anger that Farage is able to lie so indiscriminately to the public. Of course, the fact that it made you and many others laugh is an added bonus. The truth is, I don’t think I have ever been angrier than I was at that point.”

Ruth Woodhouse: “I’ve been asked several times what I believe is the greatest benefit that the UK gains from being a member of the EU. How would you answer the same question?”

Seb Dance: “That’s a difficult question to answer.  We hear a lot about the great economic benefit that comes with EU membership and the half century of relative peace and stability that the EU has helped cement; however in my view, it is the right to work, study, travel and love across 28 member states that is the greatest benefit of EU membership. 

Seb and Sue

We have taken for granted that so many countries and cultures are at our fingertips just waiting to be explored and the profound impact that has had on millions of European citizens and on deepening our shared European culture. The fact that some are attempting to rob British citizens of this right is a disgrace. It will also put our young people at a tremendous disadvantage compared to their European counterparts.”

Barbara Leonard: “What are your views of the positive and negative aspects of the first past the post system vs. proportional representation?”

Seb Dance: “Since serving as an MEP, I must admit I have been converted to the merits of the PR system. I am a big supporter of the collaborative approach it demands of policy makers and think we could use more dialogue in today’s world. Equally, I think it magnifies the individual voices of both politicians and citizens, and in doing so makes people feel as if they have more of a stake in their society, something that is also sadly lacking in our society as the moment. The consensual style of politics is so much more conducive, in my view, to better policy-making. It has the added bonus of ensuring that policy isn’t just the preserve of one political party. It is much more of a communal endeavour.”

Steve Wilson: “If you could change one thing about the European Parliament, what would it be?”

Seb Dance: “That the Parliament would have one permanent home. While I love the city of Strasbourg, the fact that the Parliament moves oncee or even twice a month to its second home is I think indicative of what people would like to see changed within the EU. We have a perfectly good home in Brussels, and moving is a costly, unwieldy process – not to mention terrible for the environment.”

Kay Adams: “Is no deal still impossible?”

Seb Dance: “One thing I have learnt in the last few years is that the normal rules that you would expect to kick in, such as damage limitation and preventing the extremes from flourishing, are no longer there in our system. There is a kind of collective hysteria when it comes to Brexit, not only a refusal to look at the facts and what is objectively in the interests of the county but also a failure to look at what other people around the world are saying about us. This used to matter in our politics! But ultimately I think that anyone in a position of power, whether the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, knows that to implement a no-deal Brexit is to destroy one’s own credibility and the credibility of the movement you lead. There is no way back for any government or parliament that delivers food and medicine shortages and a catastrophic blow to our economy. The dangers of no deal are infinitely greater than the dangers of stopping Brexit or another referendum. I think the balance of probabilities still lies with that fact being appreciated by MPs and by the government.”

Bremain would like to thank Seb for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions.