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.



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!”


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.


Bremainers Ask …… Madeleina Kay, EU Supergirl

Bremainers Ask …… Madeleina Kay, EU Supergirl

This month in our feature Bremainers Ask, we talk to EU Supergirl Madeleina Kay. Maddy is a writer, illustrator and political activist from Sheffield and  is Young European of the Year 2018, awarded by the European Parliament and the Schwarzkopf Foundation .

Maddy has been interviewed on television and radio on programmes such as Daily Politics, Channel 4 News, Question Time and Any Questions. She also wrote and illustrated  “Theresa Maybe in Brexitland”. She takes an active role in campaigning and produces artwork for multiple Remain projects, including Bremain in Spain (see pic below). Maddy can often be seen campaigning with Alba White Wolf, her white German Shepherd. 

Madeleina Kay with artwork for Bremain

Barbara Leonard Why do you think so many young people are not politically active?

Madeleina Kay: This is something that I speak about a lot and I do get some stick for criticising the apathy of young people. But I find it incredibly frustrating that my peer group are so disengaged from the political debate and unconcerned about the impact of Brexit on their future. I have seen some promising shift in attitudes recently, there has definitely been more young people turning up to marches and events or sending me messages and engaging online. I 100% support other grassroots youth activists who campaign along side me, but it is sadly my experience that the majority of people who are campaigning against Brexit are older people who are doing so on behalf of their children and grand-children. 

It was one of the reasons why I chose to drop out of University to campaign full time. Because there weren’t any youth activists or voices being heard and because I felt very isolated amongst my peer group at university. I would come to classes and be talking about the latest developments in the Brexit saga and they would be talking about who threw up in whose toilet the night before. 

There are many reasons why we see this trend in participation in the political debate. I think it all stems from a lack of political education in our schools – people don’t engage with things they don’t understand. And the level of knowledge about UK politics, never mind EU politics is abysmal. I believe quite passionately that we should have compulsory civic education that teaches people about how to be good citizens and active participants in democracy. I also think giving votes to 16-17 year olds is the best way to engage people in the political debate from a young age and hopefully set the precedent for life-long participation in our democracy.

Other ways to engage young people would be to widen the range of voices on UK media, our political narrative is dominated by pale, male and stale career politicians who fail to represent the diversity of British society. People are bored to death of listening to them and many just switch off to any news on Brexit. But politics is fascinating, and highly dramatic (the current state of British politics is like a soap opera!) if we can make the debate more engaging through how it is communicated, we will widen the audience for the messages we are trying to share. I think comedy, humour, satire, music, protest songs, cartoons, badges and stickers are all great, alternative ways of engaging people’s attention and sharing our message. The “Bollocks to Brexit” stickers are especially popular with the youth at music festivals.


Maddy at EU Parliament

Pat Kennedy: How do you think your incredible journey in the fight against
Brexit may have changed your future plans?

Madeleina Kay: The UK’s vote to leave the EU has been a life changing experience for many people across our continent.

Brexit affects all of us in the EU by stripping away our rights, damaging our future opportunities and devastating the economic and social prosperity of our country.

For me personally, the last 2 and a half years has been an unimaginable roller coaster of an experience, emotionally and physically exhausting, whilst also being exciting, dramatic and deeply fulfilling. I have learned a lot as an activist over their period – nobody ever taught me how to be a political campaigner – but I’ve figured it out as I go along, analysing and responding to what has been successful and wasn’t hasn’t. I was always very good at “self learning” as a student – less so at doing what I am told! I am also conscience I have improved as an artist, writer and performer – They say “practice makes perfect” – but the experiences and opportunities I have had, and the work I have put in myself shows in the quality of my illustrations and performances now compared to when I first started. 

I am proud of everything I have achieved and incredibly grateful to all the people who have supported me along the way. As someone that has always been a fairly solitary character, this journey has taught me the power of people and communities to come together, speak out for what they believe in, love and support each other and achieve great things.


Michael Frederick Phillips: Where do you see your future, Maddy – Illustrator, Teacher, Musician, Politician or something else?

Madeleina Kay: I get asked this question quite regularly. A lot of people assume that my campaign is purely about stopping Brexit and come March 29th that will be the end of “EU super girl” and I will go back to my life before as a Landscape Architecture student.

Maddy on PV March 20 Oct

But the reality is my activism is much bigger than just Brexit, I want to address the fundamental issue of Euroscepticism and populism that has resulted in Brexit, that also threatens member states across the EU. The EU continues regardless of what happens with Brexit and I am very keen to work with pan European campaigns to improve participation in European democracy (especially youth turn out for the 2019 May parliamentary elections), to promote European values, history and culture, to improve education and understanding of the European parliament and, if need be, to lead the campaign to take the UK back into the EU (in the horrific instance that Brexit occurs). 

I also campaign on a variety of other issues, one of my children’s books is about refugees and I go into Primary schools to give assemblies; another book is about the ‘Save Our Trees’ campaign in Sheffield; I am also heading a vegetarian/vegan food labelling ECI; My work as an activist will not cease with Brexit. And in that capacity I hope to continue to utilise my skills as an artist, a musician and a writer. For me, creativity is a means of exploring, engaging and communicating ideas, and as long as we have an imperfect world there will be battles to fight.

Alastair Stewart: Why do you think the government are so reluctant to hold a second referendum?

Maddy with Guy's fridge

Madeleina Kay: Brexit originated in the Conservative party, they have manufactured the crisis we are currently suffering, it is a symptom of the internal dispute within their party.

David Cameron thought that holding a referendum on EU membership would solve the dispute, instead he has unleashed untold evils and furthered divisions within his party and the UK as a whole. 

Theresa May’s government are now bound by the outcome of that vote because they promised to deliver on the result of the referendum, even against the national interests. If the Conservative government deliver a People’s Vote, particularly one that turned a Remain result, the fury and vitriol within their own party would reach boiling point, the rabid Eurosceptics would see their victory thwarted and they will never accept that. I think it is just a sad but recurring instance of the Tories putting party before country. Personally I think we will only achieve a people’s vote if we shift the Labour party’s position. If Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru & Green parties back a people’s vote, we only require a handful of principled Tory MPs to rebel and we’ve achieved the means of changing the course of history for the better and getting our country back from the brink of this disaster.

Madeleina Kay

The Chipper Family

Archie Chipper (age 10, almost 11): Does Alba White Wolf enjoy going on anti-Brexit marches?

This is a very good question because Alba White Wolf doesn’t have a choice – it’s me, or my Dad that decides whether she goes out campaigning! So its our responsibility to make sure she is happy and safe. Lots of people ask whether she minds wearing the costumes, because I often put a t-shirt, bandana or a silly collar on her – but she doesn’t mind that at all! She’s lets me put it on her without complaint and she never pulls it when we are out. However, Alba White Wolf is very anxious because she is a rescue dog. We got her when she was 6 months old, she had been born on a puppy farm, so she wasn’t socialised properly and she was very traumatised. She is now 3 years old and she is much calmer than she was, but she still gets stressed out by other dogs and tired easily at the marches – But my Dad gets tired easily so he usually takes her home for a nap when they’ve both had enough! I’ve actually had to stop taking her with me so often, because it is very difficult travelling with a dog; trying to find pet friendly hotels, restaurants, most event venues won’t allow dogs in, I can’t take her on the London Underground because you have to carry dogs on the escalators, I also stay with lots of different people and they have pet cats (Alba is crazy for cats!) We took her to the Wooferendum dog march in October and she enjoyed that – she was actually better behaved when there were lots of dogs than when there is just a few – She is a White German Shepherd and she likes to round them up and lead the pack! My Dad tells me that she is always very sad and mopey when I leave her at home and she doesn’t play with her toys – So I think the answer is yes: she would rather be marching with me than left home alone!

Oscar Chipper (age 12.5): How many boyfriends have you had?

Madeleina Kay: Given that I am a super girl, you’d be disappointed to know: not very many. I’m far too busy fighting Brexit to find time for a boyfriend! In fact for the last 2 and a half years I’ve actively avoided it! But I’ve always been a bit of a “lone wolf” – and the boys I have dated have never been that nice to me – so maybe I need to learn to pick better ones?! That can be my mission after we stop Brexit! I have met some fantastic, inspiring and caring people through campaigning and made memories and friendships that will always stay with me. 

At the People’s Vote March on Oct 20th, Maddy recorded this video for Archie and Oscar who were unable to get to London:

Jo-Jo Chipper: What is the most unusual public appearance you’ve been asked to do for the Remain cause?

Madeleina Kay: This is a difficult  question; It depends how you define “unusual”. In terms of media appearances, the final episode of the Daily politics show, which consisted of a “Summer tea party” on a blazing hot day in June, with a mad set of cardboard cut-out politicians, interspersed with real politicians and an impersonator who were rotated in a “speed dating” style fashion, around a table with coffee mugs full of lemonade and a chocolate caterpillar cake that melted in the heat. The presenter asked us some fairly bizarre and trivial questions, like “How is the Brexit Crime fighting going?” without time to give any meaningful response. It was a suitably Alice in Wonderland level of bizarre for a tea party.

But in terms of events I have been invited to; travelling to Warsaw to speak and perform at the Schuman Foundation report on the Brexit and Remain campaigns was an amazing opportunity. Speaking at Manchester Design Festival, was a privilege that commended my achievements as an “artist” as much as a “political activist”. But my favourite grassroots events have to be the boat parties – we’ve done 2 now on the Thames – The first time I dressed as a pirate, the second as a sailor. They are so much fun, we have a great time and the videos/photos from the trips are always very strong.

Madeleina Kay

Thanks to Maddy for taking part, next month we have Labour MEP Seb Dance answering your questions. You can read more about Maddy on her website here: Alba White Wolf

Bremainers Ask….. Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law University of Liverpool

Bremainers Ask….. Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law University of Liverpool

The latest of our Bremainers Ask…. feature, where Bremain in Spain members ask topical questions of prominent individuals involved in the European Union debate, is with Michael Dougan – Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Liverpool.

He is an established academic authority on EU constitutional law and Joint Editor of Common Market Law Review – the world’s leading scientific journal for European legal studies.  Michael’s work has also contributed to wider public and political debates about European law, e.g. through written evidence to numerous UK Parliamentary enquiries, as an expert witness before various Parliamentary select committees and external advice to a range of UK public bodies and Union institutions.  Michael’s public engagement activities, including videos of his lectures before and after the 2016 UK referendum, received extensive public and media attention and he continues to be a popular authority on the matter for individuals and groups all around the world.

Univ of Liverpool Prof Dougan

Pat Kennedy: What would your solution to the Irish Border be?

Prof Dougan: The Irish border problem is entirely of the UK Government’s making. After the referendum, the Government announced that the UK would be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. That inevitably means having a customs and regulatory frontier with the EU – including the Republic of Ireland. But the Government also promised there would be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland – which the Government has consistently defined as having no physical infrastructure or indeed related checks and controls. The only feasible way to deliver that promise is for Northern Ireland to remain (de facto) within the Customs Union and at least parts of the Single Market (even if the rest of the UK does not). Yet the Government repeatedly insists that Northern Ireland will be leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market along with the rest of the UK and there will be no new trade barriers erected within the UK itself – a prospect the Government describes in increasingly apocalyptic terms as an existential threat to British constitutional integrity. However, the only way to avoid that prospect is… for the UK as a whole to remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market – so we’re right back where we started! In other words: the UK Government has been promising irreconcilable things to different groups of people. The only real question is: who is going to end up being disappointed by the eventual outcome? The most obvious solution to the whole mess is to cancel Brexit, of course. Otherwise, the Government could drop its ideological “red lines” and agree for the entire UK to stay within the Customs Union and Single Market – not because I think that is a sustainable model for the UK in the long term, but because it solves the Irish border problem while also making it much easier for the UK to rejoin the EU as quickly as possible. By default, we have the EU’s proposal for Northern Ireland to remain within the Customs Union and related elements of the Single Market – while trying to find ways to minimise the need for and visibility of checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. For its part, the UK Government has still failed to publish any more developed or credible alternative plans for the backstop. Recent statements from the UK Prime Minister do at least give us some insight into the Government’s thinking: for example, even the backstop should be defined in terms which cover the entire UK territory (not just Northern Ireland); but there should be an option to extend the post-withdrawal status quo transitional period (as an alternative to triggering that UK-wide backstop); though either such model would then have to contain provisions allowing for its termination (since any more indefinite UK-wide backstop or transitional period would remain utterly unacceptable to Leave supporters). The problem is: the UK Government is floating those ideas on the assumption that a solution to the Irish border problem can be and will soon be found at the level of the overall future EU-UK relationship – so that both the backstop and an extended transition are guarantees that might only be needed for a few months (if they are ever needed at all). That assumption flies in the face of every rational analyst’s view – that frictionless trade (of precisely the sort required to avoid a hard border in Ireland) is simply not possible once the UK leaves the Customs Union and the Single Market; no alternative future relationship, no matter how close (and certainly not the fantastical “Chequers Plan”), can deliver the same result. At some point very soon, the conundrum will have to be solved. Because as the EU has made clear: without a workable and acceptable backstop, the entire negotiations could break down. And if that happens: it means no withdrawal agreement; no transitional period; and the prospects for a reasonably prompt negotiation on the future EU-UK relationship set back considerably. Yet such a “no deal” scenario is perhaps the worst possible outcome for Northern Ireland and the Republic – since it risks precisely the prospect of an immediate customs and regulatory border and a direct threat to economic, social and political stability – something the UK’s contradictory promises in the Joint Report of December 2017 would then do precious little to help.

Ruth Woodhouse: You address a lot of student bodies. What is the mood amongst young people on Brexit?

Prof Dougan: It’s true that an important part of my current activities is knowledge exchange – sharing the results of my ongoing research around Brexit not only with my fellow academics but also with wider public and policy audiences. In particular, I give a lot of public talks: the University of Liverpool estimates that I’ve delivered or participated in face-to-face lectures, Q&As, panel debates etc for over 15,000 people across the UK since February 2016. I try not to refuse any bona fide invitation to speak from a citizen group or NGO – and the University of Liverpool are very generous in covering my travel and accommodation needs – though I have had to introduce a “two per week” rule (albeit not always rigorously enforced) just to limit the amount of time I spend on trains and in Premier Inns. But funnily enough, not many of my invitations are for student events or indeed to address younger audiences. I usually speak to audiences largely made up of middle aged (and often but certainly not entirely middle class) citizens: angry, knowledgeable, motivated and impassioned – but certainly not young! Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Far from it: informing the public about Brexit, let alone fighting Brexit, requires engagement with / the mobilisation of every section of society. And my experience is just that: we know there is a lot of student interest in and younger activism around Brexit. That was evident from even a glance around the national march in London on 20th October 2018.

European Union Law

Alex Kennedy: Professor Catherine Barnard, another prominent expert on EU law, is also from Northern Ireland. Is there something about EU law which is particularly attractive to Northern Irish academics?

Prof Dougan: In December 2017, Leiden University organised a major conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their Europa Institute for the study of (what is now) EU law. Due to a last minute change in the programme, I was asked to offer a few comments on the position of Ireland in the whole debate about Brexit as well as wider EU reform. I made two introductory points: first, Ireland’s record as a fundamentally stable democracy fully engaged in the institutions of European cooperation is second to none; and secondly, Irish citizens (from the North as well as the South) have made an incredible contribution to the study and practice of EU law and indeed continue to work prominently (even disproportionately, given the relatively small population) at the forefront of such an international discipline. It would be an interesting research project for a social scientist to explore why that might be the case. It might be that people from smaller countries (especially those which have been on the receiving end of the imperial ambitions of their larger neighbours) understand and appreciate more readily the limits of “national sovereignty”, the value of rules-based international cooperation and the potential for collective action to expand the possibilities of national influence. It might well be that it is easier for the smaller participants in a multi-national union to feel more comfortable with complex, multiple, overlapping and mutually enriching identities: after all, I can happily feel like a Belfast boy, Northern Irish, Irish, British, Scouse and European – all at the same time, each one providing a unique and important part of my own sense of identity. It is also quite possible that, for many people from Northern Ireland, European integration provides such a successful model for overcoming historical legacies of conflict and division through peace building and finding ways for different communities to live and work together harmoniously and productively. Or there might be other explanations. And we need to wonder: are such features and qualities unique to Ireland (North or South)? And what should we make of the fact that Northern Ireland is also home to some of the most ideologically fanatical and delusional Europhobes of all, i.e. in the form of the Democratic Unionist Party?

Professor  Dougan wades through the rhetoric of Chequers and “chuck Chequers” to deliver another insightful reading of the UK and EU position as the clock ticks on Brexit.

Sue Scarrott: With timescales tight, how can we engage with those suffering from Brexit ‘apathy’ or those who believe Brexit won’t affect them?

Prof Dougan: It’s easy to understand why people feel apathy towards Brexit. I often feel it myself. But I find the best cure is to recite the main reasons for regarding the 2016 referendum and its aftermath as the most idiotic and self-damaging act any developed country has inflicted upon itself since 1945. 1) The referendum campaign itself made a mockery of the UK as a mature and responsible democracy.
2) The genuine risk that the UK might experience systematic regulatory and administrative malfunction upon withdrawal, particularly if we end up with no transitional period to protect us from the Government’s own woeful lack of preparations.
3) Even without any such short term disasters: Brexit is so self-evidently a disastrous act of long term and profound national diminishment – squandering our leadership and influence within one of the most important international organisations on earth, and through it, an important part of our leadership and influence in the world at large.
4) The vast waste of time and energy and money and resources that is being poured – not into trying to improve our country and the lives of its people – but simply into trying to limit the self-inflicted damage that Brexit will bring (is already bringing).
5) For millions of people now and into the future, their life choices and horizons have been diminished: many of the freedoms and opportunities and protections and aspirations that I have taken for granted throughout my entire life will no longer be open to you, or to your children, or to your grandchildren.
6) The stirring up of deep seated bigotries and long-lasting social division that will tarnish our collective morality and undermine our social cohesion for years to come.
7) Even if there were no other cause for concern, no other cause for complaint: the very fact that millions of people, here and across the rest of Europe, have seen their lives and futures thrown into uncertainty and anxiety is an unforgivable act of cruelty for which the Leave Campaign deserves to be called out as utterly morally bankrupt.
8) The damaging legacy of what happens when a democracy normalises, legitimises and indeed actively rewards and encourages systematic dishonesty by its political leaders.
9) Last but not least: for many of the leading Leave Campaigners, leaving the EU is not just an end itself. It is merely a means to further their ulterior political objectives: ill-defined and confused, but still very dangerous, hard right dreams of some sort of political, economic, social and cultural revolution in the UK. Let’s not forget the depressing correlation between many of the leading Leave campaigners and other politically and socially regressive ideologies: from climate change denial, to the return of capital punishment, opposition to equality legislation, the final destruction of the welfare state, and other hard neo-liberal economic preferences – all reflecting their natural affinity with the hard American right. And let’s not forget that Brexit hasn’t just fuelled support for anti-rational, socially divisive, politically aggressive movements in this country but elsewhere too. In America and all across Europe, Brexit has become an inspiration for nationalists and populists. See what can happen when you lie big, when you play on people’s fears, when you offer up enemies rather than solutions? You can win too! So any time I feel tired or bored or fed up with Brexit, I remind myself: this isn’t just about Brexit. It’s also about the fundamental values that we want our country to respect and represent. And for the fundamental values that we want to see reflected in the world around us. That usually works.


Prof Dougan on “Why the EU matters to you: five key reasons why the EU needs to exist”.

Sandra Stretton: Does Brexit detract from the work you were doing prior to the Referendum?

Prof Dougan: I’m an EU constitutional lawyer. By its very nature, EU constitutional law is a broad but also very fast changing subject: at any given time, there might be dozens of developments going on across the legal system which are of potential constitutional interest; and in the blink of an eye, entirely new fields of enquiry can appear out of nowhere (or indeed disappear into history). The challenge for myself and my colleagues in the discipline is to decide which developments to concentrate on studying in greater detail versus which ones we should just be aware of and keep an eye on. Whichever choices we make, the objective is always the same: to know how the EU system fits together, to understand the dynamics which are shaping its development, to draw out the key patterns and themes and to critically assess their significance for the overall system of European cooperation. From that perspective, Brexit isn’t a distraction or detraction at all: it’s one of several contemporary developments with significant implications for EU constitutional law – alongside, e.g. the continuing programme of Eurozone reforms, the serious “rule of law” problems in Poland and Hungary, debates about the changing nature of Union citizenship and free movement rights, contentions around the legal and policy responses to third country migration and the operation of the Schengen system etc. My only choice was whether to pay Brexit close attention versus whether just to keep an eye on it and concentrate on some other major development/s. Obviously, I chose the former – though the choice was certainly not a purely intellectual one. Perhaps the most important factor influencing my decision to spend a lot of time researching around Brexit was, of course, the fundamental importance of Brexit for the future of the UK and its people. I feel very strongly that it’s important for academics to offer their expertise and skills to help better inform their fellow citizens and (as far as possible) political leaders about such crucial decisions. That is particularly true when the leading proponents of Brexit – a contemptible gang of charlatans and demagogues if ever there were one – have employed tactics and arguments which (in their sheer dishonesty and cynicism) are the complete antithesis of the basic principles of scientific research and evidence-based, rational policymaking which lie at the heart of my own profession.

Many thanks to Professor Dougan for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to following his insight into Brexit through his You Tube videos and articles.