Bremainers Ask ……  Annette Dittert

Bremainers Ask …… Annette Dittert

Born in Cologne, Annette Dittert is a German author, filmmaker, correspondent, and journalist and regular commentator on British politics and Brexit. She has worked for ARD German TV since 2001, as a war correspondent in Poland, a senior correspondent in New York, and since 2008 as bureau chief in London.

In 2019, Annette was awarded the title of “political journalist of the year” for her reporting on Brexit.

Steve Wilson : British political moves to the right/far-right have been equated to the politics of Germany in the 1930s. Is this a fair assessment and what can we learn from the lessons of history?

No, I do not think you can compare this to the situation of Germany in the 1930s. Although British politics have moved to the right, and the Tories have been undermining liberal democracy and the rule of law again and again, so far, I think the centre holds. The Covid Enquiry, the Partygate enquiry, and also the Supreme Court and its judgment on Rwanda show that the British institutions safeguarding democracy in Britain are still there. 

David Eldridge : Do you think the UK will rejoin the EU? What would the process and timescale be?

I think this will not happen in the near future. Simply because Labour has no mandate to do it after the next election, after having promised not to rejoin. AND: Brussels isn’t ready to even think about it before it can be sure that Britain comes back with all political parties being for it. The last thing the EU needs is another member being half-heartedly for rejoining and then leaving again. 

Lisa Burton : How much do you think Brexit enabled the rise of the populist far-right in Europe and do you think the tide is now turning against them with election results such as in Poland?

I do not think that Brexit enabled the rise of the populist far right in Europe. That kind of politics is happening all over the world at the moment – If anything, it has stopped it for a while as Brexit is still seen as a  failure even amongst most far right parties in Europe. And yes, what is happening in Poland currently is encouraging to see, although I don’t think it will turn the tide. Wilders in the Netherlands has just shown the opposite. And in Germany the AfD keeps polling around 20%.

Fi Cooper : Do you think that the problems experienced in Britain by our departure from the EU have strengthened ties between the remaining 27 nations? 

Yes, I do think so. The fact that Britain didn’t manage to break that union during the negotiations has surely been a good thing for the EU. 

Anonymous : Do you think Keir Starmer, once in power, will be forced to change his stance on Brexit and, if so, what might that look like?

I hope so, but it might take a long time, probably he won’t be able to do it before a potential second term, but it’s hard to make serious predictions on that now, as there are so many moving parts to it. 

Valerie Chaplin : What are your thoughts on UK politics and how far they have swung right?

I have made my point many times, that Brexit was (amongst other things) basically a coup by a very right-wing elite that got Brexit done with empty promises based on lies. As the polls now show, a majority of the British people have understood this and want the Tories out of Government. So, the pendulum might swing back again next year. Let’s see.

Bremainers Ask …… Gina Miller

Bremainers Ask …… Gina Miller

Gina Miller is a dynamic businesswoman, activist and now, a UK political party leader. In 2012, Gina co-founded the True and Fair campaign, and has campaigned on issues as diverse as modern-day slavery, domestic violence, special needs, inequality, social justice, and online abuse.

She is probably best known for taking the Government to the Supreme Court for attempting to implement Brexit without Parliamentary approval and for successfully challenging the government over the prorogation of Parliament in 2019. She has since launched the True & Fair party and will stand for Parliament in the forthcoming election.

Tracy Rolfe : What do you think will be the path and timescale to rejoining the EU?

Under EU law, the UK is now a third country, so it would have to reapply and undergo the whole accession procedure from scratch, under Article 49 of the Treaty of European Union.

Art. 49 states that “any European State” which respects the common EU values and is “committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the union”. These values include “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law”. In other words, even though our present Government is lurching to the right, we would still qualify.

On average, it has taken approximately nine years for recent members to join, from submitting a membership application to signing an accession treaty, for example Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania. But our having been members for 40 years would be a huge advantage over these countries. The fact that we have not diverged significantly from EU rules and regulations post Brexit is also beneficial. New border checks on EU imports have been delayed for a fifth time until January 2024, and the requirement for UK manufactured goods to have a UKCA instead of a EUCA mark from 2025 has been scrapped.

In other areas we are actively aligning with the EU: Horizon; aligning with the EU timeline for phasing out petrol and diesel cars; new food standards; and recoupling our electricity trading with the EU.

The question is purely a political one. It took Sweden and Finland only three years from application to the signing of an accession treaty. I see no reason why this time frame is not feasible for the UK, especially as we now have Poland and Ukraine as supporters of us rejoining.


Keith Glazzard : Keir Starmer has identified areas of common interest as the basis of regular consultation between the UK and EU. If Labour wins the next election, do you see any way of extending that idea towards eventual EU membership?

It is very hard to understand Labour’s strategy. The idea that a Labour Government would be able to cherry-pick is for the birds. The integrity of the single market is paramount to the EU. If we were to join the single market, what would be the EU’s incentive to offer us more? We would be in the position of having no say, no input, no vote on any committees, rules, or the future direction of travel. I am not a supporter of this option – especially after speaking to the EFTA members.

If Starmer’s starting point is to utilise the renegotiation clauses in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that accompanies the Withdrawal Treaty, that would allow sector-by-sector solutions that would be hugely beneficial to the UK and could be a very pragmatic path to rejoining. Bearing in mind the polls are already consistently at between 58% – 63% for rejoin, I’m still unclear what Starmer is waiting for?


David Eldridge : Prior to the last election, you set up a website and conducted a poll encouraging tactical voting against the Conservatives. This time you have set up the True and Fair Party, presumably with the aim of standing against Labour and Conservative and therefore discouraging tactical voting. Please can you explain this change of strategy?

In 2017 when I set up Best for Britain, tactical voting was the right strategy to dent what was looking like a 100-seat majority for the Tories. It also helped our success that there were no other competing or misleading tactical voting sites.

In 2019, the Remain United tactical voting website was aimed at helping people to elect remain supporting, centrist MPs. Unfortunately, the Corbyn effect meant that good people like Monica Harding, Dominic Grieves, Luciana Berger and David Gauke, who we were supporting, all lost their seats. It also did not help that there were several other tactical voting websites that were masquerading as independent but were not.

Since 1998, I and others have been campaigning for reforms to strengthen our machinery of government, to replace our naive ‘good chap’ model of government with codified, legal requirements for those we elect and pay. To bring in wide-ranging but pragmatic constitutional and electoral reforms to modernise our democracy, improve governance, and combat the corruption that has earned us the nickname ‘Londongrad.’

These have been very difficult messages to get across to the electorate. But, after COVID, partygate and the corruption and disgraceful behaviour we have seen in Parliament in recent years, the public can see how broken and rotten our system is. People are thinking ‘they are all the same’ and feeling politically homeless. That the system is rigged with no redress, no matter how scandalously politicians behave. The sentiment of ‘them and us’ is becoming widespread, resulting in the apathy that we have already seen in recent by-elections, leading to very worrying low voter turnout figures. It is to the people who are saying “none of the above”, who abhor the status quo, that the True & Fair Party is offering a new choice.


Steve Wilson : Assuming you succeed in becoming MP for Epsom and Ewell, what will be your first order of business?

The national policies I would be relentlessly vocal about are enshrining the prerogative [powers in law (we cannot have a Prime Minister with largely unfettered powers); proportional representation; and rejoining the EU. Locally, a completely new vision for high streets and city centres: bringing health, well-being and community hubs into the High Street.

Helen Johnston : A new petition calling for a general election is gaining enormous support. What are the pros and cons of an early versus a later election date and do you think the timing would make a difference to the scale of the Conservative loss?

There are so many rumours and theories going around that it’s very difficult to tell what will happen.

Now that the Conservatives have repealed the Fixed Term Act, Sunak can call an election whenever he feels inclined to do so. The current Parliament first sat on 17 December 2019 and will automatically dissolve on 17 December 2024, with polling day expected to take place 25 days later (excluding bank holidays and weekends).

There are many factors Sunak will be weighing up, including:

Inflation is 6.7% today and is likely to carry on decreasing. The Bank of England expects inflation to fall to around 5% by the end of 2023, then to keep on falling during 2024 and reach its 2% target in the first half of 2025. The Government will claim it is their success, though this is largely not true. But there are still upside risks to the inflation outlook, likely reflecting recent stickiness in core inflation, meaning people will still be feeling it in their pockets.

The combination of falling inflation, and a budget with tax cuts and other fiscal bribes, could see Sunak call an election in May, maybe rolled up with the local May elections as they have done in the past. This has these huge political advantages for the Tories:

It stops the fractional infighting (‘lancing the boil’ as senior Tories have relayed to me) and allows them to rebuild their party in opposition sooner rather than later.
Local elections in May are expected to result in the Conservatives losing hundreds of seats and councils, and the London mayoral elections, which would be disastrous.
Sunak would avoid being replaced (several people are circling to take over – Braverman, Farage, Badenoch, Mordaunt – even Truss!) ahead of a late general election.
It would stop the haemorrhaging of supporters and members to the Reform Party.
I’m told another phrase being used by the Tories is ‘damage limitation’. They expect to limit losses, or at best scrape through, if they go early, do a pact with Reform UK (looking at the last two by-elections such a pact would have resulted in the Conservatives holding on to both Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire) and don’t allow Labour time to spell out their policies.
The other view is that the election will be called at the end of the short Parliamentary sitting next September, with the election in late Autumn. As you will recall at all the Party conferences this year, the repeated message was these were the last conferences before the next General Election. The financial assessments are that the worldwide picture will be better in autumn 2024. If America reduces interest rates, it’s likely Europe and Britain will follow, so an autumn 2024 election is economically more attractive.

This timing also has the advantage of being after a long parliamentary summer recess, when there is no real scrutiny and people are less politically engaged over summer, and a low turnout, which would help the Tories.

The disadvantages are that migrants’ Channel crossings are likely to rise over the summer, while the mortgage crisis may deepen as more people face the end of their current fixed rates around summer.


Tony Isaac : Is there any way that the Conservatives could turn things around and win the next election?

See my answer above but, in essence, yes. The maths here is important. For Labour to have even a one seat majority, they need to win 124 seats. For a stable majority of 30 they need to win 153 seats. If the by-election swings are not replicated at the general election (historically the case), there is no Tory/Reform UK pact, Labour and LibDems don’t have an agreement in certain crucial seats, Labour do not win back the seats they need in Scotland, and voter apathy remains at the levels our True & Fair polling is finding (with turnout in the low to mid 30% range), the Tories could hold on to power. Every seat matters.


Lisa Burton : Previously you have spoken about MPs having contracts of employment, which makes sense and would allow a lot more accountability. Do you think any of the other parties would consider backing it?

The simple answer is no. The main three parties would not back many of the policies, the political reforms, that we at True & Fair believe are essential to strengthening our democracy and making it fairer. These include no second jobs  including media shows), reforming the House of Lords to be a purely secondary chamber providing oversight, electoral reforms such as compulsory voting, reforms to political advertising and media ownership. They are even resistant to putting the Nolan Principles onto a legal footing. This was a major factor in my decision not to stand for Labour or the LibDems.


Valerie Chaplin : We are all working together to encourage more people to join the Rejoin movements and are struggling to engage the younger generation, especially as Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement, Erasmus etc. affects them the most. How do we resolve this?

Our experience is that young people are very exercised about Brexit and the damage being done to their options, opportunities, and security. If you strip out the over-45s from rejoin polls, over 70% of people under 45 want to rejoin. It is an utter betrayal of the younger generations by the main parties that they talk about rejoining being for future generations. How much more damage do they need to see? How many young people will they sacrifice with their cowardly leadership?

We engage with more young people than many other parties do, and they tell us they don’t feel anyone cares about them, that they have no voice, no representation. We have to find a different narrative, to emotionally engage with them, find different channels of communication. It was very evident at the recent National Rejoin March in London that our movement must pursue other ways of reaching young people. A very practical strategy is to get young people to speak to other young people.

If you, your family or your friends live in the Epsom, Ewell and Leatherhead constituency, and would like to help Gina out with her campaign, she would welcome your support on the ground. You can make contact with Gina’s team via her website – just click on the Volunteer button.

Next month

Annette Dittert is a German author, filmmaker, correspondent, and journalist and regular commentator on British politics. She has worked for ARD German TV since 2001, as a war correspondent in Poland, a senior correspondent in New York, and since 2008 as bureau chief in London. In 2019, Annette was awarded the title of “political journalist of the year” for her reporting on Brexit.

If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please send your question(s) to: no later than Wednesday 8 November.

Bremainers Ask ……… Dominic Grieve KC

Bremainers Ask ……… Dominic Grieve KC

Dominic Grieve was Attorney General (2010-2014), served as Shadow Home Secretary and was MP for Beaconsfield (1997-2019), as well as chairing Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

He is also president of the Franco-British Society, holder of the Legion of Honour award and a visiting professor in Law, Politics and Human Rights at Goldsmiths University London. He was a prominent Remainer, proposed many Brexit amendments and called for a second referendum.

For his work on civil liberties and the rule of law, Grieve was recognised with two awards: Parliamentarian of the Year in 2005 and in 2014 he received a Lifetime Achievement award from Liberty. He now serves as Vice President of European Movement UK.

Ruth Woodhouse : How can a cross-party approach to rebuilding ties with the EU be achieved when there is such extreme polarisation within politics today?

There is no doubt that the process by which we joined the EEC in the 1970s was enabled by the development of a significant cross-party consensus that it was in our national interest to do so. But such a consensus can emerge again driven by the realities of our geo-political position in Europe. As the heat generated by Brexit cools, there are already signs of greater realism in the two main parties on this issue. This emphasises for me that rebuilding ties with the EU can be done a stage at a time.

Michael Soffe : As an ex-Attorney general – do you believe that we will ever see a legal process that will end in some “Leave” MPs being found guilty of criminal charges in some way?

No, there will be no such criminal process and nor is one desirable. Self-deception and misleading others as a consequence is not a crime, even if it is an undesirable aspect of democratic politics and history will judge some politicians very harshly over their behaviour. But to progress we cannot spend our time seeking some form of retribution on those who have landed us in this mess. We need to persuade them to our way of thinking.

Steven Wilson : Looking back on the earlier parliamentary battles over Brexit, is there anything you wish you, or others, had done differently? 

I think I can really only speak for myself on the matter. The principal criticism directed at me and others in the Conservative Party who argued for a second referendum is that it contributed to making Theresa May’s “soft Brexit” impossible and the same criticism is also made with more force against Labour. But Labour were never going to take responsibility in Opposition for helping carry out Brexit in any form and I took the view that the Brexit Theresa May wanted was both a poor outcome in itself, but also wholly unachievable in view of the attitude of the “Hard Brexiters” in the Conservative Party. So I don’t think my approach made any difference although I did worry about it at the time. If Labour had swung behind a second referendum, then it was possible we could have had one. But it will always be unclear if the result would have reversed that of the first.

Anon :Can the Conservative Party ever be rescued from the far-right extremists, and if so, how, and by whom?

It can be rescued and will doubtless be at some point in the future when the right wing that has high-jacked it is wholly discredited.  But this will not necessarily follow defeat at the next election, as history shows that parties fail initially to learn lessons from defeats and often become more illogical and extreme in the short term, helped by the fact that any new leader (and Sunak will not survive defeat) will be picked ultimately by the members who are no longer representative of Conservative voters at all.

Dominic Grieve

Valerie Chaplin : Why are our politicians so reluctant to talk about Brexit and rejoining the EU when the public have demonstrably changed their minds?

The public has clearly concluded that Brexit has not worked out as they hoped, but that is a different thing from saying they want to go back in. Returning will not be on the same terms we enjoyed when we left and will be a complex negotiation. This is why politicians avoid the issue. As time passes, however, it will become unavoidable, as it becomes obvious that there is no substitute to our building a much closer relationship with the EU.

Helen Johnston : As a lawyer with a long-standing interest in human rights, how do you feel about recent reports that members of the Government are pushing for the UK to leave the ECHR?

It troubles me very much that our adherence to the ECHR is now in question with members of the Government. The ECHR may not be perfect and its interpretation by the European Court of Human Rights at times not what some would wish. But it is one of the great successes of UK soft power in raising human rights standards in Europe and has been beneficial to us as well. Leaving would mean leaving the Council of Europe, wrecking our Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU and having to exit the Horizon programme, because shared adherence to the ECHR underpins data sharing. It is also irreconcilable with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement that requires us to adhere to it. I also cannot see the slightest advantage to our doing this. It is not going to make it any easier to return illegal migrants, as the main problem is that their countries of origin will often not co-operate to take them back.

Lisa Burton : Do you think we may see a split in the Conservative Party if they lose the next general election?

The Conservative Party may split, but that depends on what happens after the election and who becomes leader. It is unclear how many Conservative MPs will remain and what their views are, and this will be critical to whether or not they can find a common policy approach round which to rally.

David Eldridge : What should Parliament have done differently to achieve the aim of stopping the hard Brexit we ultimately got?

I have in part tried to answer this in question 3 above. I think a hard Brexit was inevitable. Theresa May ruled out the softest of Brexits and Labour then refused to support her less soft version, and she did not have the majority to carry it in the face of ERG Conservative rebels. So, all forms of Brexit were doomed to be unachievable until Johnson won his large majority through Corbyn’s folly at failing to appreciate his own unelectability, helping to deliver the hard Brexit Johnson and his supporters wanted.

Coming next month

We are delighted to announce that Gina Miller has agreed to feature in our Bremainers Ask in October. 

Gina is probably best known for taking the government to the Supreme Court for attempting to implement Brexit without parliamentary approval and for successfully challenging the government over the prorogation of parliament in 2019. She has since launched the True and Fair Party and will stand for parliament in the forthcoming election.

If you would like to submit a question for consideration, please email us no later than Sunday 8 October at

Bremainers Ask……  Professor Michaela Benson

Bremainers Ask…… Professor Michaela Benson

Michaela is a sociologist with expertise in migration, citizenship and identity. She is particularly known for her research on lifestyle migration, the middle classes, and Britain’s relationship to its emigrants and overseas citizens at moments of major political transformation, including Brexit. Her research projects include Brexit and British citizens in the EU and Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (MIGZEN).

Valerie Chaplin : What is your opinion on the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, sending people to Rwanda, or housing Asylum seekers in barges?

Where do I start… I want to stress that I fundamentally oppose the Government’s Illegal Migration Act. In my opinion, making people criminals for coming to the UK through unauthorised routes and deporting them to Rwanda—or Ascension Island—with no future right to claim asylum in the UK is part of a wider agenda to undermine the ECHR and UN Refugee Convention. Housing them in disease-ridden accommodation is no way to treat other humans. I see this legislation as the culmination of the UK’s Hostile Environment brought in first under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition and Home Office Policy that has increasingly sought to demonstrate that they can pick and choose who comes to the UK and on what terms. Since the New Plan for Migration, anti-asylum rhetoric and related legislation have become a bedrock of the Government’s ambitions to demonstrate that they have ‘taken back control’ of the UK’s borders after Brexit. But with devastating consequences for the lives of those fleeing for their lives from conflict and persecution.

A cheeky plug, My colleague Nando Sigona and I discussed some of this in the latest episode of our podcast Who do we think we are? You can listen here.


Debbie Williams : What do you think about the Withdrawal Agreement? Strengths and weaknesses?

I’m going to focus here on the Withdrawal Agreement and Citizens’ Rights. Very simply, at least it managed to secure the residential rights of British citizens in the EU/EEA and EU/EEA nationals in the UK. I think that being circumscribed around this issue was a problem—which I know that a lot of you are dealing with. Leaving the issues of onward free movement and cross-border workers to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) prolonged uncertainty among those whose lives relied on this, and often with significant consequences for their ability to continue their lives as before. So much more I can say, but have run out of space… I am sure that you all have your opinions about what could have been done differently.


Clarissa Killwick : How important is it to change the perception of Britons abroad, (both in the eyes of the public and government), is it achievable, and if so, how?

It’s really important because misconceptions matter. Working on the issue of what Brexit meant for British citizens living in the EU, I came face-to-face with this all the time—whether trying to get the attention of journalists, government officials, and other academics. At times, advocating for your rights it felt like talking to a closed door because they had already decided who you were. But I kept on trying to debunk these misconceptions.

There will be no immediate change in perception, but it is important to challenge these. When it comes to providing case studies to journalists or politicians, make sure it is not who they would expect (in terms of age, race, employment etc.). If you are in one-to-one conversation, you can ask people whether they have friends or family members who have emigrated from the UK, and more often than not they will (the British population abroad is equal to 10% of the resident population of the UK after all).

Michael Soffe : How do we even start to change the mindset of so many British people that migration is a good and necessary thing for the UK when we have such a hostile UK press?

I think that it is important to register that there is a difference between the politicisation of the migration in the UK press, and what the general public think. Sometimes I think that the rhetoric is pumped up to try and solicit support for the Government’s agenda precisely because they do not have the consensus of the general public. However, that is not to say that we should be complacent. We should start close to home and think about how we talk about migration. I take my inspiration from Migrant Rights Network and their Words Matter Campaign.


Lisa Burton : Do you believe significant numbers of undocumented British are currently in Europe?

I am really concerned about this, and I have been warning about people falling between the gaps and the long tail of Brexit. In short, there are certainly undocumented British citizens living in the EU/EEA. I would not be able to hazard a guess at how many, but I would rather turn attention to the implications of this for their lives. As these are human lives, any number is significant. And the question is whether enough has been done to reach them.

In the short term, and depending on where they live, it might have no consequences. Being undocumented—and thus without a legal status in your country of residence—is a highly precarious position to be in, and it will undoubtedly have consequences in the future in terms of their access of services and healthcare, accessing rights and entitlements. And I also want to highlight that this might be through no fault of their own. There will be those who were not in a position to advocate for themselves during the implementation period—children in care, those in ill health and incapacitated—and others who for whatever reason were not aware that they had to do anything to secure their rights. These are just the headlines of what the implications may be and who might be impacted.


Molly Williams : What have you learnt about the British diaspora? The biggest surprises and inaccuracies?

I have been conducting research into British emigration for the past twenty years, and what has surprised me the most has been how little this is discussed. On both sides of my family, people have emigrated from the UK—I have family on four continents. I even emigrated myself as a child. So, I have always known that people left, and that they maintained relationships with their friends and families back in the UK. The per capita rate of emigration from the UK makes it one of the highest in the world, with the result that most people could probably name someone they knew who had emigrated. But it is not a topic of public or political discussion (although it is coming back onto the political agenda a bit because of fears of brain-drain within the Health and Social Care Sector). Importantly, until the mid-twentieth century, emigration was Britain’s migration story. What changed? Stay tuned to find out more … seriously, I am just working through this in my research.


Matt Burton : Is there now enough data to show changes in migratory patterns of British citizens emigrating to the EU pre-Brexit, when we had Freedom of Movement, and post-Brexit without?

Not yet! We know that people are still leaving—the latest stats show an estimated 92,000 British citizens left the UK in the year ending December 2022. Importantly, and linked to question about surprises, the UK does not actually keep records of everyone leaving the country. Nor do they have a way to do this. But back to the question, it will take a while to accumulate enough data to get patterns about where people are going. But I think a more important question will be about whether there are shifts in the demographics of who is emigrating in respect to level of education, occupation, age, and income etc. and how that maps onto destinations around the world given differences in domestic immigration controls.

Next month – Dominic Grieve KC

Dominic Grieve KC is one of the Tory rebels stripped of the whip by Boris Johnson in 2019 for refusing to back a no-deal Brexit. The MP for Beaconsfield from 1997 to 2019, he served as attorney general from 2010 to 2014 and chaired Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee for four years. He is a visiting professor in Law, Politics and Human Rights at Goldsmiths, London University. His work in Parliament on civil liberties and the Rule of Law was recognised by two awards – Parliamentarian of the Year in 2005 and in 2014 by a Lifetime Achievement award from Liberty. On 30 June this year European Movement UK announced his appointment as Vice President.

Bremainers Ask Revisited ……

Bremainers Ask Revisited ……

In our occasional “Bremainers Ask Revisited” feature, we ask former contributors to comment on the current state of play, and Brexit in particular.

This time we asked Marina Purkiss (Jeremy Kyle Show/Bylines/Trawl Podcast), Professor Anand Menon (Director, UK in a Changing Europe) and Peter Corr (National Rejoin March) to comment on the first six months of 2023 and what might happen next.





Marina Purkiss

The first half of 2023 has been surprisingly worse than I expected. It feels like we’re in a position now where the Conservatives can see from the polls that there is no appetite for them anymore. People no longer want a Conservative government. They’ve had enough and they want change.



As a result of that, certainly in this first half of the year and, scarily, probably into the second half (and until they’re out of power), I think that what we are now seeing is a smash and grab; a raid on the public purse. There is no care, no consideration. They are breaking convention, they are breaching rules of conduct, they are not correcting Hansard. They are chucking out contracts left, right and centre, and any prospect of Sunak being the champion of integrity and professionalism and accountability that he promised he would be has gone out of the window. It’s dire.

In terms of the Brexit effect, I think the one promising thing is that polls show that there is no longer an appetite for Brexit. Even Leave voters are seeing the error of their ways. In fact, the latest YouGov poll released this week (i.e. the Government’s own polling) shows that if another referendum were held tomorrow, a majority of people (55%) would vote to Rejoin. So that’s one glimmer of hope.

The sad thing is that not one of the main opposition parties feel they can openly campaign to rejoin. In fact, we’re in the crazy situation where we have got Tories talking about it more than Labour are. Labour have chosen to adopt this make Brexit work stance. It’s frustrating as hell, but I get it. Consider that despite Labour being so absolute, so final in their language and saying they will not rejoin – and yes still the Tories and their right-wing shills are telling all and sundry that Keir Starmer will take us back into the EU. So I understand why Starmer is having to play it this way – otherwise the next election becomes a de facto referendum on rejoining the EU. But nevertheless, it’s a sad indictment on the state of our politics and the press in this country.

However, it is very frustrating that the people who are now starting to talk about Rejoining, or the even the problems of Brexit, seems to be more in the Tory camp. Tobias Elwood has actually come out and talked openly about it. Even the former austerity Chancellor, George Osborne, has talked about the error that this country made in leaving the European Union and the problems that it caused. It was reported just today that Brexit is like a slow puncture for the UK. Don’t we know it…

Rishi Sunak meanwhile, has not stopped bleating on about those five pledges, the key one being to bring down inflation. Yet, what really, really gets to me, and I’m sure many of your readers, is that he talks about how he will do everything within his power to tackle inflationary pressures. And yet the one thing that is in their power, that really does impact inflation, is Brexit. And they will not talk about it, and they will not recognise or acknowledge the impact this is having and will continue to have on our inflation. Add to that, how we are sleepwalking into further inflation-fuelled misery because, as of the autumn, full Brexit checks are due to come into play. Yes, folks, we haven’t even had full Brexit yet! We’ve not even enjoyed the full benefits of unleashing the opportunities of Brexit! These forthcoming Brexit checks are the ones that, if you recall, Jacob Rees-Mogg referred to as an act of self-harm. Yep, those checks. And there is wide speculation and fear that this will only drive food inflation in one direction, upwards.

So how are things looking? Pretty grim. But the things that are looking good are the polls: polls to rejoin the EU, and polls showing that the Tories are hopefully going to get obliterated at the next election. There’s a long way to go, and even if Labour or a coalition government do get into power, we can’t guarantee that they’re going to change their stance and bow to pressures from the public to rejoin. But, very slowly, as a result of the increasing damage, we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope we emerge from that tunnel sooner rather than later.

Read Marina’s earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask (November 2022)

Professor Anand Menon

The year Brexit was betrayed. Or, for those of the opposite persuasion, the year Brexit was definitively shown to have failed. As so often, the debate has been dominated by the extremes. And as so often, reality is somewhat different. It may transpire that 2023 was the year we learned – grudgingly – to live with Brexit.


For zealots on the Leave side, betrayal has come in several stages. The Windsor Framework left Northern Ireland marooned, subject to EU laws. Kemi Badenoch’s watered-down EU retained law bill promised the scrapping of only a fifth of the EU laws originally destined for Rishi Sunak’s shredder. By May, Nigel Farage himself was on our telly screens declaring that Brexit had ‘failed’.

So, what does all this mean? In truth, not much. For all the noises off as Ministers compromised with reality – finding a modus vivendi with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol and avoiding the regulatory chaos that would have accompanied a wholescale scrapping of EU law – the Government was simply finding ways to, as the saying goes, ‘make Brexit work’. And the pushback was notable for its tameness. The days when the ERG tail could wag the Tory dog are, it seems, over.

All the while, Remainers have felt emboldened by a raft of economic data  – on growth, on trade, and on investment – suggesting that Brexit has had a negative impact on the UK economy. They have become increasingly strident in their criticism of the decision to leave the EU (and increasingly prone to irrationally blame Brexit for everything that is going wrong).

And Remainers have been able to point to opinion polls showing a larger proportion than ever of the British public now believe that to have been the ‘wrong decision’.

However, prospects for a reconsideration of Brexit, seem remote at best. For one thing, there is simply no political appetite for it. Labour have ruled out rejoining the single market or customs union, proposing what amount to potentially helpful but largely cosmetic changes to current trading arrangements (though there is no guarantee the EU will be willing to grant these). As far as Keir Starmer is concerned, as long as the Liberal Democrats do not adopt a more aggressively anti-Brexit stance, there will be little political cost to this position.

As for the public, while increasing numbers of people feel Brexit has not been a success, we should be careful not to read too much into this.

Unhappiness with Brexit is not the same as a desire to relitigate it. We have seen the issue drop steadily down the IPSOS issues tracker over time – last month only 9% of the public felt Brexit was the most important issue confronting the country. As my colleague Sophie Stowers has pointed out, when asked about re-opening the Brexit question, a large portion of the population (44%) consider the issue of EU membership to be settled. This could, as she says, ‘suggest that the popularity of ‘rejoin’ in a hypothetical referendum should not be interpreted as support for another vote’.

Furthermore, many of the Leavers who think the economic implications have been negative believe this is because politicians have implemented Brexit badly, not because it could not have been done well.

And finally, to perhaps the greatest unknown. What happens when the economy picks up? If, as seems to be the case, people are now blaming Brexit for economic outcomes that are clearly not the result of our leaving the EU, would an economic upturn lead to Brexit being credited for positive outcomes on which it has had equally little impact? How stable, in other words, is the current dissatisfaction?

The answer to this is we simply don’t know. But there is nothing inevitable about a steady rise in dissatisfaction with Brexit, let alone in political pressure for a change of course.

And so here we are. Grumpy, and generally quite dissatisfied with Brexit. But not really prepared to go over all that again. This might just be the new normal.

Read Professor Menon’s earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask (April 2023)


Peter Corr

The highs and lows of the last six months? Well, there are no highs, are there? So that’s that part covered. Pessimistic? No, just the truth. And I don’t believe anybody thinks otherwise, no matter what party you support, whether on the left or the right.


Maybe the polling will give some hope, if you want to see the destruction of the Conservative Party, and the Labour Party sweep into power. Though we’re still possibly a way off from an election and only a couple of years ago, pundits were saying Labour were gone for a decade because of the defeat they suffered in 2019. I think those people may be being very optimistic if they think the Conservative Party, who will say and do anything for power, couldn’t achieve the same turnaround in 18 months.

Inflation and the cost-of-living crisis is the biggest issue affecting most normal people’s lives. It is the cost of everything, from the clothes you wear, to the food you eat. There are, of course, world factors outside British politics causing this. But the big elephant in the room that is Brexit is also adding to it, making inflation worse than it would have been if we were still in the EU. Depending on which economist you listen to, Brexit is responsible for 40-80% of UK inflation.

It started at 10.5% in January and stayed stubbornly up there until May when it came down slightly to 8.7%. Sunak’s pledge to “halve inflation” by the end of the year is looking pretty unlikely, I would say, even though we all know if it’s achieved it’ll actually have nothing to do with him. Besides, I don’t know about you, but when I’m buying something, inflation is way above the official figures stated and certainly doesn’t seem to be coming down. Our weekly shop is nearly 40% higher than a year ago!

While this is happening, the Government and Bank of England are arguing the toss about what to do about it, seemingly settling on just making it even harder by putting up interest rates, meaning higher mortgage costs and in turn higher rent costs for people living in private rented housing. That’s around 82% of houses in the UK affected. This, to me, screams out that we need a huge building effort of social housing in this country to try and counter this upcoming crisis. Though there isn’t any party currently even thinking about this, as far as I can see.

Sunak is trying to get everyone to ignore the Brexit elephant though and concentrate on other reasons for the inflation, such as the industrial action the country has seen this year already. Striking over pay, conditions and rights, everyone has been on strike in the first six months. Amazon warehouse workers, firefighters, teachers, civil servants, border force workers, university lecturers, security guards, train drivers, ambulance workers, nurses, junior doctors, tube drivers, train station workers – there aren’t many industries that haven’t seen industrial action this year! But despite all this, the Government just uses these hard-working people as political pawns in their game of divide and rule.

Another thing he’s getting us to look at, instead of the Brexit elephant, is the sad and needless war in Ukraine. We’ve seen two visits to the UK by Volodymyr Zelenskyy this year already, showing the country what a real politician looks and sounds like, one who actually stands up for his people and country, rather than doing everything he can to wreck it. I am quite proud that our country is helping Ukraine against the tyrant Putin, though. 140,000 Ukrainian refugees have found refuge in the country, and that’s the Britain I fought for whilst serving.

I didn’t serve for a country, however, who would turn away people fleeing their own countries for various distressing reasons. The whole culture war, culminating in this ‘Stop The Boats’ rhetoric, taken up by both main parties now, sickens me. Imagine being so distressed in your own country that you risk your life and your family’s lives travelling the world with the aim of coming to a UK that speaks a language you understand, or where you might have a long-lost brother, only to be treated like a criminal when you get there – then packed away on a plane to a ‘safe’ country like Rwanda where you know other refugees were shot while demonstrating against conditions there. I don’t believe anyone but the nastiest of people are truly happy that we’re doing that to these people.

And I’ve not even really talked about the political scandals within our Vote Leave Government, have I? From Andrew Bridgen being expelled from the party for comparing COVID vaccines to the holocaust, Nadhim Zahawi being sacked over his tax affairs, Lee Anderson declaring his support for capital punishment (I assume, for anyone who criticises the Conservative Party), Robert Jenrick and Braverman getting into trouble over speeding offences, Dominic Raab resigning for being a bully, Richard Sharp resigning as BBC Chair after being found to have secured Johnson a loan just before he was chosen, Johnson himself resigning as an MP after being found to have lied multiple times to Parliament and the country (who’d have thought it), Nadine Dorries announcing she’s resigning, then not resigning, Daniel Korski withdrawing from being Tory candidate for London Mayor after accusations of groping: barely a week has gone by in the first six months of 2023 without another Tory scandal emerging! The party really are a car crash at the moment, perfectly summed up by that guy who crashed his car directly into the gates of Parliament last month.

I’ll finish by correcting my initial thought – I’ve thought of a positive thing to come out of British politics this year. It was Sunak coming out in support of the Rejoin EU campaign, when he declared to Northern Ireland, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April, that, and I swear to God I quote, ahem… “You are the world’s most exciting economic zone – in a unique position of having access to the UK market and EU single market. Nobody else has that. No-one”. As you can imagine, the country as a whole did a huge collective facepalm. I look forward to the next six months in British politics. Not.

Read Peter’s earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask (October 2022), and his great article in the New European (18 July).


Next month – Professor Michaela Benson

Michaela is a sociologist with expertise in migration, citizenship and identity. She is particularly known for her research on lifestyle migration, the middle classes, and Britain’s relationship to its emigrants and overseas citizens at moments of major political transformation, including Brexit. Her research projects include Brexit and British citizens in the EU and Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (MIGZEN).


If you wish to submit a question to Michaela, please email it to by Tuesday 8 August.

Bremainers Ask …… Mike Galsworthy

Bremainers Ask …… Mike Galsworthy

Dr. Mike Galsworthy

Mike Galsworthy is Chair of European Movement UK and co-founder of Scientists for EU/Healthier IN the EU. He is a media commentator about the effects of Brexit on the scientific community in the United Kingdom, a presenter with Byline TV and founder & co-director of the Bylines Network, which runs 10 citizen journalism online papers around the UK.

Michael Soffe : Thank you for your incredible work since Brexit. How do we now capitalise of the current admission by so many, that “Brexit has failed”?

The important thing to do is to get the “Brexit has failed” leave voters onboard. You’ll notice that although a very high proportion of people who voted leave agree that it has failed, a much smaller proportion would change their vote. Why? I’m guessing it’s because they still believe in the vision of Brexit as it was set out, over the vision of being an EU member. So, they believe their vote was the right choice, which they’d take again, despite the fact that in the current circumstances it has not borne fruit.

You may have noticed some Brexiteers now trying to push a new version of their vision – “National Conservatism” or “national sovereignty” as a way to build on Brexit and make it deliver the original vision. Sell the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow again, if you will. That’s why we need to go to those communities and those people, understand what it is that they want for their lives, kids, community and country, then find a way so our vision of rejoin is actually something that inspires them, on their own terms. Only then can they get onboard with rejoin. Just bashing them with how bad Brexit is will not win them over – they’ll be looking around for something else now, a new hope, and we must have a positive inspiring offer for them. If we don’t, we’ll lose them

Valerie Chaplin : How do we combat the negativity of Starmer in backing Brexit – it seems we have no opposition to vote for?

That’s why, in England in particular, we need European Movement as a prominent, visible and large alternative. Without anything like EM around, people will get frustrated and not feel hopeful. But if we can show rocketing membership, a fast-growing organisation with new branches all over the UK and presence in media from local to national, with more big-hitters joining as champions in our ranks, then we can really capitalise on this moment right now.

Starmer has made some pretty silly moves by painting in Brexit lines too hard and reaching out to an Express audience that doesn’t trust him, at the expense of his own base. However, he has no control over the shifting mood on Brexit in the country. Try as he might, he’ll not be able to avoid the issue should he come to power. He’ll be under pressure from businesses, Labour members, Labour MPs, other parties, public polling and media questions. If we can effectively build large societal structures advocating rejoin, and the polls are showing 65% for rejoin, what is Starmer, realistically, going to do? King Cnut knew, and I’m sure Starmer does too, that a leader cannot command a tide not to rise.

Keith Glazzard : A Labour or Labour led government is possible after the next election and closer ties to Europe may well result in an approach for access to the single market/customs union. What do you think the EU’s response to such a move would be

“The door is always open” said Michel Barnier recently. Which is true, but also quite simplistic. I do not think that a majority Labour government would open such a question (CU and/or SM) in their first term. But a Labour-led government in a coalition/confidence-and-supply arrangement is a very different beast as the Lib Dems (the most realistic partner) would come in with demands on PR and Europe. So, that could see things move very fast. Even the PR part makes a huge difference on UK-EU dynamics because the EU would know pretty instantly from that that there would be pretty much no way any future pro-Brexit government could form.

But anyway – back to the Labour majority scenario: The EU would be open to it, but they’d want to see a rapidly-diminishing Brexit contingent in the UK, because the last thing that they want to do is waste more time on the UK playing the hokey-cokey (in, out, in, out) down the decades with their EU membership and EU structures.


european movement
Steve Wilson : As a scientist, what is your biggest Brexit concern and how would you like to see the situation resolved?

If you’re asking about Horizon Europe, I find it quite distressing. A few years back for Scientists for EU, I calculated that under Horizon 2020, the UK had missed out on £1.5bn from 2016-2020 simply due to Brexit uncertainty getting in the way of collaborations, despite us being fully paid up members. I would hate to do the same calculation (i.e. loss relative to Germany) for the 2021-2023 period. 

I was actually joyful when the Windsor agreement was signed and Ursula von der Leyen said “this is good news for scientists” but noticed Sunak’s refusal to echo the sentiment. That then grew to an angry horror when I found out that, having waited for years outside Horizon Europe and shunning any Plan B because we were hanging on for Horizon Europe, that Sunak would then say he prefers a Plan B. That instantly threw cold water on the whole thing and will have had a chilling effect on our collaborations. 

Sunak may think he was being careful with money or haggling hard – but moves like that just lose money hand over fist. And I also note that Sunak, as Chancellor, threw out Erasmus+ too. What a wally! I want to see a deal on this asap – no more dragging it out and diminishing our science, or further diminishing and threatening this key bind of our nations. It’s vital that it’s fixed. This comes down squarely on our Government, in my view.

Beyond science, the loss of Freedom of Movement really bothers me. More important than our trade, for me, is the identity, rights and opportunities of our people (and, by our people, I also mean Brits abroad and fellow European citizens making their lives in the UK). Throwing away FoM not only took away an identity and a birthright from us, but it has done so much damage to people’s lives and families. It was wanton destruction. What needs to be fixed here is attitudes about immigration in general and free movement in particular. No political party wants to take it on, so this is where European Movement must do the work on public education, polling, focus groups, message testing, etc, etc. And this is a key element that must be supported by the public if we are ever to rejoin either Single Market or the EU outright. So this is where I want us to put a huge amount of work.

Anon : As Chair of European Movement UK, what changes do you hope to bring to the organisation & what is your first priority?

I hope to bring my passion, energy and my ability to knit people together from grassroots to big players. I love community-building and I want to build a huge, effective, pro-European community with EM at the heart of it all. 

My first priority has been to drive up the membership. That is absolutely the most necessary first step to getting the organisation bigger, so that we can take on more staff and resource the grassroots better. We’re not a think-tank, so we can’t get away with just a small team of analysts – we’ve got a vast community of members and local groups to service, train, supply, assist, etc and I take that function of EM very seriously. 

If we are to get the UK back into the EU, it’s not going to be done by a small team in Westminster – it’s going to be done by a huge great heaving community all over the country with well-resourced campaigns everywhere. So, the sooner we can get the membership and those underpinnings growing, the better place we’ll be in come the time. Additionally (and this feeds in) we need a lot more media exposure as a priority. European Movement needs to become a household name – and that in turn will help fuel the community build we’re undertaking.

Lisa Burton : There are a lot of excellent, active, pro-EU/anti-Brexit groups within the EU. Yet, Bremain is the only group outside of the UK to be affiliated with European Movement UK. As the newly elected Chair, do you have any plans to get more EU group affiliations or any plans to have ‘supporters of EMUK’ for the likes of industry, businesses, civic societies etc, who share our goals

Short answer – yes, absolutely. And again, this is why we need to build the kind of staff size that can support and engage with all such sectoral groups. I remember in the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign: I (as Scientists for EU) just could not get their ear on so many things. They had one guy who was a “stakeholder manager” and he was constantly deluged in correspondence and requests so he spent his whole time (as far as I could tell) fobbing off different groups to just give their team some internal peace. But think of all the opportunities missed! 

I know exactly what it feels like to be on the outside, with good ideas, but never being heard. I also know what it feels like being on the inside being swamped with requests that you cannot possibly manage. The only solution that I can see is to build the kind of team size and structure that can genuinely engage all the key parts of a nationwide movement and get the best out of all of them. And we absolutely need strong sectoral campaign drives.


Sue Mike G
Helen Johnston : How could a future rejoin campaign learn from the mistakes of 2016 to make a positive case for selling EU membership to British voters next time round?

Well that’s why the rejoin campaign is starting right now and learning right now! You cannot wait on last minute persuasion; you have to try and win before the contest itself actually starts. For me, the biggest lesson from 2016 was exactly that. By 2016, the Leave side had campaign veterans championing Brexit. They’d been at it for 25 years. They knew each other, they’d tested lines on it, toured around, found financial backers and sympathetic media. The Stronger In campaign, when it came together in late 2015, was constructed of people who were woefully naïve on matters European, and green as green could be on campaigning. So, for me, lesson one has always been to build, train and fully equip the army long before the battle. And if you look at what we have actually built since 2016, it is quite phenomenal. We have lots of veterans around, lots of hard knocks, lots of experience and lots of local groups who have lived through the tough times. We’ve built character and resources – community online and community knowledge about our core arguments – and now we’re really building central capacity at pace.

That’s the primary lesson. The second lesson is to be able to go out and meet people at their point of need. The huge comms errors of both Stronger In and People’s Vote was to think that endlessly repeating “economic damage” and “we demand a people’s vote” as pretty much catch-all campaign messages was going to turn people around.

Society is much more granular. People care about their own and their community identities, and community priorities. Yes, Vote Leave was saying “take back control”, but they were also going into actual communities and telling them “take back control so you can catch more fish from your own waters”, “take back control and scrap the stupid common agricultural policy”, “take back control of immigration to clear out these Eastern European workers that are sleeping six men to a room and undercutting what you can reasonably charge”, “take back control so we can get your Bangladeshi family over here once we stop the flood of European free movement taking their place”.

You see? That’s how the messaging was tailored to meet people at their point of need/desire. Yes, it was all BS and shamefully so, but it was all based upon what different communities wanted. When did PV do anything like that? We absolutely need to understand community need – and meet those communities at their point of need with our offerings, but unlike the Leave campaign, make sure they are solid promises and those communities stay onboard all the way to delivery. Brexit is failing because the promises didn’t hold up. Rejoin will be a success if the promises do.

David Eldridge : Apart from rejoining the EU, or at least developing a closer relationship with them, what do you think the main issues in next year’s general election should be?

The lead issue is clearly going to be the economy and who the public can trust to lead the economy out of the briar patch we’re in. There’ll be a big clash of Tories and Labour both saying, “you can trust us, but not them” and attacking each other’s economic credentials. There’ll also be debates around how you grow the economy out of a difficult spot – who do you invest in and where do you squeeze? But the main battle will be one over trust.

Flanking that, there’ll be more talk of corruption and constitutional reform. The public are still itching to see “real change” and both Labour and Tories will take aim at each other with portrayals of each other as complacent, incompetent elites. Labour will highlight the vast corruption and impropriety in office. The Tories will say Labour is the vanguard of “woke” culture sapping the civil service, business and wider society. As to what the issues *should* be (outside of Brexit); I’d say (1) guaranteeing basic quality of life (through a cost of living crisis), (2) reliable economic management to build out of crisis, (3) NHS.

Mike Phillips : How do we best promote the benefits to UK of getting back into Horizon and Erasmus, as first steps towards re-building a close relationship with the EU

With Horizon, everybody apart from Sunak knows the benefits – and I just don’t have his phone number. There’s realistically little we can say or do at this stage to swing anything there as it’s deep in negotiations between the UK and EU and it will stay there until they come to an agreement over money.

With Erasmus+, it’s a different kettle of fish. A really good ongoing campaign with strong involvement of youth groups can make it a prominent future-focused issue. Sunak will not want to backtrack on it before the next GE (although we could really hit him if we can get Conservative youth voices to back it), but it’s certainly a goer for a new Labour government that wants to throw something to rejoiners early on without compromising any of their red lines on EU relations (FoM, SM, CU).

So, that’s a real hopeful one to go for. Also, on Horizon, if Sunak hasn’t done a deal before next GE (surely he will and try to claim a win), then that too would be a complete gift for a Labour government. I’m very confident that eventually we’ll get both back. And then we’ll get more. And more. Until we’ve fully restored our place back in the European team.


Coming next month …………

In July, we will be returning to our occasional feature of Bremainers Ask Revisited. This time we will be asking 3 former contributors to comment on the state of play of British politics, and Brexit in particular, in the first half of 2023.

We are delighted to announce that our contributors will be Prof. Anand Menon (UK in a Changing Europe), Marina Purkiss (Jeremy Vine Show, The Trawl Podcast) and Peter Corr (National Region March).