Bremainers Ask ……… Jon Danzig Reasons2Rejoin

Bremainers Ask ……… Jon Danzig Reasons2Rejoin

Jon Danzig is a journalist and film maker who has been campaigning against Brexit since the word was invented in 2012. Formerly an investigative journalist on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Checkpoint’ programme, Jon went on to set up his own film production company, producing films on best business practice, presented by John Humphrys, Sue Lawley and the late Brian Redhead. In April 2016 Jon started the grassroots pro-Remain campaign, Reasons2Remain, later to be renamed Reasons2Rejoin. 

Clive Carter: Do you think we will ever rejoin the EU?

Yes, but it could take many years, maybe a decade or more. There would need to be deep reforms in the UK first, constitutionally, attitudinally, and structurally. Constitutionally, for example, we still have an unelected second chamber, and whilst we managed to join the European Community with that in 1973, it may not be acceptable to a more modern, more democratic EU some 50 years later. Attitudinally, Britain needs to fully understand the EU project, but more: it needs to embrace it, even hug it. That is possible, I think, but only after an effective long-term awareness campaign to properly explain about the EU, that this country has never had before (at least, not since the 1975 referendum). Structurally, because Brexit was caused by many people in Britain feeling forgotten and poor, living in undeveloped areas of Britain that are forgotten and poor. That needs to be remedied before there can be any rejoining of the EU, because being in the EU never caused those problems, so of course, rejoining the EU won’t fix them. Today’s Britain I doubt could rejoin, but a reformed, changed Britain of tomorrow I think could and will.

 

Ruth Woodhouse:How important to our fight against Brexit is campaigning for proportional representation ahead of the next election? 

Neither the Tories, nor Labour, support proportional representation, but I think it is important to campaign for it. Most democratic countries around the world – and in Europe – now use proportional voting systems. Apart from the authoritarian state of Belarus, the UK stands alone as the only country in Europe that exclusively uses the outdated, one-person-takes-all ‘First Past the Post’ system for general and local elections. Other European countries use a system of proportional representation or a mixture of both systems. In the UK our system of voting is demonstrably unfair. Only a minority of the electorate positively voted for Brexit, yet we still went ahead with it. In the 2019 general election, the Tories won their 80-seat majority with the support of less than 30% of all those entitled to vote. This has resulted in a Brexit, and a government, that is not representative of the nation.But a party that supports PR must first win power without PR. That’s the challenge.

Deborah Beth: How can we get the real effects of Brexit, i.e. the news items we see highlighted on this and similar Facebook sites, into mainstream news? My Brexit voting relatives only watch mainstream tv news and read right-wing newspapers so think all is going to be fine! 

Any campaign to rejoin the EU would have to win despite the biased news against the EU, and not lose because of it. That’s the challenge, and it’s a huge one. It is possible, however, that the media could change their anti-EU reporting if they can see a significant shift in attitude among the public towards the EU. Newspapers are in the business of selling papers. It may be more about commercial principles than political ones.For example, the remain-supporting Daily Mirror, and the Brexit-supporting Daily Express, are owned by the same company. I have no idea what the company itself thinks about Brexit, but it may be that they are simply selling to market segments. If Rejoiners could get organised and join forces (for the first time) to launch a truly effective national awareness campaign to change the public’s mind about Brexit, then it’s more than possible that newspapers would follow. But it means changing enough people’s minds first, without having the support of the press. That will be difficult but not impossible. It would require a huge and professional pro-EU campaign, costing many millions, and enduring for many years. Why hasn’t it happened? I don’t know. I have been calling for such a campaign ever since I started to write about Brexit when the word was invented back in 2012.

 

Shane Mcerlean: Will it ever be possible to hold the “engineers” of Brexit to account legally? 

We need a public inquiry into Brexit and how a supposedly democratic country went ahead with it, despite only having the support of 37% of the electorate, and with two of the four member states of the UK voting against it.My view is that Leave only won by lying, law-breaking and cheating on a shocking scale. If the referendum had been a legally binding vote, instead of just an advisory poll, the courts would have had the power to annul the referendum result as being compromised and unsafe. The government treated the advisory referendum as legally binding and refused to allow our Parliament a debate and vote on the specific question of whether the UK SHOULD leave. It is essential that this is investigated, and that people are held to account if crimes or violations were committed.Clearly, the pro-Brexit Tories won’t do it. Neither will Labour in power, if they continue with their policy of supporting a Tory Brexit with their new slogan promising (forlornly in my view) to, ‘Make Brexit Work’.It’s likely that only a pro-Rejoin government, sometime in the future, will have the impetus and incentive to hold to account those responsible for an unlawful Brexit.

Sue and Jon Danzig Reasons 2 Remain

Ruth Woodhouse: In a recent comment you said that “Brexit is entirely incompatible with tackling Climate Change”. Can you expand upon this, and is it an argument that we should be presenting more strongly and persistently, especially to the younger generation?

Countries trying to ‘go it alone’ simply doesn’t work when tackling planetary problems. That’s why Brexit is the antithesis of successfully managing climate change. Doing more trade with continents thousands of miles away, and less with our neighbouring countries, cannot square with reducing our country’s carbon footprint. We should, of course, be doing the opposite: conducting most trade locally and with nearby countries. But Brexit has put up unnecessary barriers to trade with our neighbours. Brexit means nationalism. The former President of France, François Mitterrand, once said, “Nationalism means war.”  Nationalism also means that global threats, such as climate change and pandemics, cannot be dealt with so effectively or efficiently, because all nations need to work together in close cooperation, and not in conflict. The EU is about European countries working together. Brexit is not. And yes, Rejoiners have not made enough of the argument that tackling climate change means, for a start, European countries collaborating, whereas Brexit has shunned European collaboration. As far as Brexit is concerned, it’s a ‘blah, blah, blah’ way to deal with climate change.

Steve WilsonHow do we persuade Tory backbenchers that the current path of their party is a dangerous, extremist version of Conservatism? Or should we just let them destroy themselves from within?

In a democracy, the only power to change things is with the power of persuasion. As I have written many times, true Tories were Remainers. Every Conservative Prime Minister, from Harold Macmillan to David Cameron, supported Britain being in the European Community. Only the latest two Tory Prime Ministers have supported Brexit whilst in office, but before the referendum, they had previously supported Remain. As Brexit continues to cause more harm to Britain, and offers no benefits, we should lobby Tory MPs to persuade them that their party has strayed from its historical path of supporting Britain in the EU. Could the six Tory Prime Ministers from 1957 to 2016 all be wrong, and the latest two incumbents be right? We should keep putting to Tory backbenchers that the party needs to return to its roots and get back to the centre ground, away from extremist right-wing politics. Some may respond. It may only need a few. But it is important. For example, imagine a future scenario where a minority pro-Rejoin party is in power, but needs the support of a handful of Tory MPs to win a key policy. Now is the time to win those handful or more of Tory backbenchers to our side.

 

Hear more about Jon’s career in this BBC radio interview at: https://youtu.be/Q_6_6VwHVg4

Check out Jon’s Facebook journalism page here: http://www.facebook.com/JonDanzigWrites

Bremainers Ask ……. Bremain in Spain Council

Bremainers Ask ……. Bremain in Spain Council

Our Bremainers Ask this month is a little different, as it’s a combination of questions asked in the Facebook group, and the Q & A session from our AGM.

Steve Harding: If there were another referendum or the winning party at the next UK elections stance was to rejoin the EEC and subsequent negotiations went well, what would be the realistic timescales for this? 

That’s a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” question. The truth is, we simply don’t know at this stage. It would depend on the extent of any new government’s commitment to closer ties, and we suspect, to which party wins. Should a new government’s idea of what constitutes rejoining include unrealistic aims, e.g. any efforts to cherry-pick, then any manifesto promise of closer ties might not be all it appears to be. In any case, the most urgent action needed in order to further our goals of rejoining the EU completely, will definitely require getting rid of the current government. Only then, will we be able to see the wood for the trees.

 

Angie Scarr: Is there any interest in supporting the particular difficulties of 1950s expat women who have lost their pensions?

We have every sympathy with WASPI women – in fact we have many members who are affected, including three members of this council. However, when we asked our members recently what they would like us to concentrate our efforts on, this topic was not raised. Rather, the vast majority of our members wanted us to go back to our roots and concentrate our efforts on Brexit – holding the government to account, calling out the lies and broken promises, and longer-term – campaigning to rejoin. We will, of course, continue to support and promote any WASPI activity on Twitter (where the topics we cover and support are more wide ranging), and on a personal level.

 

 

Michael Soffe: Would the Bremain Council consider throwing its weight behind a pro-European party such as Volt or the one about to be formed by Gina Miller? 

As a not-for-profit Spanish registered association, we are not able to affiliate ourselves with any particular political party, even if our goals were completely aligned. What we can do, however, is to promote specific campaign activity for any suitable parties and share and promote those campaigns. For example, pre-Brexit, we regularly shared memes and proposals from anti-Brexit parties like the LibDems. We will continue to promote the activities of any existing or new party that shares our aims and values, both in the UK and in Europe.

Ruth Woodhouse: How can we as a group be more proactive?

That’s an excellent question, and one we’d like to know the answer to ourselves! At the AGM, we spoke of the difficulties we always have in engaging enough support from our membership. We have now expanded our council, which gives us more bandwidth, but there is only so much we can do ourselves without the help and support of more volunteers. At our next council meeting, we will discuss further the idea of putting together guidelines to explain how members can get involved, whether that be with the lobby group, on social media or in other ways. Any suggestions on how we twist a few more arms for support are always welcome!

The biggest issue raised and discussed at our AGM was Bremain’s ongoing coverage of Covid-related news in our Facebook group. We thank both Ruth Woodhouse and Michael Soffe for raising this issue, and to everyone for their input. You can see the result of this discussion in a separate, dedicated article.

 

 

 

 

Next month, our regular Bremainers Ask feature will be putting questions to Jon Danzig of Reasons2Rejoin fame (formerly Reasons2Remain). If you wish to take part, please email your question to enquiries@bremaininspain.com before Saturday 6 November.

Sue and Jon Danzig Reasons 2 Remain
Bremainers Ask ….. Peter Jukes from Byline Times

Bremainers Ask ….. Peter Jukes from Byline Times

 

Peter Jukes is an English author, screenwriter, playwright, literary critic and journalist. He is also the founder and executive editor of Byline Times and co-founder of Byline Festival. 

Follow him on Twitter: @peterjuke

Pat Kennedy: Why don’t more intelligent, well read, long headed (Ulster terminology) clued in people like yourself stand as MPs? Billy Connolly once said that the desire to be one should immediately disqualify one. Has he been proven right?

Had to look up ‘long-headed’! Thanks! Right now, I think the problems with democracy are more profound than just those who stand for Parliament. They only win or lose in the context of a broken fourth estate, where our information is either parlayed by non-domiciled billionaire media owners or twisted by social media giants like Facebook who monetise outrage and conspiracy theory. So, my priority is to do what I can to create (or recreate) an information space where – whatever the political solutions may be – we all accept a common reality and common problems. With the US Republican Party now dominated by the ‘Big Lie’ that Biden stole the election from Trump, and the UK vitiated by Covid deniers, Anti-Vaxxers, and a government still trying to convince us how great Brexit is, this basic substrata of truth seems to be missing.

 

Mike Phillips: What issue do you think we could prosecute the Johnson government with to successfully prove misconduct in office?

 

Though there have been noble attempts to use the Misconduct law for prosecutions, I doubt if that’s the real route. It’s too politicised for the judiciary. More effective to me seems the route taken by the Good Law Project and Foxglove in subjecting the government to judicial review over specific policies such as the Crony Contracts scandal (first broken by Byline Times), pork-barrel spending, GP data grabs etc. I note that Matt Hancock, Lord Bethell, Gavin Williamson and Robert Jenrick are no longer ministers. This is – I believe – a direct result of investigative journalism and time judicial review.

The Afghanistan withdrawal displayed a weakness in UK foreign relations. How can the UK continue to work with EU nations to provide an alternative strategy to a US lead foreign policy?

Long before the calamitous withdrawal this summer, the UK’s actual military effectiveness as a junior partner to the US in both the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, was being severely doubted by our superpower ally.  Though individuals have made extreme sacrifices, our deployment in both Basra and Helmand left US commanders wondering what had happened to the British military. We were punching beyond our weight for decades and now are depleted. This may be a good thing. We have traditionally spent more on defence than other European countries. As America becomes more isolationist, and the threat to Europe from Russia post the Ukraine Maidan revolution increases, there will be a space for further European cooperation. And the power of Europe, though it needs military backup, has been mainly soft power. Many former Cold War adversaries are now, through the power of the acquis, firmly in the orbit of liberal democracy. There are problems with Hungary and Poland to be sure, but the main source of violence of the previous four centuries, war in Europe between the Great Powers, is now a very dim and distant prospect. So, my hope is that the UK will realise that, in defence terms as well as economic terms, our main hope is with the rest of Europe.

 

Valerie Chaplin: Bylines is growing in the UK, but there are many UK nationals residing in the rest of the world. Have you any plans to include them?

Hopefully, they have no problem accessing either the Bylines Network of local and regional sites, or the newspaper and TV channel online. We mail out the paper to many different countries. But I’m sure the Bylines Network would welcome a site for Britons overseas.

Steve Wilson: What is the main aim of the Bylines media network, and is the message cutting through?

The message is simple – truth matters. The only way that democracy can work is with an informed electorate, and with disinformation, dark money and Astro-turfed fake news rife, we have to go back to basics and reaffirm that reality matters. Of course, the Government and its media allies and PR campaigns can try to negate the truth of their terrible handling of the Coronavirus or impacts of a hard Brexit. They can try to distract us with culture wars over statues and taking the knee. But just as in the fantastic TV series Chernobyl – as the Soviet authorities tried to cover up the design flaws in their nuclear reactor – reality has a way of seeping beyond the control of ideology and propaganda. As the whistleblowing scientist Valery Legasov says in the TV series: “The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants, it doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time.” 

David Eldridge: What are the chances of a “progressive alliance” before the next election, and if such an alliance was formed, what should its main focus be?

I’m not qualified to predict if people will rally around these principles of truth, transparency and accountability before the next election. Certainly, my hope is that more and more people are waking up to the corruption, malfeasance and oligarchical dark money in our midst. If they do, then we should rally around these basic principles of democratic reform, now being undermined by the current Elections Bill. A strong electoral commission, tighter laws on party funding, enforcing the Ministerial Code, banning foreign interference and hidden spending – the list is long but like the 1832 Reform Act, there is a wide public interest that could appeal across the spectrum. 

Matt Burton: As discussions around Brexit and Covid almost inevitably lead to people basing their thoughts on their feelings, rather than evidence, what can be done to make our public discourse more data-based?

As I’ve indicated, I do believe that reason, objectivity and a common shared understanding of the basic principles of reality are important for a democracy to function. Byline Times has recently created a Byline Intelligence Team to look at a number of issues, from crony contracts, Conservative donors, to healthcare commercialisation to see what the actual data shows. It is led by Iain Overton, a great pioneer and practitioner of ‘data driven’ journalism. But data needs to be turned into information and then processed a stage further to become knowledge. Ultimately, the final refinement of data is wisdom. And at each stage of that process, appealing to people’s everyday lives, their experiences, values and feelings is very important. As someone who spent most of my previous career in fiction, I do understand the importance of storytelling. But you’re right: storytelling unmoored from reality becomes dangerous – a mixture of myth, bias and self-fulfilling prophecy

Lisa Burton: Do you think we will ever see a Levenson 2 type inquiry to expose the corruption and power of some of the media and what, if anything, could be done to push for one?

Our sister organisation Byline Investigates, run by two former tabloid journalists who have repented of their pasts, has done something to restitute for the gap left by Theresa May’s cancellation of Leveson 2 which was always designed to happen once the phone-hacking trials were over. The civil courts are doing a good job at exposing the privacy intrusions of the Sun and the Mirror Group. The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report exposed some of what Gordon Brown described as “the criminal media nexus”. But because the Conservative Party is so close to the main malefactors in the right-wing press, Leveson 2 is highly unlikely, and I doubt the Labour Party has the stomach to bring it back. But the good news is that the public are much more aware of the cabal operating in the press and much more critical. Their revenues and influence are declining with the rise of new media, and they are kept on their toes by constant public scrutiny and advertising boycotts like those encourage by Stop Funding Hate. The horse has bolted, I fear, when it comes to Leveson2. But there are many other ways to tame the feral press.

Bremainers Ask – October feature: The Bremain Council are holding our annual Steering Meeting on 23 October, followed by our AGM on 24 October in Málaga. We therefore felt this would be a great opportunity for our members to put questions directly to the Council. 

If you would like to submit a question for consideration, please contact us by email, no later than 15 October here: mailto:enquiries@Bremaininspain.com

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Part 5

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Part 5

As part of our regular Bremainers Ask feature, we occasionally ask previous contributors to comment on the latest political developments.

This month we are delighted to welcome back Naomi Smith, Ian Dunt and Jonathan Lis who have all agreed to comment on the current state of play of British politics and, in particular, Brexit.

This is what they had to say:

Naomi Smith

Naomi Smith

Naomi is Chief Executive Office of Best for Britain and host on the Oh God What Now podcast. She originally answered members’ questions in April 2020

Brexit remains far from done, and a positive we can all take is that this Government’s incompetence is beginning to visibly impede its ability to deliver it.

There are still many issues requiring long-term solutions which aren’t forthcoming from Boris Johnson’s Government. Frustratingly though, while it is easy to revel in their incompetence, British business is suffering as a result, which is something that we all expected but is incredibly difficult to watch, nonetheless

In terms of Brexit-related news to look out for in the media, the end of a grace period allowing chilled meats to move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland expires on 1 October. The key issue here is that the Government has given little indication of their long-term solution to fix it beyond this date. You may have seen this legislation dubbed in the media as the “sausage wars”, and though it may sound trivial when framed like that, it yet again underpins another Brexit failing. Lord Frost called for a “permanent solution” to the issue around chilled meats back in June, but no progress has been announced. We will have to watch this space to see what happens.

The above news is somewhat disappointing, but I do have some good news, which is that the UK Trade and Business Commission will be releasing its interim report in the coming months. The report details key issues on the sausage wars and more, alongside some forward-looking solutions that aim to improve what has been an enormously difficult period for us all. The Commission was launched back in April and is co-convened by Hilary Benn MP and Peter Norris of the Virgin Group. It exists as a cross-party group of Parliamentarians and leading business experts from across the UK.

The Commission has discussed a wide range of topics, and each meeting has always returned to the same inescapable fact; that Brexit isn’t working and is proving to be a real disaster. Whether the issues have been artists needing visas and work permits to tour Europe; the UK’s desperation to agree a poor free-trade deal with Australia; or the enormous challenges that SMEs are having in trying to export across the continent, it has shown that Brexit is not working and, unless the Government moves away from tactics of megaphone diplomacy and towards meaningful engagement, more issues will develop.

There is hope. The Government is having no choice but to listen to the work of the UK Trade and Business Commission. Truth and facts are unarguable, and in having experts show the Government what they are destroying in pursuing a damaging Brexit strategy, the Commission is gaining strength and traction. As we continue to focus on this important work, the road remains bumpy, but we are sure in our convictions that if we keep making the right noises, we may have a chance of better days ahead.

 

Ian Dunt

Ian is editor of Politics.co.uk, author of Brexit books What The Hell Happens Now and How To Be a Liberal and host on the Oh God What Now podcast. He originally answered members’ questions back in May 2020

Things aren’t as bad as we think.

You look around and they seem dreadful: a clown-car Prime Minister, the hardest possible version of Brexit, tens of thousands of needless deaths due to the Government’s catastrophically inept COVID response, entrenched cronyism, a barrage of authoritarian legislation and a stubborn Tory lead, no matter what they do. It looks bad.

But when you peer past the day-to-day news, there are glimmers of a more positive future.

Look at that Tory polling lead. It is stubborn, but it is also startlingly volatile. Last year, during the Dominic Cummings Barnard Castle debacle, it plummeted with alarming speed. There is currently a sustained decline in the wake of last month’s opening up, Boris Johnson’s culture war against the England football team and the Matt Hancock resignation.

Look at the recent comments between Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey and Labour Keir Starmer, which suggest that they seem comfortable working together – informally, behind the scenes – in order to maximise their chances of taking on the Conservatives at the next election. Look at the difficulties the Tories are having hanging on to their traditional seats in the south.

Events are not set in stone. This Government has severe weaknesses which will be highlighted, not hidden, by the end of the pandemic.

This is also true for Brexit. The moment of defeat is now behind us. The requirement now is to work out how we build a closer relationship with the EU and then eventually get back in.

That process starts with a narrative. This will not come as a bolt out of thin air. It will emerge over years. And yet you can see it coming together now. How long has it been since you heard a positive story about Brexit? Months. The last one was the attempt to suggest that Britain’s fast vaccine roll-out was a result of having left the EU. This was nonsense, of course, and is now anyway redundant given some European countries have sped ahead of us. But it was generally accepted by many people. Before that, it’s hard to think of any.

There are, however, plenty of negative stories about Brexit: The sudden potential for disorder in Northern Ireland, the barriers to trade within the UK, empty supermarket shelves, outraged farmers and agricultural exporters, exorbitant customs costs, visa charges for holiday-makers. The list goes on and on. It’s a drip-drip-drip of negativity.

It’s easy to sneer when people say this wasn’t the Brexit they voted for. But in fact each time this is said, it reflects another potential convert. Most Leave voters will never say Brexit was wrong. But they can be convinced that it is not going well, and that a future Government needs to fix the relationship, which will inevitably entail us moving closer.

That journey will start with a narrative, of Brexit being a failure. And that is precisely the narrative which is emerging now, slowly, in a long and shallow wave of daily disparate news reports.

Things look bad and it’s easy to get depressed about it. But the Government is weaker than it seems, the public are more open minded than they appear, and in the long term, there are good reasons to be optimistic.

Jonathan Lis

Jonathan is deputy director of the pro-EU think tank British Influence, and a political writer and commentator. He answered our members’ questions in September 2020

The news stories are beginning to dribble in, but few people are listening and even fewer joining the dots. Stories that would ordinarily resonate with the public on different levels – a shortage of blood testing vials, empty supermarket shelves, no milkshakes at McDonalds – aren’t hitting home.

Part of the reason is COVID. It is very easy for the Government and its media cheerleaders to associate shortages with the pandemic because the virus has impacted us in so many different ways already. Less easy to explain is why these shortages did not happen during the first nine months of coronavirus, when we were de facto full members of the EU.

Another part of the reason is Brexit fatigue. There is a feeling, widely shared even by many Remainers, that Brexit has happened and cannot be relitigated. Many people wonder what good can come from ‘I told you so’: it provides little satisfaction to the people saying it, and only alienates the people they are saying it to. Certainly, there is no electoral mileage in telling voters that they didn’t listen to all the warnings and got it wrong. This fatigue, incidentally, also stretches to commentators. I know personally that, after almost six years of endless debate, I feel exhausted by Brexit, and don’t much enjoy writing about it anymore. If that’s the opinion of a former Remain activist, how can we expect ordinary members of the public to busy themselves with it?

The third reason, though, should spur us on. Namely, the insidious pact between the Government and parts of the media to actively deny the role of Brexit in the current and future difficulties. The problems are not happening, or they are nothing to do with the EU, or do not remotely prove that the Brexiters were wrong. It is in everyone’s interests that we tell the truth about what happened, what’s happening now and what is still to happen. It’s the only way we can safeguard truth and integrity in public discourse.

We are delighted to announce that Peter Jukes – author, playwright, blogger, screenwriter, literary critic and executive editor of Byline Times – has agreed to answer your questions for our September newsletter. Please let us have any questions you have for Peter by Saturday 4 September by e-mail at enquiries@bremaininspain.com

Bremainers Ask………. Anna Bird, CEO European Movement UK

Bremainers Ask………. Anna Bird, CEO European Movement UK

Anna Bird is the CEO of the European Movement UK. She joined the European Movement in September 2020, having previously led political influencing campaigns at Scope, the Fawcett Society and Mind. Anna is a passionate Europhile, a European Studies graduate and Erasmus alumnus, who studied in France and Italy and started her career as a stagiaire in the European Parliament.

Alan Brown : European Movement describes Brexit as a historic, national mistake and says it “will fight to rejoin the EU as soon as it is politically possible”. Given that no political opposition party wants to talk about the Brexit mistake, how will it ever be ”politically possible” to rejoin, or even achieve a version of the single market?

It’s our job to make it politically possible. We can’t rely on the political parties, that’s abundantly clear!

How do we do it? We have to expose to the public the huge harm that is being done by this Brexit deal. By using local issues and human stories, we can make the impact of Brexit resonate with people at an emotional level, not just a rational one. We’re providing the tools for our local groups to do just that.

And then we need to offer hope and the possibility of something different. We talk at the European Movement about building back step by step. Some of these steps might include: rejoining Erasmus, securing a deal on veterinary standards, getting an EU-wide visa waiver for touring artists … we’re campaigning on all these issues.

Clearly, this government’s Brexit just isn’t working. We’re seeing that in the empty shelves in the supermarkets, the tension in Northern Ireland and workforce shortages. So, change is inevitable. That provides an opportunity to move us closer to the end goal.

 

Valerie Chaplin :You have over 100 groups around the UK, that campaign for upholding citizens’ rights etc. Which UK citizens’ groups do you work with in the EU 27?

Well… Bremain in Spain, obviously! You are a valued EM affiliate. As a member of European Movement International we have links to citizens groups across all EU member states and beyond. And we met just this week to explore opportunities with British in Europe, who are doing great work advocating for UK citizens in Brussels.

There’s no doubt much more we could and should do to build our links across the EU with UK citizens’ groups, and to be able to offer more to our members who live on the continent. Any suggestions for how to do that – I’m all ears.

 

european movement

Steven Wilson : European Movement have a reputation for being middle-aged, male and white. How do you intend to encourage more diversity in the organisation?

If we want to stay relevant, this has to be a top priority and as a lifelong equality campaigner, this matters to me very much. One of my first actions was to propose 3 new candidates to join EM’s Executive Committee to improve diversity at the top table. I was delighted that the National Council approved the nominations of Molly Scott Cato, Jane Thomas and Sajjad Karim, and all three have made an outstanding contribution in the few months since they joined. 

As CEO, I have started to embed an inclusive, flexible working environment (as a mum to two young children this is vital for me, but it works well for others in the team who juggle caring responsibilities, needy dogs and political and non-exec roles alongside their day jobs!)

And I’m working with Andrew (Adonis, our chair) and Molly on much deeper reform of our governance structures, so that diversity is ‘baked in’ for the future. The proposals would ensure a much larger National Council in which no less than 40% of seats go to women and there are reserved places for people from Black and Minority ethnic communities and young people. Alongside this we intend to recruit a diversity officer to the board, who will work with appointed diversity leads in our local groups, to build a diverse pipeline of campaigners, ambassadors and leaders for our movement.

We’ve got a long way to go but change is afoot – and importantly, it’s already making the EM a much more vibrant, creative and fun place to be.

 

Anon : Can the government be defeated at the next election, and if so, how?

I tend to leave the political punditry to others in the European Movement, so I don’t know that I’m the best person to answer this question! But 130,000 people have died during the pandemic, key industries have been betrayed over Brexit, the peace process in Northern Ireland has been undermined – these are all conscious choices made by this government, a shameful legacy for Boris Johnson, and this will be the backdrop to the next election.

I hope that progressive parties will work together to oust this government, and I also hope and expect that any future Tory leader will want to signal distance from this regime and will soften its stance somewhat on our relationship with the EU, if only to mitigate the economic impact of this hard Brexit deal. But we have to play our part for these things to happen. We need to hold this government to account robustly and prevent the impact of Brexit being swept under the Covid carpet. We can give a platform to politicians from across the political spectrum who are willing to call out the harm that is being done and those willing to voice pro-EU views. We need to organise and mobilise so that we are a strong voice when that election comes. That’s why the EM is investing to grow our membership for the future – there’s a long road and some big campaigns ahead!

 

Michael Frederick Phillips : There are many protest groups representing UK residents in the EU focused on how to hold the UK government to account for the detrimental effects of Brexit. How best can we form a strategic alliance of these groups to focus on the EU and raise our visibility?

A strategic alliance is a great plan: the more united the voice, the more profile and impact you will have. I’d be interested to know what’s preventing that now – is it resources and time, or different views and approaches? If the European Movement can help facilitate a coming together, we’d be very happy to do so. Could we convene a summit or a regular (e.g. quarterly?) roundtable for groups to share intelligence, find some shared goals and campaign opportunities? Could we extend some of our campaign tools and training offer to groups like yours to build your firepower? We’re open to ideas and happy to help.

 

David Eldridge : As you used to work in the mental health field, what effects do you think Brexit is having on people’s mental health?

Brexit is leading to all sorts of negative impact for people – precarious work situations, families and living arrangements being thrown into chaos, communities losing jobs and investment, and people’s fundamental sense of identity and belonging under threat.  All of these social and economic factors are determinants of mental ill-health too, so there’s no question that there will be a mental health impact. But I suspect it will be hard to calculate and to some extent masked by the huge mental health impact of the Covid pandemic.

We all have a role to play in supporting people through. Now more than ever, groups like Bremain in Spain and other groups in our network can provide some comfort and solidarity to those affected by Brexit. We are a community of like-minded people with a shared goal – to rebuild our relationship with the EU. That’s one of the many reasons why building our movement is so important – people affected by Brexit need to know that we are here to bear witness and expose the harm that’s been done.

Naomi Smith

Next month will see the return of our occasional feature – Bremainers Ask Revisited. We will be asking former contributors to comment on the current state of play of British politics, in particular Brexit. We are delighted to be welcoming back Naomi Smith, Ian Dunt and Jonathan Lis, and look forward to hearing their thoughts on the subject.

Bremainers Ask – Terry Reintke MEP

Bremainers Ask – Terry Reintke MEP

Terry Reintke is Vice-president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and the group’s coordinator for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. She is Co-president of the LGBTI Intergroup and founder of the EU-UK Friendship Group.

She studied political science in Berlin and Edinburgh. She was spokesperson of the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) before entering the European Parliament in 2014. She was featured in TIME magazine’s coverage for Person of the Year 2017 as part of the “Silence Breakers” speaking out against sexual abuse and harassment.

 

Michael Soffe : As I have lost my vote in European elections in Spain due to Brexit, do you think the EU should consider giving us disenfranchised residents in the EU our vote back, as we have no voice in Europe despite paying taxes in our European county of residence?

Hey Michael, we Greens have fought to expand the right to vote for a long time. We will continue to try to give a voice to those who are currently disenfranchised. It is important that we build a strong civil society, that voices their opinion and is strong enough to push for change. Giving voting rights to third party citizens is ultimately a decision by the member states. We can and will push from a European level for them to do so, but it remains difficult.

 

Alan BrownHow do you view cooperation with British political parties and organisations to change the mindset not only of the public, but politicians, in relation to climate change?

Hey Alan, cooperation is what made the European Union strong and why, with all its flaws, it is still the strongest concept we have to tackle huge challenges. And I think we can agree that climate change right now is humankind’s biggest challenge yet. So we have to absolutely work together and British politicians and the public are as much required as are Europeans. Only together we can bring on change. I am also really looking forward to further EU-UK cooperation on this when the COP 26 will come to Glasgow later this year.

Pat Kennedy : How much damage, if any, do you think that the UK’s exit has done to the EU?

Hey Pat, that is a hard question to give a short answer to, because I think there is more than one dimension to it. On an economic level as well as trade-wise I think the damage to the EU may be noticeable, but not as impactful as formerly claimed by Brexiteers. The damage done to the trusting relationship or to the peace situation in Europe remains however more severe. Since the EU was founded almost everyone was sure that Europe and the EU countries would only grow stronger together, be more interdependent and nation states to become less and less important. Brexit damaged that belief. It also damaged the trust EU members have in the British Government, because time and time again it broke promises, ignored treaties and flat out defamed the EU and EU institutions. That trust on a governmental level will need to heal in the years to come. Brexit was also a reckless mission that was not thought through by those advocating for it. They did not have a plan for the situation in Northern Ireland and therefore jeopardised the Irish peace process. One main point of the European Union was to ensure there will never be war again in Europe. Brexit put that at risk. With the Conference on the Future of Europe starting now, we will have to find back to a mode that ensures something like Brexit will not happen again.

 

Lisa Ryan BurtonHow is the EU-UK Friendship Group progressing? What is the make-up of the group and what do you hope it will be able to achieve?

Hey Lisa, the Friendship Group is made up of over 100 MEPs and former MEPs from all political groups and countries. Our latest project was to try to open new perspectives for the future of the Erasmus program in the UK. For now, we feel like the Friendship Group has done a good job keeping in touch with our friends and colleagues. We will try to organise events with British civil society groups in autumn and join the COP26 in Glasgow this November for further events. With the interparliamentary delegation to the UK in the European Parliament established, we will look into the role the Friendship Group will have in the future.

Molly WilliamsShould the EU have more executive power over member states, so they can implement legislation to protect minority groups whose rights are under attack in certain member states e.g. the LGBTQ+ community who are being targeted in Hungary, Poland and Romania?

Hey Molly, that’s a question I work a lot on. The EU needs a Commission that has the courage and the political will to use the executive powers they have to defend citizens’ rights and the treaties. In addition to this, the requirement of unanimous votes must be removed. Too often important steps to protect minority rights are being blocked when we really need decisive action to protect civil rights.

Harry Shindler OBEIs there any possibility that the EU would consider offering EU citizenship/an EU passport to British citizens living in the European Union?

Alan BrownUK citizens permanently resident in the EU have lost European citizenship and the many beneficial rights that went with it. Do you see any way by which those rights can regained?

Hey Harry and Alan, those are interesting and important questions, but also ones which won’t be solved easily. We need to look into possibilities now, but there is a long road ahead of us. At the conference on the future of Europe we will discuss how member states could and should strengthen EU citizenships and we also should look into how these citizenships with their rights could be expanded. But I also don’t want to give you false hopes. This probably will not happen over a short period of time due to the constitutional and political challenges ahead. We will continue to fight for you, but we are in for a long fight. I know that’s not the answer you would like to hear and I really and deeply feel with everyone who lost so much because of this reckless Brexit project. We need to keep working together, get stronger together and build back everything that has been lost. We might need to take a lot of small steps, but I strongly believe that in the end we will grow back together, stronger than ever.

Next month’s Bremainers Ask guest will be Anna Bird. Anna became leader of European Movement UK in September 2020 and, under her leadership, we have already seen the organisation become more diverse. She previously campaigned for mental health and homelessness charities.

If you have a question for Anna, please email it to us before 7 July at enquiries@bremaininspain.com.