Bremainers Ask… Liz Webster

Bremainers Ask… Liz Webster

Liz Webster is the founder of Save British Farming, established to challenge the impact of Brexit on British farming and to oppose the decline in British food, animal welfare and environmental standards. Liz was also the lead plaintiff in the 2017 Article 50 court case vs. the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Liz is actively campaigning to rejoin the Single Market and is a regular anti-Brexit commentator in the media.

Lisa Burton: Apart from rejoining the EU, what policy and legislation would you like to see from the current/future government to help farmers and encourage more food production?

I’d like to see a return of a Resale Price Maintenance Act (the Tories repealed it in 1964 when Tesco was beginning to expand). This stops middlemen and supermarkets from paying producers less than the cost of production. They have a similar mechanism in France. In 2020, the Tories decided to no longer recognise food as a public good and instead made the environment a public good. This means farmers now receive public money for environmental work/projects. However, farmers believe we should produce food AND look after the environment. 

Additionally, and worryingly, this new policy is ensuring there are more factory farms, which are also getting larger. Paying farmers to park-keep whilst enabling lower-standard food production/imports to increase is greenwashing! We would like to see a return to food being seen as a public good.


Ruth Woodhouse: Has Labour outlined its plans for supporting farmers if it gains power at the next general election?

Labour have been clear about their Brexit plans for securing a veterinary agreement. I see this as anchoring the Brexitanic. Keir Starmer (in Canada last September) disclosed they don’t want to diverge or lower standards. This is a clear indication that Labour are committed to work for closer alignment with Europe. In addition, Save British Farming have been asked to give evidence to the Rural Policy Group APPG, and to sit on a working panel for a Labour think tank to make policy which will be supplied directly to the Shadow Cabinet. This has given us huge confidence and optimism after 14 years of governance which has been anti-farming.

Over the last four years, Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner has worked with us, so we feel optimistic he is listening to us. No government survives a food crisis and for sure the Tories have done their best to cook one.


Michael Soffe: There appears to be a widespread misconception that the farming community voted for Brexit. If that is the case, is there now a feeling of regret? If the contrary is true, how do you combat this misconception?

The farming vote on Brexit was split and it’s actually impossible to work out the exact vote. The farming community is actually very diverse, from livestock market employees to farm managers, labourers to farm owners and tenants, as well as suppliers of agricultural goods. Harper Adams University did some research on this and found the vote was actually more about geographical location and education level/age.

The Leave campaign successfully harnessed farming and fishing, and our Union Jack, for their campaign: it’s important we fight to get this back from them. Not all fishermen voted Brexit either!

It is very disappointing that remainers attack Brexit voters and say silly things like, “You reap what you sow”. Destroying British food sees the poorest suffer hardest. It also doesn’t help bring us together by blaming voters. We need to find a place where we agree to find solutions, not blame people – of course we can blame the Tories and Farage, etc! But ultimately Brexit is a war on our food, freedoms and protections, and that is a war on us all. 

Matt Burton: Why do you think British Farmers aren’t protesting on the scale of our European neighbours?

It’s not in the British psyche to protest, we are a nation of cap doffers. British farmers came to rely on the French to push back against bad trade deals and policy. We should have followed the French and had a revolution!


Steve Wilson: In the Save British Farming petition, you mention a number of demands: fair trade, protecting standards, food labelling, labour shortages, funding and sustainability. Which of these is the most pressing and how could the situation be eased in the short-term?

All of these are a priority for British farming, fish and food and without doubt we need to get rid of trade barriers with the EU just to ensure we have enough food. Food production in the UK (particularly England) has collapsed and the Ukraine war and recent weather events have worsened this. The only way to guarantee food supply is to work to get back in the EU asap. I have communicated this to Labour and I believe others have too. Longer term for British farming we need a food plan and a government which values British food (this includes fishing).  A country which cannot feed itself does not have sovereignty!


Anon: How do you deal with a lack of understanding by the public re Brexit-related issues such as trade barriers, new import charges, “not for EU” labelling etc., & would you say that the farming community is, on the whole, better informed in this regard?

The farming community is not well educated generally. Most are older and have insular lives. They are learning, and with our campaign we have to tread a careful line on Brexit. This is likely why I appreciate Starmer’s difficulties as he tries not to trigger Brexit defenders! Our last demo definitely cut through and we feel we are making progress, but I am also grounded about the fact that the hard yards begin when Labour get into government. If the Tories win again, we accept the fight will be lost, because they won’t and don’t respond to what the people want.


Susan Scarrott: In July 2020 the Tories voted against protecting food standards for imports in post Brexit Trade Deals. Do you feel this was a deliberate attempt to undermine British Farmers to open the door for cheap imports?

Yes, most certainly the Tories want to lower standards here and also in the EU. They are largely working for the IEA who are funded by big USA corporations. In September 2020, I met with Henry Dimbleby who was in charge of writing the failed food plan. I asked him why he voted Brexit. He replied, “Oh that’s easy! Because post war policy has led to over intensification and over population.” I believe the drive for Brexit was always about allowing global corporations e.g. Cargill/Avara control of our food supply, leading to a total loss of control. It is maddening that Brexit was won on a false prospectus. People thought they were voting for more Britishness and more control, when the opposite is true.


Derek Ironside: Is there now a consensus in the British Farming Industry that feel it would beneficial to rejoin, at minimum, the Single Market?

The farmers who voted remain absolutely want to rejoin the EU! Many who voted Brexit don’t want to talk about Brexit, but are happy to moan about what it’s doing. We don’t want to rub their faces in it and don’t need to at this stage. We just need to lead them to support our efforts to build pressure to ensure this happens. We don’t need a Spanish inquisition type situation where people are forced to become blue flag wavers. Being smart about this is how we will win!

Bremainers Ask…  Lord Chris Rennard MBE

Bremainers Ask… Lord Chris Rennard MBE

 Formerly the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrat Party, Lord Rennard was elevated to the House of Lords in 1999. He was Director of Campaigns and Elections for the Liberal Democrats from 1989 to 2003 and Chief Executive of the Party from 2003 to 2009.

Iain Shirlaw : Considering the rising cost of living, increased border friction, and labour shortages in key sectors, why do the Liberal Democrats oppose rejoining the Single Market and Customs Union?

We don’t, and we are the only major UK party offering a route to achieve this, although I accept that we have had insufficient profile for our view on this. Ed Davey made our position clear in his recent Conference speech when said that “we need to renew ties of trust and friendship to set us on the path back to the Single Market”. I think that we should be bold in saying that most people now agree that Brexit was a mistake, and I think that this can be said without insulting those who voted for it. Re-joining the EU eventually may require things like proportional representation (so that a decision made after a negotiation would be stable), or the Conservatives returning to their pro-EU position of many decades (not likely anytime soon, but eventually possible), and we also need to be seen to take people with us.


Ruth Woodhouse : Has there been any recent progress in building support for a campaign for overseas constituencies for British citizens abroad?

I was responsible for introducing the concept to a Lib Dem Manifesto, based on the models of countries like France, Portugal, and Italy. When I first spoke about it in the Lords, senior Labour figures said that they had never heard of it. But as we explained the arguments, it attracted more interest as it would avoid people who have lived away for decades being expected to vote on issues such as those concerning local hospitals, whilst directly electing representatives who as MPs for such constituencies might prioritise issues like frozen pensions as well as the drawbacks of Brexit (I see no “tangible benefits”, by the way). The excellent Unlock Democracy is now campaigning on the issue, and I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Constituencies and I spoke at one of their recent meetings. If enough UK citizens living overseas manage to register and vote, then I believe that this will eventually happen.


Lisa Burton : How do you feel about the recent ‘stuffing’ of the House of Lords by Conservative PMs which undermines public perception of the House and the excellent work conducted by many peers and committees?

I may be in a minority amongst members of the Lords, but I believe that the main alternative to “stuffing” is elections and that is the policy of the Lib Dems. In debates in the Lords Chamber, I quote Churchill saying that “democracy is the worst possible system of Government, apart from all the other ones that have been tried from time to time”. Many of the Crossbenchers make excellent contributions, but I do not think that someone appointed, for example, because of military experience should be voting on issues like the NHS. Any appointments should be made by a properly independent Appointments Commission, not by Prime Ministers simply seeking to reward loyalty or defections, or to reward major donors.


Steven Wilson : Do you think former supporters of the Lib Dems have finally forgiven the party for the coalition with Cameron?

Mostly. The coalition strategy of the Lib Dems in 2010 failed to learn from the experience of many of our European sister parties, or our experience of coalition government in Scotland, Wales, and Local Government. We needed to show our differences with the Conservatives, and not let it appear publicly that we generally agreed on major issues. Paddy Ashdown asked me to look at how our sister parties in Europe handled coalition when he was contemplating forming one with Tony Blair. I explained how those which handled it successfully often had major public rows with their partners and they used their balance of power position to force changes which everyone knew about. We differed from the Conservatives on many things, but it was a mistake to place the image of unity above the need for distinctiveness. With hindsight 2010 – 2015 was a much happier period than that since then, but as I argued with Paddy Ashdown, coalition is very dangerous for a “third party” unless it involves proportional representation.


Valerie Chaplin : Why are the Lib Dems so reticent about trying to rejoin, getting freedom of movement, Erasmus+ etc back, when so many people have voted for them because they oppose Brexit and want to rejoin the EU?

We appear more reticent than we are, partly because we lack the media exposure that we used to have as the “third party” when I worked with Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. But he we have also appeared too nervous about offending those who voted “Leave”. I helped the likes of Vince Cable to win back his seat in 2017 after he had lost it in 2015, thanks to the coalition, by helping to make sure that we appealed to Leave voters on issues such as health/care and school budget cuts. The climate is also polluted by the likes of GB News, as it has been by the Murdoch media for decades. Again, I would quote Ed Davey’s recent speech saying that we want to restore Britain’s place at the of Europe and that this is “where we belong”.


Anon : The Government has done everything in its power to undermine democracy and lower parliamentary standards. Can a new Government turn the situation around and restore our former parliamentary glories, or are those days gone forever?

Agreed, and I hope so. I worked with leading Labour and Lib Dem figures when we were in opposition in the 90s to produce a sequencing plan for constitutional reform after 1997. We made a lot of progress until Tony Blair lost interest in 1999. Our First Past the System with “artificial” majorities is undemocratic and encourages strong hostility between parties rather than collaboration. No party has a majority in the House of Lords, which engenders a better and more courteous level of debate. We can turn things round, but it will require proportional representation, a new system of election registration to enable everyone legally entitled to vote to be able to vote, and an end to “big money” in politics. I have led much of the opposition in the House of Lords to raising party election spending limits to allow huge donations from dodgy donors, and I hope that a new Government will put a cap on the size of political donations.


David Eldridge : What do you think the chances are of electoral reform within the next 10 years?

I would like to shine a very powerful light into the eyes of Sir Keir Starmer and find out. His Party wants it, overwhelmingly so. It might have happened after 1997, but the power that went with a 179 majority in the House of Commons seduced Tony Blair and those around him into thinking themselves infallible and that they would never lose. Failing to make this change then led to the worst of everything that has happened since he was Prime Minister. Sir Keir should not be so shortsighted. The point may come again that Lib Dems hold the balance of power (certainly within the next ten years), and I hope that we would be able to use it more effectively than we did in 2010 to make our Parliament properly representative of the people who vote for it.


Anon :How long can the House of Lords last in its current state, and do you support modernisation? If so, in what form?

Reform began with the Parliament Act of 1911 and I have argued that “only in the House of Lords could over 100 years be considered too short a period of time to consider proper alternatives”. I supported the 2012 House of Lords Reform Bill which received an overwhelming majority when first put to the House of Commons for a Second Reading. The problem was that Nick Clegg mishandled a planned constituency boundary re-organisation for MPs, which meant that a timetable for debating Lords Reform could not be agreed with Labour. The Bill had then to be withdrawn and, some years later, so was the plan for redrawing constituency boundaries. We threw away a great chance for reform which had provided for electing 80% of the membership by Proportional Representation, holding elections for a third of these members every five years, and for each member to serve a single maximum term of 15 years. That would be a good place to start again.

Next month: Liz Webster

Liz is the founder of Save British Farming, established to challenge the impact of Brexit on British farming and to oppose the decline in British food, animal welfare and environmental standards. Liz was also the lead plaintiff in the 2017 Article 50 court case vs. the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Liz is actively campaigning to rejoin the Single Market and is a regular anti-Brexit commentator in the media. Earlier this week she led a farmers’ protest to Parliament to highlight the damage done by post-Brexit trade deals.

If you wish to submit a question for Liz for consideration, please send your question(s), no later than Tuesday 9 April to 

Bremainers Ask……  Prof. Chris Grey

Bremainers Ask…… Prof. Chris Grey

Chris Grey is Emeritus Professor of Business and Management Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He previously held professorships at Warwick and Cambridge Universities. Since 2016 he has written the Brexit & Beyond Blog, and he is the author of Brexit Unfolded. How no one got what they wanted (and why they were never going to). His work on Brexit has been widely cited in the media and by governmental bodies, and he has given expert evidence to the Scottish Parliament on the Brexit trade negotiations

Ruth Woodhouse : Why is it that the Tories will not acknowledge the damage caused by Brexit and that it has been a failure? Is it really just a case of not losing face? Similarly, why will Labour not acknowledge the reality?

For Tories (assuming we are talking about MPs), I think there are some diehards who genuinely still think it was the right thing to do and, to the extent they see its problems, genuinely believe they are because it wasn’t done properly. Others, I’m sure, who once thought it was a good idea, secretly realise what a mistake they have made. Still others never supported it. But, apart from any psychological barriers to admitting what a failure it has been, there are huge political pressures not to. The Conservative Party, and especially its local membership organisations, is very different even to what it was in 2016. Criticising Brexit would be the death knell of their careers now: it would be the equivalent of a Labour MP saying the NHS should be abolished. As regards Labour and Brexit, I’ll fold that question in with Steve Wilson’s, below.


Steve Wilson : The Labour Party insists it can make Brexit work. Is that really possible and do you think they will shift their position once in power?

Making Brexit work is simply a slogan to signal that Labour accepts it isn’t going to be reversed and there will not be another referendum, along with a commitment to try to improve the Johnson deal. Is that possible (within Labour’s constraints on the single market, etc.)? Yes, in marginal, though not trivial, ways. In a general way, a more harmonious and trusting relationship is possible. That may sound vague, but it’s important. Specifically, a dynamic alignment deal on sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) is possible, and, if done, that would also set a precedent for cooperation that entailed an ECJ role, most obviously as regards security, but also possibly things like linking the EU and UK chemicals regulation (REACH) and carbon import (CBAM) regimes. A mobility deal of some sort could be done, and the UK might participate in Erasmus. There are good reasons to think that the EU would agree on SPS and security, while its agreement on mobility, Erasmus, REACH and CBAM, though less clear, looks possible. Is this Labour facing the reality of Brexit? Well, yes, to the extent that it is the most that it believes is realistic in terms of both domestic and EU politics. Does it repair the damage of Brexit? No, not by a long way.

What, if anything, could Rejoin campaigners do differently to improve their chances of success?

A while back, I did a list of Dos and Don’ts on my blog. This is a heavily edited version (see here for the full thing):


Keep going … it is going to be a long haul.
Keep pointing to the failures of Brexit. That may be negative, and, ultimately, the campaign case for rejoining needs to be positive, but we are not in that campaign yet.
Be prepared for support for rejoin and opposition to Brexit to fluctuate in the opinion polls.
React positively to leave voters who openly express regret.
Avoid getting tangled in issues about whether rejoining means joining the Euro, or Schengen, or what it would mean for budget contributions.
Configure the issue as ‘joining’ rather than ‘rejoining’: it’s about the future, not resurrecting the past. Both the UK and the EU will be different.



Keep banging on about the 2016 Referendum having ‘only been advisory’ or how ‘only 37% of the electorate voted to leave’.
Assume that individual EU politicians saying that the UK is welcome back any time it is ready is the same as that being the position of the EU or its members.
Dismiss any progress short of rejoining as a waste of time.


Anon : Do you think the result of the forthcoming election will be as bad for the Tories as generally predicted, or could they claw their way back into power?

Predictions are a mug’s game … so here goes! I think it will be closer than the current opinion polls suggest but, barring something big and unexpected, I think they will lose, simply because there is a general mood, among those who are not much interested in politics as well as those who are, that their time is up. That can be analysed in all kinds of sophisticated ways but, sometimes, politics really is as simple as that indefinable but tangible mood. Labour’s task in government is to convert that into something which becomes seen as an ideological sea-change – I say ‘becomes’, because it’s really only in retrospect that those judgements get made. That’s why, in and of itself, Labour’s current caution doesn’t tell us anything either way about whether it is going to oversee such a sea-change.



Susan Scarrott : With all the various factions and continual infighting, are the Tories finished?

It would be far too bold to say that they are finished but, assuming they lose the election, it seems all but inevitable that they will lurch to the populist right and pull themselves apart with battles over purity and true belief. How long that will go on for is hard to say – I suspect at least until they have lost another general election, maybe two. But whether they do that also depends on how a Labour government performs.

Lisa Burton : Your Brexit Blog ‘Brexit and Beyond’ is highly valued by many. Did you imagine it would turn into the immense piece of work it has become, and how long do you intend on keeping it going?

Thanks for your kind words. No, I never expected it to become what it has. I really only started it, in September 2016, for a kind of ‘personal therapy’, and at first it had very few readers. Then, I started using Twitter to publicise it – that was February 2017 – and it suddenly got picked up, by lucky chance, by a few high-profile people. Very quickly the readership expanded to many tens of thousands a week, including just about every journalist covering Brexit around the world, and politicians from every party in the UK (including several prominent Brexiters) and many in the EU, plus many in the EU’s negotiating team, diplomats, thinktank people, etc. 

Its popularity has slightly declined in the last couple of years, but not by much. All that is good, but it has put pressure on me to keep writing it regularly, and to a decent standard. I’m well aware that its profile means that if I make, say, some serious error of fact, I could get pounced on. Anyway, I’m proud of it, and especially of the fact that many people say it will become a resource for historians. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is true there is nothing quite like it as a contemporaneous record of what has happened. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep going, but I’ve no immediate plans to stop. It has become a labour of love!


Anon : The Tories have made so many assaults on British democracy and have avoided transparency. Is there a particular assault on British values that stands out for you?

So many to choose from, as you say. I suppose the Prorogation was the most direct assault on democracy, but at least it was ruled unlawful. The most grotesque thing, to me, was the Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ headline. It was disgusting and totalitarian in its formulation and implication. OK, that was done by a newspaper, not the Tory Party, but it should have been unequivocally condemned by every single Government minister including the then PM Theresa May. In fact, shortly afterwards, its author (who also, reportedly, wrote the actual headline) was appointed by May as her official spokesperson.

Next month

Formerly the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrat Party, Lord Rennard was elevated to the House of Lords in 1999. He was Director of Campaigns and Elections for the Liberal Democrats from 1989 to 2003 and Chief Executive of the Party from 2003 to 2009. If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please email us at no later than Saturday 9 March.

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Hopes and Fears for 2024

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Hopes and Fears for 2024

Gina Miller: I fear the damage Brexit delusion is doing to our country, but election year brings real hope

Since the United Kingdom left the European Union at the start of this decade, the inevitable cost and disruption that comes with Brexit reality and the UK being a third country are coming home to roost, post-pandemic.

Full border checks on EU imports have been delayed five times – but come the end of this month, Brexit Britain must face the music. New border controls on animal and plant products have been dressed up by Ministers as a new-and-improved “Border Trade Operating Model”. Yet, according to Sky News, the changes will cost businesses £330m a year, on top of considerable additional costs for energy, staff, overheads and supplies during 2023.

Nearly half of SMEs are saying they’re spending 20-60% more than in 2022. Additionally, the Energy Bill Discount Scheme is set to end in March 2024, which will only make things worse with even higher bills, as the energy crisis is set to continue due to global uncertainty. These additional costs will inevitably be reflected in shopping baskets.

This is my first fear for 2024 – that a Britain already struggling with a prolonged and bitter cost of living crisis will be uniquely subject to more hardship as the Brexit damage deepens.

The Red Sea crisis has thrown international shipping into havoc, resulting in us experiencing the greatest challenge to global supply chains since the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2021 disruption of the Suez Canal. The prices charged for containers transporting an estimated 12% of global trade, worth more than $1tn (£790bn), via longer routes will have a huge knock-on effect on many goods. Companies as diverse as Tesla, Electrolux, IKEA, and Volvo are all ringing alarm bells – many are already halting production.

Add in the severe drought affecting the Panama Canal, the war in Ukraine, curtailed grain shipments via the Black Sea, and more frequent extreme weather, and I, like many, am left in fear of the impact on global supply chains.

The urgency to adapt and reroute not only comes with serious financial consequences – but also dramatic environmental impacts. Increases in shipping traffic, leading to severe changes in underwater noise, will affect fish stocks and marine mammals. Before the Red Sea crisis, if shipping was a country, it would be the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide. Now, ships coming from Asia to Europe and the UK are being rerouted around the southern tip of Africa, emitting more carbon dioxide. Emissions will also be increased as manufacturers turn to more air freight.

The EY ITEM Club, a leading UK economic forecasting group, now says there is a “good chance” that the UK slipped into a technical recession at the end of 2023 – meaning we had two negative quarters in a row. While the reality of this will be confirmed to be true, or not, in February when the official GDP data is posted – it comes as no surprise.

In these circumstances, our country can no longer afford the delusion and conceit that there are Brexit benefits. The evidence that Brexit is costing the UK around £100 billion a year due to our economy being 4% smaller than it would have been following pre-Brexit trends is undeniable. UK business investment is growing 19% more slowly than the G7 average, with the negative impacts of Brexit predicted to gradually escalate, reaching some 5-6% of GDP, or about £2,300 per capita by 2035.

Another fear is that people blame the entire political system for the crisis they are experiencing. That mistrust and apathy leads to voters either staying at home or being attracted by populist propaganda, as we’re seeing with the Reform Party.

I set up the True & Fair Party to tell it as it is on Brexit, on political reform and the necessity of a health and happiness economy centred on wellbeing. To bridge the growing division permeating through our conversations, communities, and country.

The increased support we are getting, particularly in our top target constituency of Epsom and Ewell, is giving me hope for 2024.

Covid has muddied the waters in terms of damage to the UK, but the pandemic also delayed the harm of leaving the union. And there is no denying real harm is being done to almost every sector. The Britain that gifted Boris Johnson a thumping majority in 2019 is no longer the Britain we live in. The wave of post-Brexit delusion he rode is crashing on the rocks of reality.

Many people now know they were sold a pup – election day will be judgement day. With the polls consistently at between 58%-63% to rejoin the European Union (close to 70% if you strip out the over 65s), I am hopeful that the next election will result in a Government that recognises that Britain’s place is back inside the EU.

The Liberal Democrats and large parts of the Labour Party are alive to this reality. They know it in their hearts, but they dare not speak their mind. The True & Fair Party is here to give a voice to voiceless voters who say it’s time to end the pretence and start on the road to rejoin.

Even one True & Fair seat in Parliament after the next election would strike an enormous blow against Brexit and keep the flame for rejoining well and truly alive.

Achieving that is my overriding hope for 2024. If you want Britain back around the top table in Europe, join with me to make it happen.


Prof. Juliet Lodge: My hopes for 2024

Peace. Gentleness. Fairness. Equity. Tolerance. An end to poverty and tyranny. Political honesty. Governments respecting and serving citizens and upholding international law.

Looking just at the UK, evidence that Tory Brexit has busted Britain inundates us daily. I hope that we recall the relative calm of life pre-2016 and recognise that we neither have to continue to expect and accept misgovernment, nor shrug off emerging evidence of tawdry mismanagement, complacent, socially uncaring, lazy, ignorant and arrant incompetence, ministerial lies and depraved bungocracy. We did better then and we can do better in 2024.

My hopes for 2024 include us learning from and working with our EU partners, contributing to democratic renewal domestically and building democratic resilience in the reforming EU. We share the EU’s hopes and investment in combating disinformation, and commitment to frustrate foreign interference and corrupt players gaming democracy with malign intent.

I hope that critical reflection can triumph over the fake certainties implied by binary black or white options, and the lure of automated, inevitably biased decisions. 2024 must start the process to end the deprivation imposed by limiting choice, whether by biased humans or by big online platforms. Choice must be shared and cherished so we can try to be innovative in trying to realise a better world, not least for our younger generations and children. Wouldn’t we welcome the EU Childrens’ Participation Platform and efforts to ensure equality for all, no matter how challenging?

Only vandals would drag us out of the ECHR, so I hope that 2024 will see the UK electing a Government of integrity, willing to face the need to be a sane, safe, trustable, tolerant, fair, empathetic, constructive, ethical and forward-looking player on the world stage. One committed to realising the best for ordinary people. One informed enough to understand that kindness, commitment to upholding human rights, sustaining the rights we had in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and boosting a welfare state, is not weakness but a sign of a mature society.

I hope that the UK, like the EU, will act on the need for constitutional change and reform; that a UK Government will have the vision to include proportional representation in its aspirations for a fair society; that it will show understanding and realism over Northern Ireland; and that it will be courageous and bold enough to insist on the swift restoration of rights scammed from us all, unions, women and children since Brexit.

I want the deceit over the UK’s need to adhere to high EU standards, and to be in the customs union and the single market to end and be replaced by openness over why mutual removal of physical, technical and virtual borders between the UK and EU were realised in the first place: we all benefit from the four freedoms of movement of goods, services, capital and people. The disingenuous stupidity of the Conservatives’ divisive hostile environment perverts what the UK is and can again be.

People in the EU value EU citizenship and are more aware of its benefits, as are we, as the loss of it hits home, harming the lives of those with family across the EU and our ability to travel around Europe unencumbered by border delays. I hope 2024 will see the restoration of mutual freedom of movement between the EU and UK for families, and for anyone wanting to enjoy the advantages of ErasmusPlus. There is much we could learn from the EU to become more equal and inclusive. There is much we could choose to do together to combat those exploiting immigration from countries outside the EU.

There is also a great deal we could learn from the EU on AI and valuing and protecting individual rights, privacy, autonomy and integrity. We cannot afford morally, let alone economically, to deviate from EU standards, norms and values.

Like so many of us across Europe, I hope for open, humane, climate-protecting Governments of conscience, committed to facilitating public participation, public understanding of how societies work, and using public money for the public good and community.

A general election in the UK before the Euro-elections to the European Parliament in June would be welcome.

I hope 2024 brings and entrenches ethical Government by design and default in the UK and EU as the norm not the exception.


Peter Corr: My biggest hope for 2024, year of elections, is that my fears don’t actually come true.

Watching progress towards Rejoin has been satisfying, although also frustrating. Seeing the polling numbers slowly but surely increase for Rejoin, while simultaneously, politicians going backwards. Such as Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats joining Starmer in pretending Brexit can work, or that people aren’t talking about Brexit anymore, while all the things he claims they are talking about are directly caused by or made worse by Brexit. I want to see this Government gone, but it’s really hard to consider supporting other politicians who are also clearly lying to our faces to get into power.

The Tories have gone full batshit, to paraphrase a certain MP. Or have they? I believe the Rwanda farce has one goal and that is to force ‘leaving the ECHR’ onto the agenda. They could even put it in their manifesto, and make the whole election about it. Like a crap sequel to the Brexit election of 2019. Would enough of the country fall for that? I don’t think so, but I also never believed we’d vote for Brexit, so maybe I’m not the best judge. One of my biggest fears is definitely the thought that the crazy policies this lot have been coming out with lately could be given an actual mandate.

Over in the land of guns, it seems more and more likely by the day that Trump will win the election. What will that mean for the war happening in Europe right now? The EU should hurry up and fast-track Ukraine’s membership before then if that’s possible. As a side note, if it is possible, I don’t see why the UK rejoining can’t also be fast-tracked. Just a thought. I think Trump winning would have serious implications for NATO, Ukraine, Palestine and, well, the whole world. Another of my biggest fears.

With World War III being openly discussed by military experts and the media, along with even conscription – I think this should be a fear for all of us. Would I be comfortable, as a veteran myself, seeing either of my children being conscripted into the forces? Absolutely not. War is never the answer. But if it were not a choice, I would genuinely rather see them be conscripted into an EU Army than the British Army led by our own lying politicians. And that includes a government led by Starmer.

So, with dark news wherever you turn, it’s more important than ever to positively campaign for our hopes in 2024. That’s what we’ll be doing at National Rejoin March, which continues to grow and gain traction, both online and offline. It’s giving people hope and giving me hope. The team and everyone I meet along the journey helps me forget the Ed Daveys, the Sunaks and the Trumps of the world. My biggest hope of 2024, apart from for my fears not coming true, is that our collective hope will begin to translate into action by our politicians.

n the February newsletter we will be featuring Prof. Chris Grey who is Emeritus Professor of Business and Management Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. Since 2016 Chris has been writing the Brexit & Beyond Blog, and he is the author of Brexit Unfolded.

If you would like to submit any questions for Chris for consideration, please email them to no later than Wednesday 7 February.

Bremainers Ask 2023 highlights

Bremainers Ask 2023 highlights

What did this year’s contributors have to say about rejoining the EU?

Gina Miller: 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.


Dominic Grieve: 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.


Mike Galsworthy: 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.

Prof. Juliet Lodge: Many believe that the EU would be cautious about considering any UK application to rejoin. Do you agree?

Yes and no. Yes, because the Conservative Governments appear to have flippantly squandered achievements and wallow in toddler theatrics instead of genuinely seeking to have a constructive, working relationship with our closest allies and partners.

Yes, because there seems to have been a lack of understanding at the most basic level about how we worked when in the EU, and how the EU has worked (well) and developed progressive political agendas and policies without us. Yes, because purely from the point of view of presentation, too many Government and opposition politicians display deep ignorance about political realities in Europe and the UK’s increasingly irrelevant position in it.

And yes, because many feel that Article 50 should not be invoked frivolously in the expectation that its consequences can be overturned the moment things don’t quite accord with what the state who invoked it wanted. I feel that Article 50 should never have been included years later as an amendment to the original founding treaties. When the EU was created, there was no clause to leave it. European integration was the promise to work to solve problems together, in effect, forever.

No, because many EU leaders and politicians and officials, business and civil society representatives would welcome us back in the EU as soon as possible. Why? The UK co-created some of the greatest steps leading the EU to become what it is today: freedom of movement, the single market (warts and all), cooperation on defence and security, ErasmusPlus, health, climate, food and safety standards, police and judicial cooperation, and many more. The UK helped draft and agree some of the regulations which are acknowledged as genuine world standards, including the GDPR.

The friendship group created by Terry Reintke MEP is looking after ‘our star’ until we return to the EU as members. By then, many of those who knew the UK as a constructive EU member may have retired so we can’t just rely on them to be our advocate. But we can do our bit on a people-to-people basis to sustain, expand and deepen our links. Above all, we can show that a country outside the EU, which has a bigger pro-EU movement than any of the EU’s current members, is educated, interested, dynamic and a trustworthy partner who would add value to the EU.

It’s our job to educate ourselves in order to give our children a fighting chance of being in the EU, enjoying the opportunities that arise from having shared values and a commitment to democracy and working together with their European peers to improve the well-being of their communities. Isolation on a global stage is daft, on a regional stage it heralds oblivion.

Siobhan Benita: Do you foresee the UK rejoining the EU? If so, what would be the timescale and steps on the way?

I absolutely foresee the UK re-joining the EU. As time passes, the economic damage that Brexit has caused for the UK will become increasingly obvious and fewer and fewer people will be prepared to defend it (or even admit they voted for it). We are already seeing a shift in the narrative with papers like The Telegraph and Daily Mail running articles highlighting some of the negative consequences of Brexit. In addition, pressure for the UK to re-join will come from younger generations as they reach voting age and want to access all the freedoms that we previously enjoyed as part of EU membership.

Given that I would like us to re-join the EU tomorrow, the timescale will never be as quick as I want but I do think it’s possible for it to happen in a matter of years rather than decades. In terms of the main steps along the way, the immediate priority is to get the Tories out with tactical voting at the next general election. I also believe that we desperately need electoral reform and a move to a more proportional system should ensure that we never again have a government with so much power but so little reflection of the voting public as a whole.

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.