Bremainers Ask ….. Alexandra Hall Hall

Bremainers Ask ….. Alexandra Hall Hall

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat with over 30 years’ service, including postings to Bangkok, Washington, New Delhi, Bogota and Tbilisi, where she was the British Ambassador from 2013 – 2016.

Her most recent assignment was as Brexit Counsellor and spokesperson at the British Embassy in Washington from 2018. She resigned from that position, and from the Foreign Office altogether, in December 2019, after concluding she could no longer represent the British Government’s position on Brexit with integrity.

She is now a frequent commentator and writer on British politics and foreign policy post-Brexit.

Valerie Chaplin: Is the Conservative party now beyond redemption and what would need to happen to restore it to a less extremist position?

I do not think any political party is beyond redemption. There is always the chance to remake oneself, learn from mistakes, revise policies and adapt to new times. The usual way for this to happen is for a party to lose an election and be forced to spend many years in opposition, reflecting on why. However, as long as the Conservative party believes it has the formula for winning elections, there will be no incentive for it to change. So, it is really up to voters to send a message if they want it to change.

The Conservative party also needs to be willing to be honest to itself about the consequences of its policies. What has astonished me most about the party in recent years is less its willingness to deceive the public (though that is bad enough), but its willingness to lie even to itself.

Steve Wilson: Having worked in a variety of countries, do any of the systems of government you’ve witnessed offer lessons to the UK on how to govern well or badly?

Of course. One advantage of working overseas is that you get some distance and perspective on your own country, and how it is seen by others. You also get to observe the systems of other governments, and gain insights into what works well, or not.

For most of my career, I genuinely found the UK system compared very favourably in comparison with the governments in the countries where I was posted. In my experience, I would also say there is absolutely no failproof system for ensuring integrity and competence in government. Each country has its own traditions and structures, and what may work well in one country, might not in another. So I can’t directly suggest that any model from other countries is the right one for the UK.

Democracy at least offers a chance to throw out a government which has lost its way. But democracy is not just about elections every few years, but a whole system of delicate checks and balances which interact with each other to prevent overreach by any one branch of government. It also relies on public trust between the government and voters. Voters will forgive governments some mistakes, if they believe them to be honest ones, and based on decisions taken in good faith.

While the UK’s system has some strange anomalies (such as the unelected House of Lords) and systems which not everyone supports (e.g. FPTP) I never thought our system was fundamentally undemocratic. However, that confidence was shaken by Brexit. It was not the result of the referendum per se, but the way in which the government claimed a mandate to implement the very hardest form of Brexit, overriding the concerns of significant sectors of our economy, society and different regions of our country. It was also the government’s ability to wilfully mislead the British public about the implications, with no accountability.

What Brexit exposed is that our system is too reliant on our government acting with self-restraint, and policing itself to uphold standards of public office, including the core obligation to be honest. When this is absent, trust begins to break down, and that erodes confidence in all parts of the system. We are witnessing this breakdown in the UK.


Lawrence Baron: Have there been any changes or differences between other governments and diplomats dealing with British diplomats and British government ministers? In other words, are British diplomats as well respected as they were pre-Brexit?

British diplomats are as capable as they ever were. But British diplomacy is not. British diplomats have to work twice as hard to maintain the same position and influence as we had before. For example, we are no longer included in EU meetings, not just in Brussels, but in fora, embassies, conferences and other EU organised gatherings around the world. We are dependent on invitations, and what they choose to brief us on afterwards. We have less insight into what drives EU policy, and therefore how best to influence it. We can also no longer rely automatically on EU colleagues having our back if we get into a bilateral spat with any other country (as risks now being the case with the US over UK threats to renege on the Northern Ireland Protocol).

British diplomats also have to spend much more time defending and explaining what is going on in the UK, rather than keeping the focus on the country to which they are posted, as used to be the case. Their ability to lobby other countries on various human rights, refugee and other international legal matters is undermined by the growing perception that the UK is willing to waive its own obligations when it suits. This perception also undermines trust in the UK, and countries may become more reluctant either to engage with us, or sign formal deals with us, if they fear we may misrepresent the details, or go back on our word.

The fraying of our bonds with the EU, and the damage done to our international reputation by the way in which the government pursued Brexit, has left us more isolated on the world stage, and more vulnerable to countries no longer respecting our positions, or playing hardball with us. It’s a shame, because on many issues, such as the conflict in Ukraine, or climate change policy, the UK has genuinely had a lot to offer. But the blind spot around Brexit undermines all our other diplomatic efforts.

In short, our diplomatic hand is weakened, and other countries know it.

Keith Glazzard: You have clearly stated the role of conscience for yourself and possibly for others who decided that they could no longer serve. Can it be the case that Brexit has empowered a government without conscience?

Yes. Just as autocracies don’t spring into being overnight, but gradually erode checks and balances on their way to amassing absolute power, nor does dishonest government necessarily happen overnight. But each time a government gets away with an abuse of power, or outright lie, it is encouraged to do it again. In the case of the current British government, lying about the UK’s relationship with the EU, the costs and benefits of leaving or staying in the EU, and the implications of the various forms of Brexit open to us, has so far turned out to be an electorally successful strategy.

Serial lying has also been a successful career strategy for the Prime Minister personally, starting from when he used to tell lies about the EU when he was a journalist in Brussels. The members of the Conservative party are in turn forced to lie, to cover up his lies. So, the government and its supporters have steadily gone down a path of lying, then lying about the lying, until reaching the current state, where we do indeed have a government without conscience. As long as they keep winning elections, they will see no reason to change.

Lisa Burton: The UK government has pushed through some controversial bills in rapid succession, i.e., the Policing, ,Elections, and Borders and Nationality Bills. Do you agree these bills have deeply worrying elements and are an example of executive overreach?

Yes, I believe they are deeply worrying bills. Just as I mentioned above, autocracies don’t spring into being overnight, but chip away at the rights and freedoms of citizens, often under the guise of “protecting security” or “fighting crime”. Each measure might sound plausible or justifiable by itself, but, taken together, they add up to a fundamental erosion of liberties. By the time the electorate realises how much has been lost, and how much power the government has accumulated, it may be too late.

All the measures are worrying, but the most concerning one to me is the plan to circumscribe the powers of judicial review, because with our Head of State essentially being only a ceremonial position, so much of the press in cahoots with the government, and the government by definition able to count on a majority in parliament, the courts remain the best independent institution we have to protect against an overreaching executive. Take away judicial review, or go even further and curtail the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and what is to prevent a future government proroguing parliament, reneging on treaties, and rewriting laws to suit its own purpose at will?

However, though I personally believe the government is on a path to eroding democracy in this country, what is truly troubling is that – under our current system – it has the technical powers to do this. It is not formally executive overreach. The government’s actions just demonstrate that our current constitutional arrangements are not strong enough. There are many examples of other ostensibly democratic governments going down the same path – e.g., in Hungary, or Brazil, or the Philippines. They have the outward appearance of democracies – hold elections, allow certain limited forms of political rights, etc. – but in practice tighten their control over so many aspects of society, that they become “illiberal democracies”. This is the path the UK is on. I personally believe it is time to review our entire constitutional arrangements.

Anonymous: Was there a specific event or government policy that preceded your resignation from the FCDO or was it the result of a cumulative effect?

Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament in September 2019 was the defining moment for me. I will confess to feeling deeply uneasy when he was appointed Prime Minister (and had in fact taken a career break while he was Foreign Secretary, because I was so worried about working for such an unprincipled person, with a track record of dishonesty in both his personal and public life), but I was prepared to give it a go.

The prorogation of Parliament confirmed my worst fears – that there would be no limit to what he would be prepared to do, to drive through Brexit, even if it meant overriding the right of Parliament to scrutinize his government’s approach. From then on, it was really just a matter of time. Things just got worse from there on. I found I was simply unable to look American contacts in the eye, and deliver the messages I was instructed to deliver, as Brexit envoy in the US, with a straight face, when I knew them to be so misleading.

As I wrote in my resignation letter, it became untenable professionally, and unbearable personally, for me to continue in the role. I could have asked to be reassigned, or be allowed a career break, but that seemed the coward’s way out, given that this was a matter of conscience, about the ethics of our government, on a policy with such massive implications for our nation.

In next month’s newsletter, we will be hearing again from three former contributors to our Bremainers Ask feature, who will give us their views on recent events and the UK’s road to rejoining the EU: European Movement Chair Lord Andrew Adonis, the EM’s CEO Anna Bird, and campaigner and journalist Jon Danzig.

Bremainers Ask ……… Terry Christian

Bremainers Ask ……… Terry Christian

Terry Christian is a journalist, actor, author and award-winning radio and TV broadcaster. He has presented several national television series, including Channel 4’s The Word and 6 series of ITV’s moral issues talk show, It’s My Life. He has also been a strong critic of Brexit and the Tory government, and he’s not known for mincing his words.

Valerie Chaplin: What do you think of Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Brexit to Ukraine, and the inference that Michael Gove had a hand in the speech?

This was a ridiculous thing to say. Ukraine is desperate to join the EU and be free of Russian influence. Brexit will always be compared to intangible things, anything other than the real impact and how it impoverishes us, hits businesses, destroys jobs, denies opportunities, deprives us of rights, raises costs. So, expect much more of this vague drivel – Brexit is the moon landing, the conquest of Everest: it’s simply the bluster and distraction techniques of a shady conman.


Steve Wilson: Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and following Partygate, it looked like Boris Johnson would be deposed. Will Teflon-coated luck keep him in office (and win him another election) or do you think he’s still vulnerable?

I don’t think he’s Teflon. The obvious truth of being a liar and self-serving, lazy charlatan sticks. What keeps him in place is immorality, shamelessness and supine Tory MPs. This horribly exposes the huge weakness in our lack of rules and constitution. The historian Peter Hennessy put it that everything relies on a “good chap theory” of government where people do the honourable thing, so there’s no need for strict rules. Now that we have someone without shame or honour, that all breaks down – it’s akin to having an honesty box which a compulsive, amoral thief turns upside down.

Would you prefer Boris Johnson to: a) depart early, allowing the Conservatives to hit the reset button again, or b) to remain in office, in the hope that he’ll be a liability come the next election?

I understand the tactical aspect of keeping someone so tarnished in place that it may help deliver a Labour government. However, personally I find it hard to overcome my visceral loathing of the man and his acolytes and I fear what further damage he and his tenth-rate appointees, like Nadine Dorries, might do. It’s like you go to buy a house – you’re certain to pick it up for a lower price if its semi-trashed with excrement smeared on the wall – but is that what you want?


Lisa Burton: Channel 4’s, The Word, which you presented, had some hugely controversial moments. Do you think something similar could be aired now? And what was your own personal stand out moment?

It would be seen as tame now. I never liked those “controversial” moments that allowed people to humiliate themselves for sneery laughs. It was the early poison that found its apotheosis in the ugly and deadly Jeremy Kyle bear baiting.


Sue Scarrott: What do you think the Tory government has in mind for the future of the NHS and what can be done to protect it?

I think they will continue to clap for it whilst trying to flog it off to their mates – it will be salami slicing and will be spread out thinly to disguise it.

As Brexit reality bites, how can we capitalise on Brexit voters who now regret their decision?

I’m probably not the one to ask – I’d advocate dunce hats, shaved heads, sack cloth and ashes for them. For those who hold their hands up and say yes, we were conned, then I guess the best thing to do is to hope that they will arrive at a more mature view of how we positively engage with our closest neighbours and allies. But even for those regretful Brexiteers, I have a feeling that once a mark, always a mark, and they will always be easy meat for yet more flag waving, foreigner-bashing conmen and grifters like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.


Derek Ironside: Do you think Labour’s best chance of success in the next General Election is with a “Progressive Alliance”?

Yes, but it may need to be a subtle nod and a wink agreement. The Tory strategy of only needing the hard-core hard-of-thinking, a smattering of bigots, and allowing the progressives to split their vote, needs to be challenged.


Ajay Lanyon: Should Labour support closer ties with the EU, e.g. by advocating for single market/customs union membership?

I suspect the best thing is to drift back over time, to get closer to the EEA. I also suspect that, if Europe had someone they loathe less than Johnson to deal with, they could be quite amenable to being more accommodating and flexible.

Helen Johnston: Tory MP Julian Knight questions if the Government’s privatisation of Channel 4 is being done for revenge for Channel 4’s “biased coverage of Brexit and personal attacks on the PM”. Do you think this is true, and would privatizing Channel 4 reduce the range of independent reporting on politics in the UK?

Yes – it’s a mixture of revenge and cultural vandalism – so pettiness and stupidity. To find the dumbest, most pig-ignorant MP possible and make them culture secretary tells you everything you need to know.

Our next Bremainers Ask contributor will be Alexandra Hall Hall. A former British diplomat with over 30 years’ service, Alexandra’s most recent assignment was as Brexit Counsellor and spokesperson at the British Embassy in Washington. She resigned from that position in December 2019, after concluding she could no longer represent the British Government’s position on Brexit with integrity.

She is now a frequent commentator and writer on British politics and foreign policy post-Brexit. In her latest article she argues that the time has come for serious discussions about reforming Britain’s political structures.

If you would like to submit a question for Alexandra, please email us no later than Saturday 7 May at

Bremainers ask……. Gavin Esler

Bremainers ask……. Gavin Esler

Gavin Esler is an award-winning television and radio broadcaster, novelist and journalist. He is the holder of a Royal Television Society award, a Sony Gold (radio) award, and two Lovie awards for his podcast series about Vladimir Putin, The Big Steal. He is the author of five novels and four non-fiction books, most recently, “How Britain Ends – English Nationalism and the Re-birth of Four Nations”.

Mike Thomas: If we were to re-run the 2016 referendum, how would it be possible or practical to present accurate information and stop one side using and amplifying lies to dissuade/persuade voters?

Well, what is done is done. Any re-run referendum would have to be on rejoining the EU and in one sense it would be easier. People are much more suspicious of lies in political life, and the Brexit bunch have failed to come up with any – any – significant Brexit “opportunity”. Unfortunately, however, rejoining the EU would be fraught with difficulties. We might even be at the back of the queue behind Moldova, Albania and Ukraine.

 Tracy Rolfe: Do you see a route to EU membership for the UK? If so, what is it and what would be the timescale?

I dislike referendums intensely and would suggest that at the next general election it would be possible for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to put a line in their manifestoes saying they would work together with other parties for a better relationship with the EU – and move to rejoin the Single Market and Customs Union without a referendum.

Pat Kennedy: Why do you think Change UK had so little support in the 2019 European elections, when half the country didn’t want to leave the EU and Brexit negotiations were not going well?

It is very difficult in the UK to break the two-party system, despite the fact that the only other country which elects its legislature in such an idiotic way is Belarus. And it is an England problem. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have PR systems in their devolved administrations. The party of protest in 2019 was that of the Lib Dems and they – rightly – did very well. Breaking the system – a failed system – depends upon achieving PR I think. Oh, and we had no party organisation or funds either, just enthusiasm!

 Valerie Chaplin: With the terrible conflict in Ukraine, will Boris Johnson and colleagues get away with not being held to account over Partygate etc?

Possibly. But some of us will not forget. And moreover, the Putin style is to lie constantly. In that sense Trump, Johnson and other so-called populist leaders are Putin’s fellow travellers. Johnson has been lucky for a long time. I know many Conservatives, however, who utterly despise him.

Ruth Woodhouse: I understand that you have been a voice for Led By Donkeys. Do you consider that their projects have had any measurable effect?

I think Led By Donkeys have proved that many of us are willing to consider information sources which are not part of the mainstream. I think that they have proved so far to be utterly reliable in asserting merely the facts about Brexit, Cummings, Russian money in our political system, etc., and therefore I give them my support when I can.

Steve Wilson: Would you ever consider another attempt at becoming a politician?

Never say never, but I cannot see it under the two-party system. And remember, each part of the UK votes for a different ‘biggest’ party – SNP in Scotland; DUP (or soon Sinn Fein) in Northern Ireland; Labour in Wales and Conservatives in England. My book ‘How Britain Ends’ is not a recommendation but an observation that Westminster politics has failed to unite the “United” Kingdom.

 Lisa Burton: The BBC is often under attack, from the left, the right and from government. Since your days at the BBC, have you noticed any changes in the way it reports and analyses political topics, or are these attacks a consequence of the culture wars?

Not really, no. I have noticed greater polarisation and ludicrous attacks on the Corporation especially from those who witter endlessly about “Global Britain” and yet have tarnished one of our best brands.

 Andy Hawker: Britain as a cultural project is going through a very tough time and BREXIT has exacerbated this. Do you think events like Unboxed will help to restore the British narrative or simple drive a deeper wedge between the nations? Is there anything that could bring the UK together again?

Various Royal weddings and the 2012 Olympics did not pull us together for very long. I doubt if the re-badged Festival of Brexit will do much when the “British narrative” has been so tarnished by a British government which speaks mainly for the English heartland. I cannot name any current Westminster politician from an English constituency who speaks for the union of the UK in any credible way in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Where is the Thatcher of today? Or not merely the Churchill but Arthur Greenwood? (Arthur is a hero of mine from 1939 when he spoke for England – and all of the UK – worth Googling him).


Coming next month, we are delighted to be featuring journalist, actor, author and award-winning radio and TV broadcaster, Terry Christian. Terry has been a strong critic of Brexit, and the Tory government, and he doesn’t mince his words. If you wish to contribute to next month’s Bremainers Ask, please send your question(s) to no later than Wednesday 6 April.

Bremainers Ask – Will Hutton – February 2022

Bremainers Ask – Will Hutton – February 2022

Will Hutton is a political economist, author and columnist. He is currently President of the Academy of Social Sciences, writes a fortnightly column for the Observer and co-chairs the Purposeful Company. An associate of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and member of the Independent Commission on UK-EU relations, he is also a Non-Executive Director of the Satellite Applications Catapult.


David Eldridge: Do you think Brexit will ever be reversed? If so, what timescale and stages do you foresee in the process?

The logic of geography, economics and security, along with the depth of the relationships built up over our 45-year membership, will force a rapprochement with the EU – and as soon as 2025 when the Trade and Cooperation Agreement is reviewed and potentially renegotiated. Already some leading Brexiters are privately acknowledging that the alarming drop in UK exports to the EU (down £20 billion in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit 2019) cannot be compensated by the thin, asymmetrically unfair trade deals with Australasia, Japan and Mexico that do little for services, where the UK is strong. They concede that one way or another the UK has to have the same access to the single market as it did pre-2016.

The force of impending economic stagnation in 2023 and 2024 is not widely understood – a perfect storm of squeezed living standards, higher interest rates, disappointing investment growth, falling inward direct investment and ballooning trade deficit. The current Brexit deal is central to this story. The litany of industries suffering – from whisky to aviation, music and banking – will demand a reappraisal.

At the same time, it is obvious that Russia’s actions in Ukraine require a collective European response: Britain finds itself outside the crucial meetings in Brussels where everything from sanctions to military assistance is being discussed. Tories like Tom Tugendhat, Tobias Ellwood and Ben Wallace recognise this reality and want it changed. Equally Jacob Rees-Mogg’s desperate search for “opportunities” 6 years after Brexit, most of which involve expensive and trade limiting regulatory divergence, is self-evidently self-defeating and futile. He is one of the best adverts for the European cause we have.

So I am expecting the UK to attempt a bespoke EEA arrangement alongside stronger security collaboration in 2025. The open question is to what extent will the EU want to bargain with us? In many respects the UK’s loss is their gain. My hope is that with a different Prime Minister, the EU would negotiate in good faith – a massive boost for EU’s standing and internal cohesion.

Beyond that it is hard to say. I hope this improved relationship becomes the step to full rejoining – I will work for that. But this half in, half out settlement (in a way where we were pre 2016), although unstable, may prove semi-permanent – unless the mass of British people start to realise our vocation must be European, persuaded by economic stagnation and defence insecurity. We live in right-wing, nationalist times, but as that tide recedes as it is beginning to do, new opportunities arise. What is obvious, is that global Britain is a chimera. We are part of Europe. So never say never. Brexit will be partially reversed in the mid-2020s – and maybe fully reversed in the 2030s. Indeed, there is growing panic in Brexit ranks that this will happen.

Helen Johnston: Keir Starmer recently said there is no case for rejoining the EU – “we have to make Brexit work. We are out and we’re staying out”. Labour have also ruled out a return to the single market or customs union. Is this a wise strategy at this time?

The Labour party nearly collapsed in 2019 over Corbynism and Brexit, and then won its lowest number of MPs since 1935 in a general election. Its confidence is shattered, and unless it can regain seats in the Midlands and North it is finished as a competitor for government. Everything Starmer says has to be viewed through that prism.

Yes, we need braver leadership, but we also need voters’ readiness to listen to the pro EU case. They will be readier to do this in 2023 and 2024 – see my answer above – and as a result I expect Starmer to start talking about “fixing” Brexit with more vigour. I suspect he wants a renegotiated TCA along the lines I set out above. His comment should be read as him being ready afterwards to live with the resulting half in half out settlement – not that he thinks the current deal and relationship are stable. Voters outside university towns and our big cities remain very Eurosceptic, and any movement is glacially slow. I want better, but understand why he takes the stance he does. As opinion moves, so will he.


Ruth Woodhouse: I understand that you are a member of The Independent Commission on UK-EU relations. Could you explain the Commission’s purpose and what your particular personal focus is?

It is to make practical, evidence-based suggestions about how the TCA can be vastly improved, ready to arm the Opposition parties and Tory realists with key arguments and concrete proposals when they are needed – and in the process call out regulatory divergence as a wrong turning. We aim to make it harder for the government to think there are no costs in being fiercely Europhobe over everything from Horizon to Northern Ireland. Btw, if NI can stay in both the single market and UK market, it is likely to enjoy a small economic boom! 

My own interests are regulatory divergence and peoples’ freedom to move round Europe. If Bremainers in Spain would like to support our work financially, donations are very welcome.

Lisa Burton: What, or who do you see as the greatest threat to the cohesion and stability of the European Union in the near future. Is it Russia, China, or the populist forces within some of the individual countries themselves?

External threats tend to bring people together. I think the debacle of Brexit and the menace of Russia and China have persuaded European publics to see the value of the EU more – even within right-wing Poland and Hungary. Neither countries will want to hazard their membership at the moment! Equally, the EU covid recovery plan has shown the worth of the EU, so that in Italy Euroscepticism is in retreat. However, rising inflation will highlight the differences between price stability oriented Germany, Austria, Holland and Finland – and the rest in the eurozone. This is a major and rising concern.

Valerie Chaplin: Which is more dangerous, Johnson staying or Johnson going

Johnson is too gored and compromised to fight the next election: I expect him to be gone within a year. His successor will almost certainly be Rishi Sunak. It is fashionable to regard him as highly effective. My own hunch is that it won’t matter. The Tories are going to do badly at the next election, (for the reasons set out in my first answer), and my expectation is that we will have a minority Labour government supported by the LibDems on a supply and motion basis.


Steven Wilson: In all your years of political reporting, have you ever seen anything close to the endemic levels of corruption of the current administration?

No. It is a corruption born of arrogance – they feel unthreatened by Labour. It now runs very deep – appointments, seats in the Lords, public contracts, tax and regulation policy to favour donors. We have had some of this before – but not all simultaneously and at such scale.

Andy Hawker: We are seeing the consequences of Britain not having a written constitution and rulebook by which the country is run. As the Tory government have changed the landscape with widespread abuse and unaccountability, do you think now is the time for Britain to upgrade its democracy 1.0 with a written constitution as seen in other European nations?

Yes, and I think the triggers will be the death of the Queen and the introduction of a fairer voting system. Only Belarus (and to a degree Hungary) have first past the post voting systems.

Thank you all for your questions – I’ve run of time, so apologies for brevity towards the end. Be confident that Britain is inextricably part of the European family of nations. We will reclaim our place, probably in the 2030s. Hope to meet you all in person one day.

Best, Will



Next month we will be featuring presenter, journalist and author, Gavin Esler. If you would like to submit a question, please contact us at: no later than Friday 4 March.
Bremainers Ask Revisited – Part 6 – January 2022

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Part 6 – January 2022

This month we asked 5 former MEPs, and previous contributors to Bremainers Ask, to give us their take on the current state of British politics and Brexit. This is what they had to say ……

Catherine Bearder – former LibDem MEP & leader of the LibDems in the EU

Now semi-retired, Catherine is active as a board member for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and

Unlock Democracy. She maintains strong connections to the Liberal Democrats, having recently been

elected Chair of the South Central region.

As MEPs many of us worked to stop or reverse Brexit. We would often say, “This is like a slow car crash. We can see the brick wall coming”. We tried so hard to stop it, but we lost and Brexit came about.

So, as Brexit unfolds two years on, I am changing my mind about it being a car crash. Not about Brexit, that will always be a disaster, but that it is actually not a car crash, more a nightmare journey.

Brexit feels to me much more like a lurch off the road onto an uncharted dirt track in what was once a smart, well-maintained car. We had all been journeying along together on the EU autobahn. We were sure of the road ahead and the benefits it would bring. So, our European colleagues and friends stayed on the sensible autobahn, they may have the odd near miss, but generally their direction is organised and safe, whilst we in Britain have turned off into the unknown. Our driver, Uncle Boris, shouts that he knows what’s best for us all, and that this is a great short cut to the sunlit uplands that he promised.

We all got caught in the storm of Covid, we Brits on our dirt track and the Europeans on the autobahn, just as we will be caught in the storm of climate change, but I’m pretty sure I know who will recover better and quicker and have a safer journey.

Little old UK will keep hitting potholes, the springs will break and the journey will become more and more unpleasant. Some of our passengers, Aunty Scotland and Cousin Ulster, may insist on getting out and running back to the EU autobahnto hitch a lift with others. But as long as Uncle Boris, Aunty Liz and their chums are controlling our car we will get slower and take longer to recover from Covid, and we will all be left hoping that the wheels won’t actually fall off, which will leave us stranded.

So, like so many others, I stopped being at the heart of Brexit at the point of Brexit. Like so many others I have been told to stay at home and stay safe.  I’ve felt so frustrated with only Twitter, Zoom and Netflix for company. I felt more and more powerless to help those that I know will be affected by Brexit, those Europeans who chose to live elsewhere and who still find their futures drastically affected, those young people whose opportunities have been reduced, those businesses who now find their costs skyrocketing due to the extra costs that Brexit has brought.

But I’m not defeated, as campaigning slowly starts to happen face-to-face again. I know we need to keep fighting to regain our place in the EU, and that’s what I will do. I believe we will do this in stages. By rejoining Erasmus and, gradually, the multitude of agencies, finally the Customs Union and Single Market, and by reforming our own democracy, till eventually we can ask, very, very nicely, if we can return.

There is a slipway back onto that safer, sensible EU road a way down this dirt track, we just need to watch for the signs and make sure that we have a different driver who has the sense to take us all back onto that EU road.

Molly Scott Cato – former Green Party MEP for SW England & Gibraltar

After the end of her role as an MEP, Molly returned to her academic life as a Professor of Green Economics and is closely monitoring any risk to environmental and climate standards as a result of Brexit. She has become active in the European Movement and was elected Vice Chair in December.

Molly Scott Cato MEP

After nearly four years of fighting Brexit, I came back to the UK utterly exhausted and incredibly sad. Ever since the referendum result, I have been wondering how the lies would unravel and what the damage would be to our politics. The past few years have demonstrated that clearly.

I have to confess that having been completely focused on my work as an MEP and making really important changes in terms of policy on climate, sustainable finance and other issues dear to my heart, it was very difficult to think of the best way to work in the interests of my country.

I chose to join the European Movement as the organisation most likely to lead us back into EU membership. But as many of us have found over the years, it is an organisation that has not lived up to its past glories and has been in urgent need of change. I’m proud to say I’m part of that change now, having been elected as vice chair shortly before Christmas.

I was also asked by the chair, Andrew Adonis, to conduct a diversity review to make sure that the European Movement truly represents the society that we will be when we re-join the EU. We have changed our constitution so that we have guaranteed that women and people of colour will be fairly represented in the organisation, and we are now expanding to become the mass movement we need to be to campaign for rejoin.

Brexit was such a painful process for the UK that many people have buried the memory and don’t want to think about it anymore, even though surveys show that more and more people recognise that they have not seen the benefits they were promised. Others, like the fisherman and farmers I represented in the South West, have seen the destruction to their livelihoods that the Remain campaign said was an inevitable consequence of leaving the single market.

The collapse of the Johnson regime under the weight of its own lies changes the rules of the game with regard to Brexit. First as a journalist and then as a politician, Johnson used lies about the EU as his stock in trade. The Brexiteers would not have won the referendum without Johnson as liar-in-chief. Now that he is revealed as a charlatan and a liar, it is time to reopen the question of whether the decision to leave the EU was the right one for the country.

Richard Corbett – former Labour Party MEP & leader of the Labour Party in the EU

Richard is currently representing the European Parliament in the secretariat of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Historically, British public opinion has sometimes shifted radically against something of great national importance that initially it supported: think of the 1938 Munich Agreement, the 1956 Suez fiasco or the 2003 intervention in Iraq.

What they have in common is that the assurances that were given – that they were the best course of action, relatively easy, and without negative consequences for Britain – proved to be completely wrong, with the public constantly and visibly reminded of that as subsequent events unfolded.

Might that happen with Brexit? After all, there is a similar gradual realisation that the promised sunlit uplands are not appearing, with new evidence and examples emerging every month to rub it in. On top of that, it is perhaps even clearer in the case of Brexit than in the aforementioned cases that its advocates were deliberately misleading the public – indeed blatantly lying to them.

Already, public opinion has not done what many had expected, namely, to rally behind the decision to leave the EU. Both following the referendum result (when many Remainer politicians, including the entire leadership of both main parties, declared that the result had to be accepted, despite its narrowness and questions about how it was secured) and again following actual departure from the EU, opinion has not rallied behind the decision but edged the other way. It has done so despite no prominent serving politician (in England at least) arguing the case anymore and despite the overwhelmingly pro-Brexit media.

The demographics of public support are also favourable, with younger generations being particularly unconvinced by Brexit.

As the drip, drip, drip of negative impacts continues, it is likely that opinion will continue to shift in that direction. And if prominent opposition politicians decide that there is mileage in this and start actually making the case that Brexit was a national error, then there is every chance that it will become the received wisdom.

When that happens, it will make things easier for a future Prime Minister to set Britain on a course to rebuild our fractured relations with our neighbours, repair the damage of Brexit and ultimately take back our lost seat in the EU.

Seb Dance – former Labour Party MEP

Seb will shortly be taking over the role of Deputy Mayor of London for Transport.

Happy New Year! It seems astonishing that two years have already passed since that fateful day when Britain finally, and much for the worse, left the EU. I will never forget the days of grim inevitability in between the General Election of 2019 and the final exit date, as the cadre of pro-EU British MEPs attempted to carry on their function of scrutinising European legislation whilst simultaneously trying to manage the fact that our entire worldview – indeed our very professional purpose – had just collapsed.

I will also never forget the huge warmth and solidarity from the many, many colleagues from the other 27 member states and from across the political spectrum. We might have just been made redundant by the electorate but we had never been made to feel more welcome by our friends.

Since then, everything has changed, but so too has nothing. Everything in the sense that all of our worlds have been turned upside down. Like everyone else we have been largely confined to our homes to keep the pandemic at bay. It’s quite a contrast from travelling twice a week to and from Brussels and Strasbourg. I was lucky in that I managed to have the foresight to book a long holiday just after we left. Little did I know it was to be my last long journey for a while!

But in many ways, nothing has changed at all. The government is still pretending it signed a completely different deal to the one we all fought very hard. They continue to deny the impact of Brexit on the UK’s place in the world, its economy, or its citizens. Their new tactic appears to be to not even mention it, in the hope that the raft of problems it throws up can be blamed on something else entirely. This is our biggest contemporary political challenge.

I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life. I will shortly become the new Deputy Mayor of London for Transport; a role which I am honoured to be asked to fulfil. I still believe London to be the best place in the world, and I want to do all I can to keep it that way.

In whatever path we choose for ourselves, pro-Europeans must keep the pressure up in the UK and across the EU. We are only scratching the surface of Brexit’s impact on peoples’ lives and, once the effects of the pandemic become less immediate, the impact of Brexit will hit harder. If the Brexiters’ plan to ignore it succeeds, we will have no explanation for people as to why life is getting harder, and we will have no concrete solutions to offer them.

There is nothing inevitable about Britain staying out of the EU, just as there was nothing inevitable about Britain staying in. If we are serious about finding proper solutions to real problems then we will have no choice but to confront the reality of Brexit. I’m frustrated by the apparent lack of willingness to do that in the UK, but I also believe in the inherent unsustainability of nonsense. Sure, it might seem superficially attractive at first. But anything built on lies and subterfuge will – like a house of cards – come tumbling down eventually.

Julie Ward – former Labour Party MEP

Over the past two years, Julie has continued to support pro-EU groups at home and abroad, and campaigns for electoral reform. She is on the board of Culture Action Europe and is Arts Lead on an education project for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.  She is also a director of the UK’s national festival of sustainability, the Festival of Thrift. Julie is actively involved in climate change campaigns, such as Culture Declares Emergency, and is co-founder of a campaign to close down a abhorrent detention centre for female asylum seekers in County Durham.

The effects of a hard-right Tory Brexit have been largely masked by Covid. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility stated that Brexit will be responsible for a 4% reduction in GDP with the pandemic adding a further 2% to this sorry statistic. As usual, the poorest will pay the greatest price, with household costs set to rise astronomically in the coming months.

Roaming charges are being reinstated by most mobile phone providers and supply chains have been affected by the introduction of new customs checks. Meanwhile young people are denied the freedom to live, work and study across the EU, with the loss of Erasmus+ being perhaps the meanest act of betrayal by Boris Johnson’s government. The Turing Scheme is a miserable replacement which fails to deliver an equivalent breadth of benefits. In true Tory style the contract for managing Turing has just been outsourced to private company Capita, who were responsible for huge defence, education, health and benefits administration failures, including the cervical cancer screening scandal.

‘Get Brexit Done’ was a simplistic, populist slogan that appealed to a weary citizenry but Brexit is far from done, and ongoing spats between the UK and EU regarding the Northern Ireland protocol demonstrate the limits for wiggle room in a rules-based world. I knew it would all come down to dead meat, and the so-called ‘sausage wars’ were a point in case. However, the EU is an honest if pedantic broker, whereas successive UK Brexit ministers have all played fast and loose with the law. Lord Frost couldn’t be bothered to turn up to parliamentary committee meetings to give an account of his (lack of) progress regarding touring visas for musicians, and Liz Truss seems to have conveniently forgotten all the reasons why she backed the Remain campaign.

We are in a sorry state and have become the laughing stock of the world. Far from being ‘world leading’, we are verging on becoming a failed state. Our PM is an acknowledged serial liar funded by Russian oligarchs and climate-change deniers, now at war with his own party. By the time you read this we may know the results of Sue Gray’s enquiry into Downing Street parties. Johnson might even be forced to give up the premiership but, as Jonathan Freedland recently wrote in the Guardian, the Conservative Party is infected by a virus called Brexit.

Despite this catalogue of disasters, I remain hopeful that the next generation will rise to the challenge of rehabilitating our once-great country, using campaigning skills learned from #FridaysForFuture and taking us back to the heart of Europe where we belong.


Coming soon …………

In next month’s Bremainers Ask, we will be featuring Will Hutton, Observer columnist. Will is a regular contributor to pro-EU campaign group activities and a critical commentator on Brexit. If you would like to contribute a question for consideration, please email: no later than Sunday 6 February.


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:

Check out Jon’s Facebook journalism page here: