Bremainers Ask ….. Ian Dunt

Bremainers Ask ….. Ian Dunt

Ian Dunt is editor of, author of Brexit: What The Hell Happens Now? and a host on the Remainiacs podcast. His new book, How To Be A Liberal, is out later this year.


Ruth Woodhouse :Do you feel that the current coronavirus situation is bringing countries together or, especially in the case of the UK, driving them further apart?

This is a fascinating question. The reality is it does both. Taking the downside first: borders are closed, all over the world. It’s hard to get a more obvious example of national distancing than that. And on a less obvious level, some of the squabbles seen in Europe this month over the financial response, for instance on mutualised debt, have brought back the euro zone crisis demons and revealed that deep split between fiscally conservative countries and the rest. That has the capacity to do much more damage to Europe than Brexit has.

But there are reasons to be positive too. All countries face the same threat and share the same purpose under Covid-19. It is only by seeing what works in other countries and emulating them that we can succeed. So there is a chance here, if we take it, to make the case for internationalism – for countries working together to share expertise, equipment, and evidence.

Roy Stonebridge: It seems almost inevitable that we will arrive at the end of 2020, in the midst of a virus led global recession. How could UK possibly contemplate any changes to the trading arrangements with the EU in such circumstances?

Well if the government was half-way sane it would not consider this. But then, if it was halfway sane, it wouldn’t have got us in this position in the first place. People often assume that No.10 will be sensible if the crunch comes, but pretty much all the evidence of the last few years suggests that’s unlikely.

However, there are a few differences this time. Some leading Brexiters have expressed support for extension. To be honest, probably the best way of achieving an extension is for Remainers to not demand it. If it gets folded into the culture war, it’ll be lost.

One thing is true though: you can judge the government’s Covid-19 response by the Brexit extension. If they do not request an extension, they are doing Covid-19 wrong. This disease should be demanding all their time. If they have any capacity for anything else, they have not understood the magnitude of it.

Christine Jones:If it hadn’t been for Brexit, what might you have been doing for the last 4 years?

Oh God. The lost opportunities. More time down the pub, more time reading books, less time reading about the allocation of fish stocks in the European quota system.

Ian with Gina Miller

I used to write about other liberal issues: Drug policy reform, free speech, immigration, civil liberties, prison policy. I miss that. Not enough journalists cover it, so when you drift off, you feel you’re letting the side down. But unfortunately, there’s no chance of getting back to it any time soon. The nationalist wave is not receding. And anyone who believes in liberalism, reason and internationalism owes it to themselves to stand up against it. To be honest, as long as we can hold our head up high in a few years’ time and say that we played our part in trying to stop this thing, we’ll be able to consider it time well spent.

Tracy Rolfe: What impact do you think Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader will have on our medium- to long-term chances of rejoining the EU?

Potentially significant. He is electable. That’s not to say he will be elected, but at least he can be, which is more than we can say about the last Labour leader. He is also a Remainer. He has done enough, over the last few years, to earn our trust on that. If he sees an opportunity to rejoin, he will take it.

But the best thing we can do to make that happen is to lay off him. There should be no pressure for any attempt to rejoin in the short term. We should be aiming to make sure rejoin is a manifesto commitment in the election after next. And that can be done.

As my colleague on Remainiacs, Naomi Smith, says: ‘The first rule of Rejoin club is you do not talk about Rejoin club.’


Lisa Ryan Burton: Do you think Keir Starmer will face the same level of criticism from the British media that Jeremy Corbyn faced, or will his background and character make it much more difficult for the press to paint him in such a negative way?

He will face much less. There are very simple reasons for this. He does not seem to actively dislike Britain. He has basic competence. This seems obvious, but the previous leader was seemingly incapable of it.

However, he will still be attacked. The press are largely – outside of the Guardian, the Times and the FT – cheerleaders for Boris Johnson. That won’t change. They’ll look to undermine Starmer. If he’s clever though, he can sidestep this. And the way to do it is to speak over their heads, utilise the opportunities offered by impartiality rules on broadcasters, not treat the media as a tribal enemy, and triangulate the government position – try to turn the debate on issues in which you appeal to their base in order to expand the opportunities you have in your own territory.

Sue Wilson and Ian Dunt

Stewart Luscott-Evans: Has the coronavirus pandemic changed your views about Brexit in any way, or has it reinforced your beliefs?

Neither really. Brexit still seems a bloody silly idea. But it’s not like the EU response has been so magnificent that it particularly helps in the other direction either.

If anything it makes me worry about how the EU handles its own Covid-19 crisis. It must do better this time than it did in the bond crisis. It must demonstrate solidarity, the basic principle on which it is based. There’ve been a few examples of that – Macron’s rhetoric, Merkel’s use of equipment provision. But the efforts by Germany and the Netherlands to kill off attempts at really broad-ranging mutualisation of debt measures doesn’t bode well. It’s not enough to smuggle compromises into haphazard initiatives which go under the radar. It needs big visible measures that don’t just work, but are seen to work.

For decades now, national leaders have been able to claim credit for the good things the EU does, and blame it for whatever they don’t like. The EU facilitates this by stuffing big projects into boringly titled stability mechanisms and the like. That has to stop. They need to fix the policy. And they need to fix the way the policy is presented. The severity of the crisis provides a moment in which to achieve that, in a really eye-opening and effective way. I hope they take it. Although I must say that the early indications are not good.

Many thanks to Ian for taking part. Next month we talk to Jessica Simor QC. 

Bremainers Ask ……. Revisited Part Three

Bremainers Ask ……. Revisited Part Three

With the changing political landscape, Bremain invited former contributors to our Bremainers Ask feature for their thoughts on the subject. Before the current coronavirus crisis, we asked them to comment on where we are now, how they see things moving forward and what we pro-Europeans should be focusing on in the future.

Last month, we brought you the thoughts of Harry Shindler, MBE, Kyle Taylor & Steve Bray. Here is the final instalment, & grateful thanks to all our contributors.


Professor Michael Dougan

EU Law Expert, Liverpool University




Prof Michael Dougan

On paper, Boris Johnson may have “got Brexit done”: the UK is no longer a Member State of the European Union.  But in practice, many of the real questions about future relations between the UK and the EU remain to be settled.

On the one hand, the UK Government under Boris Johnson has at least pulled free of the excruciating period when leading Leave campaigners, and then the administration of Theresa May, promised all things to all people and either believed or pretended that that could ever possibly happen in reality.  The current UK position on future relations with the EU is at least possessed of greater internal coherence and demonstrates a higher level of political realism.

On the other hand, the cost of such clarity is that the UK Government is driving headlong towards a serious rupture in relations with the EU – a far cry from many of the Leave fantasies made back in 2016 and repeated consistently thereafter – and crucially, that will be true regardless of whether there is a deal or whether there is none.  The British decision to rule out any transitional extension only exacerbates the situation by making “two regulatory changes” more likely in due course.  And of course, there remains a shocking contradiction between Johnson’s propaganda about “Global Britain” as the champion of free trade versus the reality of a Government poised to commit the single gravest act of economic segregation in modern history.

Besides the damage which will inevitably flow from the UK’s decision deliberately to dislocate and distance itself from the Union, that choice also has various important internal consequences for the UK itself: for example, the customs tensions affecting Northern Ireland will only grow in proportion to the degree of Great Britain’s divergence from Union law; and the same is true as regards the management of internal trade between England, Scotland and Wales.  But most of all: why is the Johnson Government so obsessed with the power to diverge from Union regulatory standards, many of which are only minimum in nature and do not prevent the UK from pursuing higher levels of protection?  Perhaps “taking back control” is just an exercise in nationalist political rhetoric.  But it seems more likely that the Tories do indeed harbour a dream of dismantling the UK’s adherence to Europe’s distinctive socio-economic model.

Moreover, the UK’s increasingly abrasive approach to the future relationship also poses serious challenges for the EU itself.  Above all: the risk of an aggressive competitor on its very doorstep, actively undertaking market deregulation and encouraging social dumping as an alternative economic model; as well as constantly engaging in attempts to undermine the political unity and solidarity of the Member States – with the UK’s post-withdrawal but still essentially Leave-driven leadership potentially motivated by the belief that the relative success of their precious Brexit can best or indeed only be demonstrated by the relative failure of the equally hated EU.  Even looking beyond the current generation of Tory politicians in office: the further and harder the UK does drift away from the European fold, the more difficult life will eventually be, even for a new administration more sympathetic to close relations with or indeed renewed membership of the Union.

For readers of this newsletter, it is also bitterly disappointing to see that the question of onward movement rights across the EU27 even for those UK nationals protected under the Withdrawal Agreement are not explicitly on the negotiating agenda – despite the two parties having repeatedly claimed that the issue would indeed be addressed in their “future partnership” talks.  It may take some noisy lobbying to make sure the issue doesn’t just drop off the agenda (again).

Seb Dance

Seb Dance

Labour politician, former MEP



So here we are. And we thought Brexit was bad enough. In fact, it was so bad that, having had quite enough of the dramatic highs and lows of the past three years my husband and I booked a trip as soon as I left the European Parliament to get away from it all. It was great! We had a fantastic time at the beach, the pool and an overland trip down the Malay Peninsula. I briefly forgot about the pain of losing the fight against Brexit and the sheer stress of it all. I remember joking one evening that whatever came next couldn’t be as bad as all that!

Fast-forward a few weeks and I am writing this on the eve of what is a likely announcement from the Prime Minister that we will have to stay indoors for the foreseeable future, an order that I know has already been in place in Spain for some time. We are afraid to go out, we give every passer-by a very wide berth. On the few occasions we do venture out we put on disposable latex gloves and a facemask – as much to protect anyone we come into contact with as ourselves.

We are living through something that is not just extraordinary, but which has profound consequences for our future. It is a global crisis, which will be far worse than 2008 in its impact. We must not let the UK government off the hook by letting them absorb the impact of Brexit into that of COVID-19, hoping no-one will notice. It would be reckless in the extreme to strangle a nascent recovery by pursuing an ideological agenda at a time when we need consensus and clear thinking to prepare us for the future.

Right now, we need to look after ourselves and our loved ones. We will get through this. And when we do, we must never give up on our fight: to create a world where we don’t divide each other on the basis of nationality but one where we are free to live our lives where we want, the way we want.


Many thanks to all of our Bremainers Ask contributors who have taken part in our Revisited series. Bremainers Ask will be back next month with Ian Dunt, Editor of and host of Remainiacs

Bremainers Ask ….Naomi Smith, CEO Best for Britain

Bremainers Ask ….Naomi Smith, CEO Best for Britain

Naomi Smith has been CEO of Best for Britain since June 2019, having previously served as its COO.

Immediately before joining Best for Britain, Naomi was Executive Director of Campaigns at the business lobby group London First, where she organised the group’s campaign to stay in the EU, at the 2016 EU Referendum.

Naomi previously spent 15 years working in finance and accounting for companies including Arthur Andersen, Deloitte and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, as well as chairing voluntary groups.

Naomi also co-hosts the very popular Remainiacs podcast.

Many thanks to Naomi for taking part in our Bremainers Ask feature. Here are her answers to your questions:

Pat Kennedy: What can we all best do to make this Government accountable for the disaster that is Brexit?

Naomi Smith: Brexit is not done yet and, with the world in crisis, it’s more important than ever that we encourage the Government to delay the Brexit process, to give both Britain and our EU friends a realistic timetable with which to work.

Political accountability comes at the ballot box but, thanks to our first-past-the-post electoral system, Britain is a Remain country with a Leave Government. As fervent internationalists, our time is best spent working to ensure Britain and Europe remain as close as possible, with a view to rejoining the EU at some point in the future.

It is far better to act positively, making the strongest possible case for European integration, than find ourselves brooding about how to take revenge for the Brexit fiasco. To turn things around, we need to bring even more voters on side so that, come the next opportunity to hold the Government to account in an election, we have the upper hand.

In short, putting a pro-European Government in power would be the best possible way of holding all of Westminster to account – but not to ‘get our own back’. Rather, because that is what we believe is best for Britain.

Michael Soffe: Will Best for Britain throw their full weight behind any movement to Rejoin the EU?

Naomi Smith:  The EU has many totemic elements for us: human rights, freedom of movement, internationalism, to name but three. Protecting these elements amid the current chaos is of the utmost importance.

We remain committed to the ideals of the EU and, ultimately, to putting Britain back at the heart of Europe.

The last few years have been tough for Remainers. The Brexit referendum result was a body-blow, and I was certainly not the only person to be left in tears when that result became clear.

The recent General Election was also a chastening experience – we helped encourage millions of citizens to vote tactically, for pro-EU candidates, but that was not enough. The huge marches, the remarkable campaigns, the fact that the majority of voters backed pro-EU parties … none of that was enough.

When the time is right, the fight to rejoin is a fight we will be at the front of. It should be at a time of our choosing, on a battleground of our choice. The lessons of the last few years must be learned, and we must find a way back to Europe’s top table.

Our Chair, Sue, with Naomi at the March for Change, London, July 2019

Steven Wilson: Do you think that the current coronavirus crisis makes an extension to the Brexit transition period more likely, perhaps even inevitable?

Naomi Smith: By the time you read this, an extension may well have been agreed. It is neither reasonable nor desirable to expect the EU divorce process to be completed by December 31st, and nor is it acceptable for Brexit to be a distraction from battling coronavirus.

With civil servants reportedly being diverted from No Deal planning to coronavirus work, and with a Prime Minister facing the pressures of daily virus press conferences and Cobra meetings, it is clear that the system is being hugely stressed from top to bottom.

Coronavirus must take precedence – it is a global threat, after all, while Brexit is a much more localised disaster. It will take everything we have to get through the covid-19 pandemic, leaving Britain – and the EU – unable to focus properly on Brexit.

The 31st December Brexit deadline was always exceedingly ambitious, driven by the Government’s political will rather than any pragmatic reading of the challenges of divorcing us from the EU.

Now, it is patently ludicrous, and also unfair on all of those involved in the process. Videoconferencing is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, or the discussions that go on after such meetings have formally concluded. Even skilled professionals cannot be expected to perform at their peak if they are impacted by coronavirus, or worried about the effects it is having on loved ones.

One final point. Experts point to the risk of the virus hitting us in a second wave, near the end of the year… just when maximum pressure around Brexit and, particularly, a catastrophic No Deal Brexit, would be building. The Government has a chance to avoid such a calamitous confluence of crises and will surely enact a delay of some sort.

Tamara Essex: When Cabinet ministers claim there will be no checks with a new trade deal, are they generally aiming to mislead, badly informed or being completely unrealistic?

Naomi Smith: I can say with certainty that they are being unrealistic, because countless experts say so. Whether they are aiming to mislead or are badly informed is conjecture, and not something we should focus on.

Best for Britain is a data-led organisation; we look at the figures, gather the evidence, and then make our position clear. Discussions about whether politicians are misleading us are (let’s be honest) fun but they are also a dangerous distraction.

Politics is about presentation as well as policy, and facts get bent all the time. We might not like this, but it would be naïve to think it didn’t happen (pick your own favourite ‘fact that wasn’t’ from the Brexit campaign…).

As Guardian editor CP Scott said almost 100 years ago, comment is free … but facts are sacred.

Naomi Smith and Mike Galsworthy

John Moffett: Does Best for Britain have a role lobbying the EU to influence the future relationship or do you see its role as solely holding the UK government to account? 

Naomi Smith: In the run-up to the General Election, we took a delegation of British MPs to Brussels to speak with senior counterparts from other countries, so we have form in building bridges between Britain and Brussels. Our aim is to do what is best for Britain, and that involves work behind the scenes, as well as the high-profile things we have been involved with such as marches and media appearances.

If us being a conduit between the UK and the EU strengthens the bonds between us, and accelerates the process of us getting back together, then it will have been time well spent. We are, after all, in this thing together

Many thanks Naomi for taking part. Next month we are delighted to be featuring Ian Dunt, Editor of & Host of Remainiacs.

Bremainers Ask ……. Revisited Part Three

Bremainers Ask Revisited Part Two

With the changing political landscape, Bremain invited former contributors to our Bremainers Ask feature for their thoughts on the subject. We asked them to comment on where we are now, how they see things moving forward and what we pro-Europeans should be focusing on in the future. Here’s the second update. 

Harry Shindler

Harry Shindler MBE – Veteran Campaigner

After Brexit, what happens now? I was, and remain, against the idea of Brexit. I am not about to set out all the arguments against Brexit, but we were warned, and we didn’t heed the warnings.

There has been peace in Europe for almost 80 years – it’s never happened before. Without Brexit, it could have continued.

We have been fighting ‘the good fight’ for many years. During our campaign we have had promises made that our right to vote would be returned to us. The promise was made in general election manifestos, by three prime ministers, and Her Majesty the Queen, when opening parliament.

We must carry on our campaign, with even more determination. To all our friends and supporters, be of good cheer and keep up the good fight. As was said during the war, “we must win, and win we shall!”


Kyle Taylor – Founder/Director Fairvote UK

It’s the morning after “Brexit,” which came with more of a “womp womp” than any spectacle. Why, you ask? Because despite the “perfect vision” metaphor suggested by the year, we’re no closer to clarity on what Brexit will actually mean. That’s mostly because the 31 January “exit day” only included exiting having any say on the future of Europe. We became – until at least December 2020 – a rule taker with no rule-making powers. The first step in “taking back control.”

Kyle Taylor

The framing of the general election result is that it was a “consensus on Brexit.” I believe it was more a consensus on a desire for clarity and certainty, even if what’s certain is Brexit. This is the major difference between the political attitudes of our European neighbours and American friends across the Atlantic: Britishness demands a stiff upper lip, even when you don’t like it. This is particularly difficult for British citizens living in the EU, who have neither clarity nor certainty – perhaps the greatest abandonment by this government of their immediate responsibilities to their citizens.

While that fight must continue, the broader strategic aim must be to let the Conservative government attempt to keep their impossible promises, waiting for the next flashpoint in the autumn. This isn’t about “I told you so.” It’s about “You told me so.” It’s clear from the failure of the Remain movement of the last three years that Brexit must be acutely felt for people to understand its true effect. Only then can we muster the nation to spend the next decade undoing the damage.


Steve Bray

Steve Bray – Mr. Stop Brexit

Social justice is very important to me and it is the reason that I took on the fight to #StopBrexit. That hasn’t changed. We have even more to fight for now.

I have never blamed the majority of people who voted to Leave. Deprived areas voted massively to Leave on the basis of promises of a better life. Why wouldn’t they? But they were lied to by the architects of Brexit who now occupy the highest posts in the UK government. 

I started the protest group SODEM (Stand of Defiance European Movement) in summer 2017 in Old Palace Yard, SW1. I stood there – at first by myself – and later was joined by hundreds of Remainers from grassroots groups across the UK and beyond, including Bremain In Spain. The name has now been changed to: Secure Our Destiny Europe Matters. 

Right now it’s important to channel our anger towards those who pushed hard to deliver Brexit – Johnson, Gove, Cummings et al and not those whose believed and bought the lies. The truth is that with #GetBrexitDone, we’ve all been DONE. But we will hold them to account. It’s important right now to focus on our local pro-EU groups, build the communities and look ahead to how, united, we can hold them to account and look towards re-joining the EU. 

I would really like to take this chance to thank everybody for their support over the last few years of the #SODEM protest outside parliament – for their support, encouragement and donations, and for standing with us at Westminster. The SODEM protest continues every Wednesday that parliament sits for PMQs because somebody has to #HoldThemToAccount. 

Many thanks to our contributors this month. Watch out for Part Three next month. 

Bremainers Ask ….. Richard Wilson

Bremainers Ask ….. Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson was one of the founding members of Leeds for Europe in January 2017.  He is currently Chair of the group, which has grown to become one of the leading pro-EU campaign groups in the UK.  He was heavily involved in organising the Great Northern Stop Brexit March in Leeds in March 2018 and has appeared on Sky News, BBC Look North, ITV Calendar and BBC Radio Leeds.

Richard was also one of the founding members of Grassroots for Europe, a network of up to 250 pro-EU campaign groups whose purpose is to bring grassroots group leaders together to share ideas, support grassroots-led initiatives, represent the interests of local groups and generally encourage networking amongst grassroots activists.  In that role he was one of the organisers of the “Where Now For Remain?” conference held in London on 25 January 2020.  He is currently Chair of Grassroots for Europe and was also recently elected as Vice Chair of the European Movement UK.


Do you think the Remain movement is working as effectively as it could? What could be done to bring more cohesion and strengthen our voices even further?  

Sadly, the fact that Brexit was “done” on 31 January 2020 means that the Remain movement did not work as effectively as we needed it to. But we mustn’t beat ourselves up about this. We faced an unhappy combination of extremely hostile factors – a ruthless, unscrupulous Leave campaign, a weak, unprincipled official opposition, a rabidly Europhobic UK media and a country cracking after a decade of harsh austerity. We had to construct a new campaign from scratch and race to get it up to speed in time to halt Brexit with what was initially a 2/3 year window of opportunity. What we have build since the referendum – the largest, most passionate, pro-EU movement anywhere in Europe – is astonishing. But, of course, it was not enough to stop Brexit from happening – at least in name.

The starting point for bringing more cohesion and a stronger voice has to be agreeing a clear vision for our movement. The good news – based in particular on what we heard at the Grassroots for Europe conference in London on 25 January – is that there is a high level of consensus across our movement about what we need to do now. This includes – campaigning on the rights of EU and UK citizens, defending freedom of movement, holding the government to account for its promises and decisions on Brexit and rebuilding momentum towards a Rejoin campaign which can kick in as soon as political circumstances allow it.

Organisationally, we need the key national groupings to put past disagreements aside and come together to agree a coordinated and cooperative campaign. This does not necessarily mean a single campaign – there is value in diversity – but it does mean developing a high level of trust and friendliness between the various organisations, so that the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts.

The Great Northern Stop Brexit Conference Leeds 2018

With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you wish the Remain campaign, or you personally, had done differently over the last 4 years?

When I first got involved in this campaign, back in January 2017, I believed that we would not succeed unless and until we managed to shift public opinion to at least a 60/40 split in favour of cancelling Brexit. Once we had got to something like that level I thought that there would be an almost tangible desire in the UK for a rethink. One way or another this would have led to either the outright cancellation of Brexit, a 2nd referendum or – at the very least – a substantial watering down of the rock hard Brexit favoured by Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

The People’s vote, however, focussed almost entirely on the mechanics of getting a 2nd referendum, without putting much apparent effort into explaining to people why Brexit was an epic mistake, founded on lies, misinformation and an abuse of our democratic system, and on making the positive case for Remaining, based on the principles of preserving and spreading peace, prosperity, freedom and democracy across the whole of our continent.

This meant that PV were always trying to push a rock uphill in parliament. With a fairly static 52-53% of the British public in favour of Remaining, there simply wasn’t enough pressure being exerted by public opinion to create the support in parliament for positive action to stop Brexit. Ultimately, the PV campaign ran out of road.

So, in answer to the question – the Remain movement should, from the very beginning, have fought a far more optimistic, clear and emotional campaign to give the British public powerful reasons for wanting to stay in the EU and to counter the nasty, negative and deceitful campaign being run by the Brexiters.

How do we re-energise campaigners who have switched off now that Brexit has happened?

I was involved in organising the Grassroots for Europe “Where Now For Remain?” conference in London precisely for that purpose! Immediately after the General Election I was concerned that the momentum of our movement could start to dissipate and that groups might – unnecessarily in my view – start to question the ongoing relevance of their campaigns.

I was inspired by the overwhelming response to the conference (we sold all 450 tickets weeks in advance and had a lengthy waiting list) and felt massively reassured that campaigners remain committed to the long struggle ahead of us.

I think campaigners are now looking for unity from the movement and a clear sense of direction. Grassroots for Europe are aiming to act as an “honest broker” in bringing as many parts of the movement together as possible to work for our common goals. We don’t believe in monolithic structures, but we do believe in co-operation and some level of co-ordination.

In the short-term, we can maintain energy levels by going for some quick wins i.e. campaigns where we can align ourselves with the bulk of public opinion and thereby force the UK government to change course. Initially, I would suggest that campaigns on freedom of movement, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, the rights of UK citizens in the EU and the defence of EU standards on animal welfare, the environment, consumer protection and workers’ rights offer opportunities to us.

At the social level, initiatives such as Euro cafes are a great way to keep activists energised, without it seeming like too much hard work!

Richard with Lord Heseltine

Despite a powerful pro-EU grassroots movement, we were let down by parliament agreeing to a GE. What lessons have we learned on improving lobbying and influencing politicians in the future?

In spite of my criticisms of the People’s Vote campaign, this was one area where they probably did a reasonably good job in very difficult circumstances.

My understanding is that in late 2019 we came exceptionally close to succeeding in getting a People’s Vote agreed in principle by parliament, and that would have been an amazing result.

To be fair to PV, they were having to work with a Labour Party leadership which was ambivalent at best on the question of Brexit and with Conservative MP’s who repeatedly failed to step up in the numbers required when they were needed.

Perceptions of party-political bias within the leaderships of the national organisations were probably the biggest self-inflicted impediment to greater success in building a united and effective anti-Brexit coalition in parliament. So, next time round we need to ensure that the national campaign organisations are scrupulously balanced in their political stance and even-handed in their public and private dealings with politicians. It is not reasonable to exclude party-political politicians from the national campaigns, but they must be seen to put the interests of the pro-European cause above their own parties’ priorities.

How can the Remain movement mitigate the damage of Brexit in the ongoing negotiations?

In the face of a Johnson/Cummings led government, with a stonking 80-seat parliamentary majority, are power is limited. To be brutally honest, we are going to have to accept that there will be considerable damage. Our job as campaigners will be to make sure that the blame for this damage is placed squarely where it belongs – on the Brexiters.

Richard Wilson

We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of being “miserabilists” – seizing on every single bit of bad news and trying to pin it on Brexit. If we do that, we will be accused of crying wolf and our messaging will start to become ineffective. However, there will undoubtedly be a lot of really bad things happening. We need to identify those Brexit-induced bombshells which the public really hate and make absolutely sure that everyone fully understands the cause. One example is the Brexiter who complained about having to queue at Schiphol airport recently. A small incident, but a powerful and negative foretaste of what is to come as the UK government’s tough new immigration regime comes into force.

Would the Remain movement be more effective if it pulled together or are we better forging ahead within a loosely organised structure? 

Probably both! We certainly need to pull together in the sense of agreeing common objectives and being coordinated in our campaigns. It is clearly unhelpful if groups/organisations are cutting across each other, negating each other’s messages and appearing to be chaotic and in conflict with one another. At the same time, there is great value in allowing local groups to flourish and not be stifled by top-down control – in fact, this has been the most positive aspect of the Remain campaign so far.

So, what we need is a loosely organised structure which is pulling together! My own view is that the European Movement UK, of which I am Vice Chair, can provide the solid platform for our movement. It has money, staff, an office, 126 affiliated groups, thousands of paying members, political connections and a history going back 70 years to the aftermath of the 2nd World War. I am encouraging those local groups which are not currently affiliated to do so.

At the same time, the European Movement cannot do everything. This is where the grassroots come in! We have thousands – or tens of thousands – of committed activists. Many of us are highly skilled, knowledgeable and experienced campaigners. We are willing to commit enormous amounts of time and energy to the cause. And we can do this independently, without being given orders from above. There is no reason why we should lose this wonderful capability. That’s why I Chair Grassroots for Europe, which aims to support the grassroots groups by linking them up with each other, bringing forward grassroots initiatives, sharing best practice and representing the interests of the grassroots groups and activists in the face of the big, national organisations.

Hopefully, this twin-track approach will give us the best of both worlds.


Many thanks to Richard for taking part. Next month we talk to Naomi Smith, CEO Best for Britain.

Bremainers Ask ……. Revisited Part Three

Bremainers Ask …….. Revisited!

With the changing political landscape, Bremain invited former contributors to our Bremainers Ask feature for their thoughts on the subject. We asked them to comment on where we are now, how they see things moving forward and what we pro-Europeans should be focusing on in the future.

Here are the first responses; more to follow in next month’s newsletter. Note that these submissions were made prior to the ratification of the WA.

Hugo Dixon

Hugo Dixon – Chair/Editor-in-Chief – InFacts

We have lost the battle to stop Brexit. We mustn’t lose the war to create a good society for the 21st Century. The 2019 election will make that harder. We won’t be sitting round the top table in Europe when important decisions will be taken on the climate crisis and so forth. What’s more, Boris Johnson has such a big majority that it won’t be possible to influence him. He will be in power for four years and maybe nine. So, we have to play a long game. We must reflect deeply about what sort of society we can create in a world where temperatures are rising and power is shifting away from Europe. 



That will involve getting out of the big cities and listening. We will probably conclude we need to focus more on meaningful lives and less on materialism. Once we have articulated a new vision for a good life, we will have to persuade the voters to back it.

Julie Ward – Labour MEP

After more than three and a half years of complex negotiations and prevarication on the part of the UK parliament, with both Theresa May and Boris Johnson failing to comprehend the indivisibility of the ‘Four Freedoms’, Johnson now has a parliamentary majority to force through his version of a deal which is much worse than May’s deal on many counts. It goes without saying that the results of the December 12th General Election were devastating for all of us who espouse socially liberal values and who call ourselves European. 

Julie Ward MEP

As the Withdrawal Agreement makes its way through various stages in the Houses of Parliament safeguards and certainties are being removed, e.g. support for child refugees, participation in Erasmus+.

Whilst the European Parliament has expressed its concern about Citizens’ Rights in the WA it is nevertheless likely to be approved by the majority on January 29. (I will not be voting for it.) Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator, went to London to meet with Boris Johnson to discuss the Parliament’s concerns. Frankly, he was fobbed off with vacuous promises. We all know Johnson is a serial liar. Let’s not forget that he was found guilty by the Supreme Court of lying to the Queen!

The majority of the work on the so-called ‘deal’ was completed some time ago. Johnson has mostly been tinkering around the edges, with the exception of moving the border to the middle of the Irish Sea. (Policing that is going to be interesting with the word ‘piracy’ coming to mind!) 

Many people who are fed up with Brexit dominating the domestic agenda believed in Johnson’s oven-ready ‘Get Brexit Done’ slogan. However, Brexit will not be done for a very long time as negotiations on a trade deal could take a decade, and those who wake up on February 1st expecting the UK to be out of the EU will have a shock, as we will still be subject to EU law and paying money without any representation. Meanwhile, Sajid Javid has said that the UK will not align with EU rules after the transition period, which means that the EU will not consider the UK as either an honest broker under the current government nor as a country that can receive favourable treatment. 

The governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all oppose the WA and are unhappy that a gung-ho gang of public school-boys in Westminster is legislating against the best interests of their countrymen and women, not to mention limiting opportunities for the next generation. Scottish independence and a united Ireland are distinct possibilities in the not too distant future.

We need to maintain our grassroots pro-EU groups and strengthen links between UK and EU citizens via people-to-people contact, reviving town-twinning and similar civil society mechanisms. Arts and culture are a great way to bring people together and I see a huge need for more collaboration at this level. We must mark significant European anniversaries and special days and wave our EU flags even more vociferously at the Last Night of the Proms. We also need to keep an eye on the government and hold them to account, demanding greater scrutiny and transparency, writing to MPs and MEPs and to the press, reminding of the promises made by the Vote Leave campaign. 

We must be ready to stand in local and national elections and to put ourselves forwards for roles in campaigning groups. We need to push for electoral reform and deliberative democracy such as citizens assemblies. We need to get tech-savvy and help in the fight against disinformation online. Now is not the time to be bystanders. So many ordinary people were provoked into action, learnt new skills and realised they had a voice. Let’s use everything we learned and build from the grassroots up, ready to oppose the attack on our European values that is coming down the line.       


Madeleina Kay

Madeleina Kay – EU Supergirl

After three and a half years campaigning to avert this disaster before its occurrence, I now have grim hope for the future of the UK. The question of where British citizens (and EU citizens living in the UK) who still feel strongly in European values should take our campaign next is a troubling question: Should we begin a rejoin campaign immediately? Should we encourage pro-Europeans to evacuate the UK allowing it to languish in brain-drain?

Should we focus on calling out the lies and broken promises of the Brexiters and campaign for the closest possible alignment to the EU? And will Brexit inadvertently deliver for the campaign for proportional representation? I have no answer to those questions, all I know is that my heart still wants to fight for Europe and all the values that underpin the European project.

One of the gravest mistakes of the Remain campaign was to fight a rational battle, using reason and evidence-based facts to try and prove the opposition “wrong”. We failed to grasp that support for Brexit was founded in a sense of identity and support won through emotional arguments. Instead of attacking people who disagree with us, efforts should have been made to promote a positive message, earning support for that alternative vision. And instead of cultivating a toxic culture of infighting, we should have embraced creativity and diversity, because ‘diversity of participation’ is the key to success in any movement.

Regardless of Brexit, it is essential that we work to challenge the racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric sweeping across the UK. Reframing narratives will be essential to leading change and altering perceptions that may be founded in prejudice and ignorance. This can be achieved by giving voice to migrants and celebrating our experiences of migration to change understanding through the empathy of human-centred stories. 

We may have lost this battle, but I have met some wonderful, inspiring and passionate people on the journey, and the UK now has a strong and determined, pro-EU movement to fight for the future. A guiding star of hope will see us through the darkness. 

Elena Remigi & Debbie Williams – In Limbo Project

After the shock of the election result, we took some time to reflect on the outcome and the repercussions for all those In Limbo. The Withdrawal Agreement, when ratified, becomes an international treaty and does give small comfort to the 5 million citizens directly affected by Brexit. Not all of our rights are covered, and we have to be prepared to carry on the fight for all of our rights, in particular freedom of movement for British citizens in Europe.

In Limbo

The Settled Status application [process] needs monitoring continuously and the vulnerable groups from our communities need protecting. Many EU citizens in the UK are at risk of becoming illegal if they fail to apply or experience the ‘hostile environment’ when it comes to renting or finding a job without physical proof of EUSS. This is why it is vital that we carry on telling our stories, raising our voices, reaching out to people to raise awareness of our issues and ensure we don’t become a new Windrush or are forgotten by the public. We can’t remain silent.

There will soon be an updated version of the first book ‘In Limbo’, so bear with us – but we invite everyone to read and share both our books. We also need to make sure that what the 5 million are going through never happens again, to anyone. We will therefore carry on promoting the values of the European Union and continue to highlight how important a project it is. For peace, diversity, prosperity and inclusiveness. There is still much work to be done, so don’t give up because we aren’t!