Bremainers Ask – Jane Morrice

Bremainers Ask – Jane Morrice

Born in Belfast, and a teenager during the “troubles”, Jane Morrice built a career on peace building, journalism, Europe and equality. A founder member of the NI Women’s Coalition, she authored the line on integrated education in the Good Friday Agreement. She was elected to the first NI Assembly in 1998 and became Deputy Speaker in 2000. She was EC representative to NI during the ceasefires and, as a member of the Delors Task Force, set up the first EU PEACE Programme.

Previously a BBC Belfast reporter, she also served as Deputy Chief NI Equality Commissioner. She represented NI on the Brussels-based Civic Forum (EESC) and as Vice President in 2013. In 2021, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Hillary Clinton, Vice Chancellor of Queens University Belfast.

She currently serves as Director of the Integrated Education Fund, Member of the Brussels branch of Women in International Security (WIIS), Co-Chair of the Museum of the Troubles and Honorary President of the European Movement NI. Jane is now campaigning to have Northern Ireland granted Honorary EU Association as a European Place of Global peace-building.

John MoffettIt’s been said that most mainland Britons learnt more about the GFA in the last episode of Derry Girls! As someone closely involved with the creation of the GFA, could you briefly explain the incredible transformation because of the agreement on NI society, culture and business, and how Brexit tore so much of that apart?

The Good Friday Agreement was designed to bring an end to political violence in Northern Ireland. In the years following the GFA implementation in 1998, NI has experienced relative peace but reconciliation between the two main communities is still a long way off. By marking the beginning of the end of 30 years of violent conflict, the GFA was a truly ‘titanic’ achievement, but few could have predicted the iceberg that was Brexit looming on the horizon. In true British tradition, unionists were reluctant Europeans, while nationalists mainly supported the EU. The positive effect of UK and Irish EU membership helped blur the dividing lines between the two communities. The ‘four’ freedoms meant people and trade flowed freely, political leaders met frequently in Brussels and the EU PEACE Programme supported cross-community and cross border initiatives and helped pave the way for the GFA. By permitting NI citizens to be British, Irish or both, the GFA provided an ingenious solution to the identity question that has bedevilled NI since its inception. Brexit has driven a wedge between the two communities, which ‘Derry Girls’, using humour, has helped expose to a much wider audience.


David Eldridge: Once the EU referendum result emerged, there were many prophesies about an independent Scotland and United Ireland. Do you foresee a border poll in NI and, if so, what might be the result?

It is my conviction that Scotland holds the key to the future constitutional position of both the UK and Ireland. Those supporting Irish unification would be wise to await the result of a second Scottish independence referendum, proposed for 2023, before embarking on a detailed plan for a border poll. If Scotland votes for independence, heralding the break-up of the UK, the unionist position in Northern Ireland will become more tenuous. Scotland’s links with Northern Ireland are not only based on geography and history but also the strength of the cultural connection. Given the Ulster-Scot’s heritage, NI people, particularly unionists, feel closer links with Scotland than England or Wales. Scottish independence may pave the way for a rethink of the Irish question and could eventually bring both UK nations which voted Remain back into the EU fold.


Sue ScarrottThe NI Protocol was designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland and is clearly helping NI business to weather the Brexit economic storm better than the rest of the UK, bar London, yet the Tories are politicising it to pick a fight with the EU. How do you see that playing out over the coming months/years?

The NI Protocol is generally supported by nationalists but rejected by those unionists who claim it separates NI from GB by placing a border in the Irish Sea and serves to dilute their British identity. My proposal is to extend the Protocol to Scotland. This could offer several solutions. First it would take the political toxicity out of the NI debate by moving the border from the Irish Sea to the Scottish/English border. In Scotland, for those supporting independence, it could be seen as a ‘waiting room’ for EU membership. For those not in support of independence, it could offer the best of both worlds in the UK and in the EU Single Market. For London, it could be a compromise to keep Scotland as part of the UK. ‘Brussels’, however, may not support such a proposal. Given the ‘special’ circumstances regarding the peace process, the Protocol was intended to avoid a hard border in Ireland and accommodate the many thousands of European citizens in NI whose rights are EU protected. Extending it to Scotland may help resolve the unionist question but could set a precedent for regions in Spain, France or elsewhere demanding similar arrangements.

Val ChaplinThe easiest and best solution to the NI Protocol would be for the whole of the UK to rejoin the SM and CU. Do you ever envisage that happening and given the importance of unity and cooperation in Europe in light of the war in Ukraine, do you ever foresee the UK rejoining the EU?

There is little doubt that the economic benefits of the NI Protocol have exposed the harmful effects of Brexit on the rest of the UK. The powerful images of lorries lined up at Channel ports in Southern England are just the start of stormy waters ahead. Proposing to rejoin the SM and CU may help business overcome these immediate problems but the EU is much more than a marketplace. It is a meeting of minds, young and old, through programmes such as ERASMUS and Horizon in which information is shared, experiences exchanged and respect for others is encouraged. The only solution is for the UK to rejoin the EU. As I have often said: Brexit is not a divorce, it is a trial separation, allowing both sides to settle their differences and eventually get back together for the sake of the children.


Lisa BurtonLess than 10% of students in Northern Ireland attend an integrated school as opposed to a Catholic or Protestant school. Considering the first integrated school was established 40 years ago now, in your view, what is holding integration back?

As a Director of the Integrated Education Fund and author of the line in the Good Friday Agreement proposing a ‘culture of tolerance’ by ‘encouraging and facilitating integrated education’, I am convinced that Protestant and Catholic children studying together will help break down barriers between the two communities. Since the first integrated school was set up forty years ago, the movement has been campaigning to little avail. This is basically because of the strength of the lobby from both the Catholic Church and the State Grammar Schools, mainly Protestant, seeking to protect their ethos. Even attempts by the cross-community Alliance Party to have one single mixed teacher training college did not succeed. Things are changing, however, with the recent Assembly motion to provide greater support for integrated schools. This is likely to lead to an increase in schools transforming to integrated status and a greater understanding and respect among children, parents and teachers for the history, culture, identity and political aspiration of people from British, Irish and other communities in Northern Ireland.


Michael SoffeDo you believe you will see a “united” Ireland as a member of the EU in your lifetime?

It has been said that peace can take as long to achieve as conflict takes to end. If that is the case, our 30-year conflict can only be matched by 30 years of peace. That would bring us to the 30th anniversary of the GFA in April 2028. This, I believe, would be an appropriate moment to begin the serious process of rethinking the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Consultation should begin well in advance and include citizens, North and South of the border. The best forum for such consultation is that which was proposed by my party, the NI Women’s Coalition, in the GFA for the creation of a Civic Forum to support the legislative process of the NI Assembly. Similar to the Brussels-based European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) of which I was a NI Member for 15 years, this Forum would gather experts from business, trade unions and others to give advice to the legislators. Ireland has had very successful consultations leading to historic changes to important legislation, but it is my firm belief that the only way to get unionist participation in these consultations is that they take place within the NI Civic Forum.

To conclude, in spite of the horror I witnessed growing up during the troubles, I have always had a genuine love for Northern Ireland. I see it as a very special place which has a great deal to teach the world about the need for tolerance, respect and how peace can be achieved against the odds.

As a European unionist, I would therefore like to see Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland becoming the Northern BENELUX of the EU. In response to the question (will I see a United Ireland in my lifetime?) – I am no spring chicken, so I believe not.

In our August newsletter, Bremainers Ask will be featuring Otto English, a.k.a. journalist and author Andrew Scott. He is a regular writer for Byline Times and Politico, and is the author of “Fake History: Ten Great Lies and How They Shaped the World”. If you would like to submit a question for Otto for consideration, please email no later than Tuesday 9 August.

Bremainers Ask Revisited

Bremainers Ask Revisited

This month we asked three former contributors to Bremainers Ask to comment on the current state of play of British politics and Brexit. This is what they had to say:

Anna Bird, CEO European Movement

Summer 2022 will be seen as the time the tide began to turn against hard Brexit. Even the archetypal gung-ho Leaver, Lord Daniel Hannan, recently wrote that Britain should have stayed in the single market.

Failed Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, in an extraordinary speech at a recent think-tank conference, could not point to a single concrete economic benefit of Brexit. He went on to blame the EU – and the European Movement. He accused us of “latching on to any number, usually out of context, and treating it as evidence that Brexit is ‘failing’”. If we are being singled out for attack by our opponents, we must be doing something right!

As for ‘latching on’ to evidence, we knew before the referendum that Brexiteers had had enough of experts. Michael Gove told us. Neither Lord Frost, nor his political master Boris Johnson, listen to objective analysis. But even they must know, behind the bluster, that Brexit is breaking Britain.

The government’s own Office of Budget Responsibility predicts that Brexit will mean a 4% hit to GDP. The impact on individual families is starker still. Brexit means a typical family with two earners will be nearly £1000 poorer every year by 2030 than if the UK had stayed in the EU, according to a Resolution Foundation study.

Meanwhile, airport disruption due to staff shortages is worse in the UK than elsewhere. Airline bosses say they have had to reject en masse applications from EU citizens who can no longer work in the UK. Worse, NHS queues are causing life-threatening delays – again Brexit is a significant factor.

As European Movement UK President Michael Heseltine pointed out in a recent article in the Guardian, Johnson, Frost and ‘Brexit Opportunities Minister’ Jacob Rees-Mogg have their hands over their ears. But even their (former?) allies in the Europhobic press are picking up on what is going on.

So are the British public. Brexit is hitting hardest those regions that voted most heavily for it. In Wakefield, where 66% voted Leave in 2016, so-called ‘Red Wall’ voters deserted Johnson’s government in the 23 June by-election. On the same day In Tiverton and Honiton, the pro-EU Liberal Democrats wiped out a 24,000 Tory majority. Every promise the Brexiteers made to rural communities has been broken.

Brexit was not the only factor in these results. But 2016 Leave voters did not vote loyally for the Conservatives in either by-election. And a pattern of dishonesty with its roots in Johnson’s mendacious 2016 Vote Leave campaign was a common thread.

Repairing the damage done by this government’s hard Brexit, and restoring broken relations with our European partners, is going to be a long haul. We will need to win a historic battle for hearts and minds over many years, to regain our place at the heart of Europe.

The European Movement has the stomach for that fight. This is a battle for the soul of our country. And recent events make us even more certain we can win it.

Jon Danzig, journalist and film maker

In my life, I have never known a worse time either for my country or the world at large. I started to campaign against Brexit when the word was first invented back in 2012. Of course, back then I hoped against hope that leaving the EU wouldn’t happen, but I obviously felt it could. And, of course, it did.


When Brexit happened, many of us on the same side thought that, soon enough, people in Britain would realise the huge downsides of being outside the EU. Yes, cause and effect are often difficult to see or prove. But we in the pro-EU camp thought that, for example, higher prices because of new barriers to trade with our most important export and import market in the world – our neighbouring countries – would soon be blindingly obvious, and deeply felt. But it’s not been that simple, or clear cut.

We didn’t anticipate the post-Brexit arrival or impact of the world’s worst pandemic in 100 years – Covid19. That changed everything. Britons got poorer, prices went up, but how much could be blamed on Covid and how much on Brexit? Then, although some predicted it, most of us didn’t anticipate that Russia would invade Ukraine. Again, that has had a huge impact on our economy, resulting in yet more increased prices, along with rising inflation leading to a cost-of-living crisis.

I could – and would – argue that most of the downsides since the EU referendum six years ago can be blamed on Brexit. But proving that to the public at large, is complicated, involves graphs, charts, and statistics that few will want to digest. Not the clear-cut pre- and post-Brexit comparisons we thought would easily win the case against leaving the EU. What we can agree is that Brexit, Covid and the appalling war now raging in Ukraine have all contributed to a sharp decline in our fortunes. And all this has also changed our feelings about the future, which now looks more dismal than at any time for all of us who didn’t live through the Second World War. [And I haven’t even mentioned climate change – probably the biggest threat to the entire planet].

Although we didn’t realise it at the time, and probably wouldn’t have believed it if we’d been told, before the terrible events of the past few years, many of us were living in what we can now recognise as a relatively golden age. Now, all that’s been shattered. We cannot go back to that ‘golden’ past, and the future ahead looks grim. On top of Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine, we now have an attack on fundamental rights in the UK, with Boris Johnson’s government, for example, intent on dismantling our Human Rights Act. Not because that law is bad, but because our government clearly doesn’t like a law that stops them doing bad things (e.g. forcing refugees to be flown from the UK to Rwanda).

Across the ‘pond’ in the USA they are also experiencing an attack on fundamental rights. For example, the constitutional right of women to have an abortion has been removed. That could only happen because the right-wing, populist ex-President Trump, before he left office, appointed to the Supreme Court three of his favoured judges. [See my article:]. To top it all, we now know – with compelling and increasing evidence – that Putin’s Russia helped to fuel and fund Brexit from the outset. Something I had no idea about when I first started to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. [See my video The Russian Connection].

How do we get out of this mess? I say knowledge is our best defence, and attack. It may take a long time, but truth usually prevails in the end. Our side needs to get better at telling it and selling it.


Lord Andrew Adonis, Chair European Movement UK

I can’t quite believe I am writing this, but the biggest event of the last six years in terms of Britain’s relations with Europe may not be Brexit. Probably more significant, in the short and long term, is Britain’s decisive role in supporting Ukraine’s resistance to the latest of Europe’s fascist dictators, Vladimir Putin.

In the short term, providing the military hardware to help stop Putin from achieving an immediate knock-out blow in his attack on Kiev, and his attempt to remove Zelensky and install a puppet regime, was of monumental importance not only to the fate of Ukraine but to the wider security and stability of democratic Europe.

NATO, which has organised this support for Zelensky, is a military club which everyone in Europe now wants to join. Sweden and Finland, who have just applied, will take NATO’s membership to 30, extending the alliance across virtually the whole of Russia’s eastern border with Europe.

In retrospect NATO was the dog that didn’t bark during the Brexit wars. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 – that an attack on one is an attack on all, to be resisted by all – is in its potential consequences a far greater diminution of Britain’s sovereignty than anything agreed with the EU during our half century of membership. Yet neither Nigel Farage nor Boris Johnson and the Brexit Tories ever proposed that we withdraw from NATO so that we could “take back control” of our defence, and anti-Brexit leaders sensibly never sought to widen the issue to include defence.

Brexit is probably the high-water mark of the uncontrolled spam of English nationalism. The sound and fury about “foreign judges” in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling against the proposed deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda could conceivably lead Johnson and Priti Patel to seek to withdraw from the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights. This would be a political obscenity. But since the only country to have left – indeed been expelled – from the Council of Europe in recent years is Putin’s Russia, in response to its Ukraine invasion, I doubt even Johnson would think he could ride the contradiction while Putin remains at large.

However, six years on from the 2016 referendum, there is still no reversal – or sign of one – in respect of the hugely disadvantageous Brexit trade and economic deal under which we left the EU. Far from seeking to negotiate a better EU trade deal, Johnson and his foreign secretary Liz Truss are embarking on an egregious breach of international law by seeking to legislate to override the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There isn’t yet a meaningful political debate about the case for a better Brexit deal, despite polls showing a growing majority against Brexit in the light of big reductions in trade between Britain and the EU far beyond any Covid effect.

According to London School of Economics data, nearly half of all UK companies have either ceased or reduced their trade with the EU since Brexit took effect. Yet Keir Starmer, who was Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit spokesman before becoming Labour leader, has largely left the Brexit field and won’t commit to seeking fundamentally better Brexit terms. And for as long as Johnson remains at the helm, and there is no credible governmental path towards a renegotiation, there is no incentive for any Tory MP to call for this either.

However, the truth will out. Unless the trade situation improves, Tobias Ellwood will be the first of many Tory MPs to call for an “upgraded” Brexit deal akin to that of Norway, which is part of the single market while not belonging to the EU itself. There is only so long that the Tory leadership can say “fuck business” – or, as Rishi Sunak puts it more elegantly, that we need to accept “lower trade intensity” as the price of Brexit. The Tory leader after Johnson, maybe Sunak himself, won’t be inhibited by having negotiated the current Brexit deal. It is hard to believe, because it is virtually impossible, that they will be as shameless as Johnson either.

The stark reality is also that the only solution to the Irish problem is for Britain to be within the single market or something close to it. Only then will both the EU and the UK have confidence that trade between the Britain and Ireland can be uninhibited while vital concerns about safety, standards and smuggling are addressed.

So Britain has not left Europe, and even under Johnson the Ukraine war graphically demonstrates our fundamental interdependence and common values. Trade is indispensable to a free and prosperous Europe, and Britain’s leaders will ultimately recognise that free trade is the best way of securing these age-old goals. The long trek back towards the EU’s single market hasn’t yet started but there is a feeling of inevitability about it. Whether it takes months or years is too soon to say. But I suspect the process will start the day after Johnson ceases to be Prime Minister.

In our July Newsletter, we will be putting your questions to Jane Morrice. Born in Belfast, and a teenager during the “troubles”, Jane Morrice built a career on peace building, journalism, Europe and equality, including direct involvement in the creation of the Good Friday Agreement.

If you would like to put a question forward for consideration, please email us no later than Thursday 7 July at

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.