Bremainers Ask….. Professor Juliet Lodge

Bremainers Ask….. Professor Juliet Lodge

Juliet Lodge has been a professor of EU politics at several universities in UK, NZ and EU. In the 1990s, she was named ‘EU Woman of Europe’ for her voluntary work. She has authored many books about the EU and is a regular contributor to Yorkshire Bylines. Juliet also co-convened the anti-Brexit group, Women4europe. She is currently working on EU Horizon projects on disinformation, leading work on ethics and AI.

Tracy Rolfe : What do you think is the best route to rejoin the EU and what do you think the timescale would be?

My sense is that many in the EU perceive our politicians to be way out of step with a public that is at worst indifferent rather than hostile to the EU, and at best increasingly and openly pro-European. There is appreciation of the desperate unfairness of Brexit on ordinary people, including Brexit voters, entitled to EU rights that the UK helped to create in 1986. The best route is not another referendum.

The timescale is unpredictable, given electoral variables here and in EU states, and the many other countries clamouring to join the EU (including Ukraine). I’d like to see us back in the EU tomorrow, and hopefully by 2030. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘best route’ in view of the hideous way in which our Brexiteer Governments connived in creating the worst of all possible Brexits, and given how they behave. It is hard to believe that they are as ignorant as their public face and party-oriented posturing suggests. They give the impression of preferring to side-step facts about the disastrous impact Brexit has on the UK and its citizens; seem uncurious about its impact on many in the EU; and in denial about how much Brexit has benefited our competitors.

Without a best route, politicians have to find a pragmatic way back. Any new Government must start by acknowledging the facts, come clean about the deceits, and prove its genuine commitment to being well-informed and working respectfully and cooperatively with our EU partners. A pragmatic way back doesn’t necessarily mean decades of delay, provided the foundations of a trusting and trustworthy relationship are cemented now. A new Government must capitalise immediately on the opportunities offered by the review of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to restore trust in the UK and establish as close as possible relations, and work with the EU across the board. That demands openly acknowledging that we can’t achieve many policy goals alone. No country can. That’s why we joined the EU in the first place.

So, the first steps to working together are vital: paying our dues under, and participating in, the EU’s research programmes (such as Horizon), restoring Erasmus Plus and sector-specific freedom of movement, such as for musicians. But these are insufficient and discriminatory. What a future Government chooses to call what we need to do (rejoin the customs union or the single market, and restore mutual freedom of movement for all EU citizens, including Brits), is less important in the short term than being adult about what we lost and need to have. A grown-up leader should publicly and immediately work to ensure that families are able to travel and meet freely anytime, anywhere they wish; that good quality fresh food supplies are once more the norm; that trade flows free of bureaucratic barriers erected by the UK; and that our domestic and international security are once more improved by pragmatic cooperation and participation in programmes we helped to create and which we need. Our behaviour has to inspire respect and confidence in our ability to act honourably, upholding international law, and being the good partners we once were. We have to show that we understand and practise the values on which the EU was founded and thrives. That, itself, requires the UK to look closely at and address its own failings of democratic governance.

The UK has to prove that it can be trusted to be honest, open and accountable in upholding the rights and values and democratic practices we took for granted in the EU and which enabled us to flourish. In short, we have to show our value to the EU and offer constructive ideas for reform, dynamically confronting the many problems we must solve together in a spirit of open cooperation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anon : As EU Woman of Europe in the 1990s, how far do you think women’s rights have come since then, and how much further do they need to move in order to equate to real equality with men?

Women’s rights have come a long way, but nowhere near far enough. Worse, we seem to be going backwards. Brexit seems to have unleashed in the UK more misogyny and an erosion of workers’ rights, inflexible working, discriminatory conditions (and little apparent attention to equal pay and opportunities for females); erosion of paternity and maternity rights, de-professionalisation of skills, exploitative practices in the gig-economy, lack of free post-school education, lack of access to EU funding for pre-school and lifelong learning, protection against domestic violence, stalling moves to a better work-life balance, undermining of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Brexit impoverished us all culturally, educationally and in terms of what we thought the UK stood for: tolerance and reasonableness.

Valerie Chaplin : Nationalism and the far-right thrive on disinformation and make us question truth and facts. How, in an increasingly digital world, do we combat this?

This area is recognised by the EU as a threat to its way of life. Accordingly, it has media literacy projects (which the UK could emulate) and programmes, such as the EuvsDisinfo project, to raise awareness and strengthen social resilience among young people as well as the public at large, and to improve rapid alerts across the EU to disinformation that represents a threat to democracy, health, the environment and security. Whereas hate speech is unlawful, disinformation is not. The EU insists that any of its measures to combat both should not undermine the freedom of opinion and expression enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EU is investing in multinational, multi-disciplinary research teams to identify and combat disinformation without losing the potential benefits that AI may bring. The UK Government has excluded Britons from these teams. It cannot credibly combat manipulation of people for nefarious purposes while ignoring the standards set by the EU and the work it is doing. It must participate in work undertaken by those sharing common goals and values, and commit to upholding the human rights we took for granted in the EU. This does not preclude wider international cooperation, but it does mean understanding, pooling and sharing knowledge, jointly funding the kind of facilities and programmes we all need but cannot fund as individual states alone. It means working with our close neighbours to combat the challenges you mention.

There are innumerable initiatives afoot in the EU already: this year will see the EU advancing the adoption of a (reformed) AI Act which is widely regarded as setting global standards. This complements laws on the digital single market, and measures to combat extremism and disinformation. All must be seen against the backdrop of the next European Parliament elections in 2024 and concerns that hostile actors, foreign interests and non-dom media will use AI to manipulate ‘facts’, the news, citizens’ perceptions and even the results.

We all have to be vigilant, think critically, and know how to access legitimate fact checkers and assess independent reporting in order to improve our own understanding and knowledge, and we must show our children and families how to do the same. Above all, we need to join in media literacy projects and collaborate with the EU.



EU Nov

Matt Burton : Why are attitudes to compulsory ID/biometric cards so different in the UK compared to the EU?

I don’t know. Carrying ID cards in the first and second world wars was associated with national emergencies. In May 1952 they were scrapped. The UK Parliament reported on them in the 1990s. The Labour Identity Cards Bill (2004) was dropped owing to the timing of the 2005 general election. While another Act created the basis for a national identity register in 2006, this was scrapped in 2010.

Attitudes differ perhaps to those in the EU for many reasons, many associated with concern over state misuse of them; poor data handling and storage or even onward sale of data by the state and its private sector partners; fraud; and maybe an illusion that to be free means to be free of such a document. In practice, most adults have some form of official paper, plastic or digital ID – a covid vaccination card, NHS number, national insurance and tax numbers, bank cards, travel cards, student cards, loyalty cards, passports, driving licences being among the most common, and many of them biometric ones.

Legitimate questions as to the purpose of ID requirements introduced for recent local elections need to be resolved. The UK deviates from many EU norms in its seemingly laxer approach to biometric and AI tracking and surveillance of people.

David Eldridge : How has leaving the Horizon programme affected the UK, and what would be the process to rejoin it?

Disastrously. High level researchers have left (brain drain). UK universities have lost significant funding and hence a degree of research autonomy. Horizon’s budget for 2021-27 is €95.5 bn, including €5.4 bn from the NextGenerationEU to boost recovery and resilience. Worse, staff have lost the opportunity to take part in collaborative innovative research on matters from sustainable energy, AI and space research, to oceans, climate, industry, agriculture, culture and creativity, key enabling technologies, quantum security, robotics, combating disinformation, new treatments for diseases, means and therapies to restore lost abilities (e.g. through brain injury) or improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

The Government rejected the chance to rejoin Horizon because it did not want to pay its contribution to the research budget, as all partners do. This is likely to be resolved, but against a background of the EU’s overall general budgetary constraint. The EU’s budget covers things that cannot be achieved by states individually. The EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget is €1.2 trillion and an additional €800 billion is available in the so-called NextGenerationEU recovery instrument for 2021-2026.

The priorities are building a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe. The UK has a role to play and it’s alarming that any Government would deny its people a chance to fulfil that.

Sue Scarrott : Do you foresee this Government continuing its journey along the road of divergence and isolation from the EU before the next GE? Or, alternatively, will it seek to limit the Brexit damage as public opinion changes?

This Government is likely to continue to diverge as deeply as it can and for as long as the current electoral and weak parliamentary system allow. It may moderate its position in order to show that whoever happens to be Prime Minister come the general election is potentially a more popular leader than any of his/her opponents, and rely on personalities and glib sound bites to win votes. It is unlikely to be disposed openly to taking steps to limit Brexit damage, even though the TCA review provides a good opportunity to acknowledge and remedy what isn’t working. Even then, voters must remember how fast the Governments has U-turned on commitments (such as the infamous claim of 40 new hospitals) and think critically before voting. In the background, talks have been progressing on many fronts – including security, migration and trade – few of which get covered by UK media.

Next month

Dr Mike Galsworthy is Chair of European Movement UK and co-founder of Scientists for EU/Healthier in the EU. He is also a media commentator about the effects of Brexit on the scientific community in the United Kingdom and a presenter on Byline TV. If you wish to put a question to Mike, please send it to no later than Wednesday 7 June.

Events 2023

Events 2023

26/27 June – EuroPCom 2023
Brussels/Online – 14.00 (26th) – 14.00 (27th) CET
The European Public Communication Conference: Communicating democracy – communicating Europe.
Register to attend in person here
Register to attend online here

Festival of Europe

24 June – Thank EU for the Music
London – 13.00 – 17.00 BST
Remain reunion summer boat party.
An annual awareness-raising event.
Bring your EU flags!
Further information & tickets purchase (£30) here  
or on Facebook here

Festival of Europe

20 June – UK in a Changing Europe – Lunch Hour
Live on Slido/YouTube – 13.00 BST
The Conservative Party after Brexit.
Speakers: Anand Menon, Tim Bale, Katy Balls, Sir Robert Buckland MP, Dr. Liam Fox
More information available here
Reserve a spot here

Festival of Europe

7 June – UK in a Changing Europe Conference
In person/Online – 9.30 – 17.30 BST
Annual Conference 2023, reflecting on the era-defining decision to leave the EU.
Speakers include: Anneliese Dodds MP, Prof. Sir John Curtice, Peter Kyle MP, Prof. Sir Lawrence Freedman. More information here
Register to attend in person here & online here

Festival of Europe

6 June – UK in a Changing Europe – Unlocked
In person & live on Slido – 19.00 – 20.15 BST
The Rt. Hon. Lord Kinnock reflects on his time as Labour leader, assesses Keir Starmer’s chances at the next election, reviews Britain’s place in the world post-Brexit & the state of British politics.
Register to attend in person (London) here
Register to attend online here

Festival of Europe

5 June – Another Europe is Possible
Online Zoom – 19.30 CET
As the economic crisis worsens & consequences of Brexit unfold, public opinion is shifting towards closer EU ties. What long-term strategy should the remain movement take to push for rejoin? 
Speaker: Richard Corbett
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

4 June – North Herts for Europe
Online Zoom – 17.00 – 19.15 BST
The human cost of Brexit and its impact on those who exercised EU treaty rights.
An account of the In Limbo Project.
Speaker: Cosima Doerfel Hill
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

24 May – European Movement UK
Online Zoom meeting – 19.00 CET
In conjunction with Labour Movement for Europe, take a look ‘behind the scenes’ at how the Labour manifesto will be drafted & how to get involved.
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

24 May – Make Votes Matter & others
London – 12.00 – 17.30 BST
The lobby for Equal Votes.
Our politics is out of touch because Parliament doesn’t clearly reflect how we vote. We need Proportional Representation so everyone’s voice is heard. Come to Westminster and meet your MP.
Further information available here

Festival of Europe

11 May – Pulse of Europe/E.Kent for Europe
Online Zoom event – 19.00 – 21.30 CET
Building Bridges between Germany & UK
Topic: Brexit: The current situation, our hopes & how the situation can be improved.
Join the guest list here

Festival of Europe

11 May European Parliament Liaison Office UK
Live Stream – 18.00 – 19.30 BST
What one generation does, so the next can undo.
Speaker: Alistair Campbell
For more information & to register, click here

Festival of Europe

10 May – The Federal Trust
In person (Coventry)/online event – 17.00 BST
Federalism – In Germany, the UK & the EU
Speakers: Dr. Harold Elletson, Brendan Donnelly
To attend in person register here
Watch online on YouTube here

Festival of Europe

9, 11, 13 May – Thank EU for the Music
Liverpool Arena – 21.00 CEST
Eurovision song contest – EU flag giveaway.
Volunteers are needed (likely between 6pm & 9pm) to hand out 1000s of EU flags.
Further information available here

Festival of Europe

8 May – Thank EU for the Music
Europe House, London – 13.00 BST
A pre-concert rally ahead off the Europe Day concert
Speakers include:
Mike Galsworthy, A.C. Grayling, Louise Brown
Further details re the concert here
Further details re the rally here

Festival of Europe

29 April – Volt UK Party Conference – London
In person/Online event – 11.00 – 15.00 BST
Agenda includes:

  • Strategy for General Election
  • Brexit & the Rejoin movement
  • Proportional Representation

Register to attend here


Festival of Europe

27 April – Good Law Project
Livestream event – 19.00 – 21.00 BST
Exploring the themes of “Bringing down Goliath” – in conversation with Jolyon Maugham KC
Hosted by: Carol Vorderman
Register to attend here
Watch on Facebook here
Watch on Twitter here
Watch on YouTube here


Festival of Europe

27 April – London 4 Europe/European Movement
Online event – 18.45 BST
The failure of Remain – a comprehensive study of the anti-Brexit movement
Panel:  Adam Fagan & Stijn van Kessel
Register to attend here


Festival of Europe

26 April – Grassroots for Europe
Online webinar – 19.30 BST
Brexit in the Celtic fringe – the state of the Pro-EU campaign in Scotland, Wales & N.I.
Panel: David Clarke, Jackie Jones, Jane Morris
Registration link available soon


Festival of Europe

25 April – UK in a Changing Europe – London
In person/Slido event – 19.00-20.15 BST
Speaker: the Rt. Hon Tom Tugendhat MP
Further information available here
Register to attend in person here
Register to attend online here


Festival of Europe

18 April – Make Votes Matter
Virtual event – 18.30 BST
Get set to Sort the System – the warm up to the People’s Lobby for Equal Votes taking place on 24 May.
Speakers include: Stephen Kinnock, Tom Brake, Jess Garland, Laura Parker & Nancy Platt
Register to attend here
Further information on the People’s Lobby here


Festival of Europe

30 March – East Kent for Europe
Online Zoom event – 18.00 – 19.30 BST
Where is the UK going? Why do we need Europe?
Speaker: Dominic Grieve – former Attorney General & Chair of Intelligence & Security Committee
Join the guest list here


Festival of Europe

29 March – UK in a Changing Europe
In person/live on Slido – 18.30 – 20.15 GMT
The parliamentary battle over Brexit and the Conservative Party.
Panel: Lord Gavin Barwell, Sir Graham Brady, Anand Menon, Isabel Hardmen, Lisa James, Meg Russell
To attend in person (London) sign up here
To attend online sign up here


Festival of Europe

25 March – National Rejoin March
#DayForRejoin events taking place in UK & EU
Bremain are holding their own events which are open to all, or you could organise your own.
More information on events in Spain below:
Picnic in Barcelona – 13.30 to 16.30 – here
Coffee Morning in La Rabita – 11.30 – here
For more information from the National Rejoin March organisers, checkout their website here


Festival of Europe

22 March – UK in a changing Europe
In person/live on Slido – 18.30 – 21.00 GMT
The economic impact of Brexit – as seen by a variety of economists.
Panel includes: Ken Coutts, Sophie Hale, John Springford, Mehreen Khan, Julian Jessop
Register to attend here


Festival of Europe

21 March – European Citizen Action Service
In person (Brussels)/online – 9.30 – 13.00 CET
ECAS is holding it’s annual ‘State of the Union Citizens’ Rights 2023 Conference’.
Speakers include: Marc Angel (VP of EP), Marrit Westerweel & Dr. Nina Miller
Further information & agenda available here
Register to attend here


Festival of Europe

20 March – Compass
Virtual event – 18.00 – 19.15 GMT
Post-Fordeism: Party and Political Culture in a perma-crisis age
Chaired by: Baroness Ruth Lister
Speakers: Daniel Levy, Martin Forde, Francesca Klug OBE & Jennifer Nadel
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

19 March – National Rejoin March Q & A
Livestream – 19.00 – 20.00 GMT
Come & meet the NRM organisers & ask any questions
Hosted by: Lee Rudd
For further information, NRM website here
To attend event, choose relevant SM link:
Facebook Twitter YouTube TikTok


Festival of Europe

2 & 5 March – European Movement UK
Online Events – 19.00 (2nd) & 20.00 (5th) GMT
Hustings with candidates nominated for Chair
Hosted by: Gavin Esler
Candidates: Tom Brake, Patience Wheatcroft & Mike Galsworthy
Register to attend on 2/3 here
Register to attend on 5/3 here


Festival of Europe

1 March – The Northern Ireland Deal – Brexit Spotlight 60-Minute Briefing 17:00 GMT
Luke Cooper talks to Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance Party MLA) & Lisa Whitten (Queen’s University Belfast) about the Northern Ireland Deal between the UK and EU.
Live on YouTube


Festival of Europe

28 February – UK in a Changing Europe
Live on Slido & YouTube – 13.00 – 14.00 GMT
How feasible is “rejoin”?
Panel incudes: Anand Menon, Joelle Grogan, John Curtice Catherine Barnard & Hussain Kassim
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

23 February – London 4 Europe/EM UK
Online Webinar – 18.45 GMT
Why the N.I. Protocol is a great British concern (& not for the reasons you think)
Speaker: Prof. Katy Hayward
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe
22 February – Bath for Europe/EM UK
Online Webinar – 18.00 GMT
How we return to the EU – EM’s step-by-step strategy to rejoin the European Union.
Speaker: Anna Bird, CEO of EM
Register to attend here
Festival of Europe

15 February – Grassroots for Europe
Online webinar – 18.00 – 19.30 GMT
Brexit Polling: Beyond the Numbers.
Recent polls record a steady increase in anti-Brexit sentiment – the panel will interpret the results and discuss the implications
Panel includes:
Richard Bentall, Peter Kellner, Flo Hutchings
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe

7 February – Make Votes Matter
In person (London)/online – 19.30-20.30 GMT
Democracy loves climate justice
Panel includes:
Baroness Natalie Bennett, Clive Lewis MP, Liz Saville Roberts MP, Dave Timms
Tickets for in person attendance from £5; tickets for online attendance £5
Register to attend/buy tickets here

Festival of Europe

2 February – European Movement UK
Online webinar – 19.00 – 20.30 GMT
The REUL Bill threatens our rights
Speakers include:
Caroline Lucas & Mhairi Snowden
Register to attend here

Festival of Europe
24 January – UK in a changing Europe
In person conference, London – 1.30 – 5.00 GMT
A reflection on the relationship between the UK & EU from 1972 to today, to coincide with 50th Anniversary of UK accession.
Panel includes: Stephen Kinnock, Catherine Barnard, Jonathan Hill, Anand Menon
Register to attend here
Festival of Europe
10 January – Oxford for Europe/Cambridge for Europe – Virtual Meeting – 19.00 GMT
A discussion about the current political malaise & what needs to be done about it.
Speaker: Prof. Richard Murphy
Register to attend here
Festival of Europe
Bremainers Ask ….. Professor Anand Menon

Bremainers Ask ….. Professor Anand Menon

Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London. He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project. His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security, and British politics. 

He contributes regularly to both print and broadcast media. He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2012), and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

Paul A Brown : How does the political establishment, particularly the Conservative and Labour parties, come to realise that eventually the future of the UK must be inescapably linked to the EU?

Both parties clearly think that already, though I’m not sure they would phrase it as ‘inescapably linked’, not least as the purpose of Brexit was, in part, to give us a choice about the nature of that relationship. There is no suggestion that the EU can be ignored or that the UK could or should not work with it. Whether that means significantly closer relations than we already have is another question entirely. My sense is that there is little prospect of significantly closer relations under the Tories. Indeed, even steps we expected the Government to take following the negotiation of the Windsor Framework, such as a bid to re-enter the Horizon research project, seem to have stalled as negotiation over finance proves tougher than anticipated. Labour has promised to negotiate SPS and veterinary agreements with the EU, as well as a new security treaty. While these will bring some benefits in specific areas, they will not really impact on the aggregate economic impacts of Brexit which stem largely from non-membership of the single market. In terms of that, Labour have explicitly ruled out single market membership, and it is difficult to envisage this pledge being revisited, at least during the first term of a Labour government.


Steven Wilson : Of all the controversial Bills that have been brought forward by the government in recent months, which do you believe is the most dangerous/damaging, and how difficult will it be for the incoming government to undo that damage?

Interesting! I think the different Bills (Internal Market, Northern Ireland Protocol and Retained EU Law) have been damaging in different ways. The first two in terms of diplomatic relations with the EU and the external reputation of the UK as a country that abides by international law. Personally, I think the lattermost is potentially the most damaging. Both in terms of the potential to disrupt UK-EU relations (sunsetting EU rules has implications for the Level Playing Field agreement negotiated as part of the TCA, and large-scale divergence will impact on UK-EU trade) and, perhaps more importantly, for businesses, which will face enormous regulatory uncertainty, not least as it is far from clear that all EU rules covered by the Bill have yet been identified. At the moment, it looks like the Bill will not make it to the statute book in its current form, much as the offending sections of the Internal Market Bill were eventually removed and the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was eventually withdrawn. All of which speaks to a broader point about Brexit, which is that so much of the politics has been performative – signalling to Brexit supporters rather than actually putting new legal frameworks in place.


Valerie Chaplin : With Starmer ignoring calls for PR and to Rejoin the EU, could he fail at the next GE?

I’m not convinced that not adopting PR or a rejoin position will damage Starmer going into the coming election. I tend to think, not least as long as the Lib Dems have not adopted rejoin, that his Brexit position is probably electorally sensible (PR will not be an issue, I think). I think Labour will want the focus to be on issues other than Brexit, which I think is probably the right approach for them. It’s certainly possible that Labour will not win the election, certainly in terms of forming a majority government, though this still seems the most likely outcome at the moment. There is a long time to go, and a lot can happen. A lot will, of course, hinge on the state of the economy at the time of the next election. My sense is that Labour will not embrace PR even if they do win – the problem being that parties that win under FPTP are unwilling to consider changing it.


Michael Soffe : For those of us who feel politically homeless at the moment, do you foresee a full-on, mainstream, Rejoin party being created in the future (besides Rejoin and Volt)?

I am very sceptical of talk about new parties, given the enormous disincentives provided by our electoral system. I think the key initial development when it comes to rejoin might be if and when the Lib Dems adopt it as a position. This could spark a debate. However, the problem is that Brexit is declining in salience among the public as a whole at the moment. So I’m not offering you much in the way of hope in the short-term, I’m afraid! There are some people who think that Labour’s position on Brexit may shift if they gain power. This will not be to a ‘rejoin’ stance, but, it is argued, may involve a far closer relationship than Starmer is willing to discuss at the moment.  This may be true, but a lot will hinge on the outcome of the next election. A significant Labour majority will give Starmer more room for manoeuvre (and more certainty of having two terms to do what he wants to do) than a narrow one, or even being head of a minority government.



Helen Johnston : You recently argued that the fire seems to have gone from many Brexiter bellies, and that the British public has lost interest in Brexit (Guardian 1 March). Is that a problem or an opportunity for the Rejoin movement?

I don’t think the former really affects the Rejoin movement, while the latter is probably a problem. To explain. The ERG no longer seems to be the power it once was, and many of its members have gone on to focus on other issues – net zero, China, economic policy etc. This makes it easier for Sunak to be pragmatic (cf Windsor Framework) but I don’t think has much at all to do with the prospects for Rejoin (which, to put my cards on the table, I think are slim). Simply put, I don’t think the initial steps in this direction, were they to come, would be under a Tory Government. I think the falling salience of Brexit is an issue in that, if this remains the case, it will be harder for any Government to justify spending time on an issue the public have little interest in.  I think a crucial issue will be the degree to which the debate about the impact of Brexit on the economy continues once we are out of the current cost of living crisis. Given the pressures people currently face, it is easy to see why a lot more is being said about these impacts (albeit I think some people are guilty of exaggerating the degree to which Brexit is responsible for, or contributing to, the current situation). Should the relationship between Brexit and the economy continue to be a live issue, then at least the conversation will continue, though the problem is there aren’t really any incremental solutions – the main costs of Brexit in economic terms are caused by not being in the single market. However, this is precisely what allows for what are seen by some as the main benefits of Brexit (ending freedom of movement, making our own laws etc). There is a certain dishonesty in the Labour position of arguing that small changes (SPS agreement etc) will make a significant economic impact.


Sue Scarrott : Do you believe the Windsor Framework will be instrumental in significantly improving future relations and closer ties with the EU?

Yes, but to limited immediate practical effect. As we saw from the Anglo-French summit that took place soon after the unveiling of the Windsor Framework, the agreement opens the door for warmer diplomatic relations between the UK, EU and member states. That being said, it would seem that negotiations on UK participation in the Horizon research programme – which I among others had thought would be one of the first fruits of a solution to the stand-off over the NI Protocol – have floundered. Nor is this Government anxious to negotiate any other formal agreements with the EU that go beyond the TCA. So, in the short term, I think we can expect to see lots of warm diplomatic words and friendly meetings, whether in the margins of the coronation, or at the G7 in Japan, or at the 1 June meeting of the European Political Community – but not much else.


Derek Ironside : Do you foresee the UK rejoining, at minimum, the Single Market via whatever means… or have we diverged too much already?

Not in the next decade, to be honest. It’s not really a question of divergence at the moment (though that might change over time or, particularly, if the Retained EU Law Bill comes into law). For me the main hurdle is political. I do not see a first term Labour Government thinking in these terms, and even if a second term Starmer Government changes its mind on this, negotiations will take time. Nor am I convinced that such a change of heart will occur. A lot will hinge on how salient Brexit continues to be, the degree to which the Tories in opposition (if, indeed, they are) continue to talk about it and so on. Labour will not want to give the Tories attack lines for the election after 2024, and accepting freedom of movement may indeed do just this. Much will depend on public opinion on legal immigration, not least as the current high levels of inward migration look set to continue for the foreseeable situation. The state of the economy will also be important. My sense is that recovery from the cost-of-living crisis might make the debate about the economic impact of Brexit less acute than it currently is which, along with the declining salience of Brexit could limit the incentives even for Labour of reopening the debate.


Lisa Burton : UK in a Changing Europe is a genuine academic think tank producing quality research and reports. Do you find it frustrating that so many groups now call themselves think tanks yet only seem to exist to produce conflicting and misguided data?

Ha, thank you! My honest answer to this is that many people, including academics, hate the fact that we have come to call ourselves a think tank. I’ve never, to be honest, googled the definition, but I must confess that I think we are the interlopers here rather than other, genuine think tanks. What makes us different is partly, as you say, that we tend to publish work by academics based on research. In that sense, I’ve always thought UKICE was not about Brexit per se but about convincing people – whether politicians, civil servants, or the public – that social scientists are worth listening to. The other thing is that think tanks generally are about making policy proposals and trying to get Government to adopt them. We are explicitly not allowed to do that. We can’t say ‘should’, in other words, but have to show what ‘is’ and let others make up their own minds what to do about it. It is written into the terms of our funding that we have to remain absolutely impartial. So I’m not sure we’re really a think tank, but one thing we do try to do is to question the veracity of what real think tanks say when this is in doubt. Our aim, I suppose, is to position ourselves such that people like you come to us for facts and evidence and, armed with them, can make their minds up about proposals made by ‘proper’ think tanks. I hope that helps!

Next Month

Prof. Juliet Lodge

Prof. Juliet Lodge has been a professor of EU politics at several universities in UK, NZ and EU. In the 1990s, Juliet was named ‘European woman of Europe‘ for her voluntary work. She has authored many books about the EU and is a regular contributor for Yorkshire Bylines. Juliet also co-convened the anti-Brexit group Women4europe. She is currently working on EU Horizon projects on disinformation where she leads work on ethics and AI. If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please email it to us

Bremainers Ask …. Russ Jones

Bremainers Ask …. Russ Jones

Russ Jones is an author and political commentator with over 277,000 followers on Twitter where he regularly reports on #TheWeekInTory as @RussInCheshire. He is currently writing the sequel to his book The Decade in Tory. The new book will be entitled Four Chancellors and a Funeral.

Steve Wilson: Of all the government failures and cock-ups that you have catalogued in ‘The week in Tory’ are there any in particular that stand out for you?

I started The Week In Tory because of one event that made me laugh my head off: our Prime Minister, Fat Malfoy, had accidentally made it illegal to drive to Wales. I started tweeting about it, and as I was writing I realised about eight other stupid things had happened in the same week, so I listed them. People liked it, so I did it again, and here we are, two years (and two books) later.

But that one still sticks with me. How can a Prime Minister accidentally make it illegal to drive to Wales? How utterly, barnstormingly cretinous.

David Eldridge: Is the new agreement on Northern Ireland the beginning of the end for Brexit?

The beginning of the end of Brexit was 9am on 24 June 2016. It’s been dying since the moment it happened, but it will be a long, drawn-out death.

At heart, Brexit was nothing to do with Europe, or with the UK either. It wasn’t related to trade deals or borders, immigrants or sovereignty. At heart, Brexit was about disruption. It was a slogan in search of a policy, promising we could simply kick away the hidebound experts, and do something different. It never said what it would actually do, just not “this”.

But ultimately all governance is about organisation. It doesn’t matter if you’re Corbyn or Thatcher, Starmer or Sunak: your job is to organise things. The “this” people objected to was that organisation, which is always fiddly and complicated, but needs to be done. However, in the wake of Brexit we elected to government a libertarian populist movement, whose defining mission was an instinctive opposition to any kind of organisation whatsoever, and therefore a rejection of the very principles of government. We shouldn’t have been shocked when they turned out to be absolutely terrible at it.

And this, of course, means Brexit was inherently doomed from the get-go. I don’t think it’ll end quickly, I’m afraid, but I do think the Windsor (NI) agreement is the death of that libertarian, Johnsonesque populism. It’s the first time for years that a major policy decision has been based on rationality. It made me quite hopeful, which is an unfamiliar feeling!

Ruth Woodhouse: I understand that you have been scathing about what you see as Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the referendum and his subsequent actions. Do you feel that Keir Starmer has dealt with the Brexit fall-out better and taken the correct approach?

My main problem with Corbyn was his self-evident inability to win, which was clear very early in his leadership. If you don’t win, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, because you can never implement any of it. If, by some miracle, he’d have reached Number 10, he’d have buggered things up in a thousand ways. All politicians do, and Starmer will too. I’m not claiming Corbyn was uniquely incapable. But because he never got the chance to be catastrophic, his devoted army still believes him to be a sainted, lost King Over The Water. So he still haunts the Labour Party, despite being as relevant to our future as Jim Callaghan.

I do worry that Starmer is misreading the mood on Brexit. I understand why – where’s the election-winning value in reopening the Brexit wounds, which will probably only benefit the Tories?

But public opinion is now strongly anti-Brexit, Sunak is already delivering a softer Brexit in NI, and is even starting to talk about relaxing migration rules (although I’ll believe it when I see it). I think it’s a bad idea to box Labour in.

I think it’s inevitable that political and economic gravity will pull us back into the EU, in some form. I worry that by ruling out absolutely any formal relationship with the EU (such as joining the Single Market) Labour will find itself on the wrong side of history.

And Labour will inherit a terrible economy. The single best thing it can do for growth is to re-join the Single Market and Customs Union, which could help fund the NHS and all the other crumbling institutions left behind by the Tories. It seems daft to absolutely rule it out.


Anon: Assuming the Tory party suffer a major defeat at the next general election, do you think they can survive. If so, what do they need to do to transform their future fortunes?

All parties are coalitions, but the Tory party is taking it to extremes. They’re not so much a party as a patchwork of imaginary grievances thrown together by Mary Shelley’s imagination.

Since the late 80s, there been have countless simultaneous versions of the Conservative Party, engaged in a furious (and to most people meaningless) thirty-year battle over who gets to keep the name. A bit like Pink Floyd.

Thatcher held it together through force of will, and because she kept winning. That tenuous unity largely disintegrated under Major and the political minnows who succeeded him. Desperation for power made those who despised Cameron shut up long enough to win, but Brexit let the demons loose once more.

The unifying socioeconomic theories that held these factions together have been proven wrong beyond any doubt. Truss killed off 30 years of Tufton Street fantasy economics in a single afternoon, and now there’s not much holding them together. If (as I hope) Labour introduce voting reform, the last thing binding the Tories as a single entity – FPTP – would be gone, and they’d all be free to follow their own mad dreams.

From the chaos a new, centre-right party of rational humans could emerge, consisting of people like Dominic Grieve or Ken Clarke. I don’t agree with them about much, but I can see their essential value and the thought process from which their policies emerge. And we need them.

I’m life-long Labour, but I’m not daft enough to think any party should face no viable opposition. Every government needs holding to account, and a sound, sensible centre-right party would be good for Britain, even from the opposition benches. Meanwhile the maniacs can all vanish into the anonymity of GB News for a decade-long circle-jerk, while the grown-ups get on with governing.

Mike Phillips: Does the current Tory party represent the dying embers of the British Empire and what lessons are there for the way we select our MPs?

I don’t think Britain knows what it’s for any more. A quarter of the world’s population was under British rule in 1880, and because we had all the money, jobs, flags and – quite importantly – guns, English ended up as the world’s default second-language. And we ended up assuming this makes us inherently important. It doesn’t.

150 years on, we’re a small, wet, heavily indebted island with few trading partners, no essential industries, and no means of feeding ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re the fifth biggest economy, but Panda is the fifth biggest cola company. I don’t see Pepsi shitting themselves.

We used to be a valued bridge between the USA and Europe, but Brexit broke half of that, and the shift in global power towards China has undermined the rest. We were once a beacon of stability, diplomacy and legal certainty, but now we smash international laws so we can treat migrants like cockroaches, and elect a PM who tells America to “fuck off”.

Unless we come to terms with our true status and build new partnerships for the next century, I don’t see a great way forward. And there is no partnership except the EU. We have no other neighbours. The EU is it.

As for MPs: we need massive democratic reform, and as part of that I’d like to see far fewer people in Westminster (we have the largest Parliament except China, which has 22 times our population). Instead, more local representation, better funding and powers for regions, and (this won’t be popular) pay the remaining MPs a lot more money. It’s a hugely challenging job with no pension, and if you want good people you need to pay for them. And we do need good people. But we should outlaw all second-jobs or political donations. Unless we have publicly funded political parties, political parties will always be in somebody’s pocket.

If something is offered to you for free, YOU are the product. That applies to politics too.

Lisa Burton: It’s a tough choice, but which politician do you think is the most dangerous regarding language and intention?

Steve Barclay. We’re all focused on the performatively evil Suella Braverman, the flagrantly pompous Rees-Mogg, and the shamelessly law-breaking Boris Johnson. But in the nooks and crannies behind the crooks and nannies, you’ll find Steve Barclay, diligently tearing apart the fabric of our society.

Of all the people I’ve written about, he’s the one safest from character assassination, because he was born without one. But he’s a wildly destructive force, sometimes holding three ministerial positions at once, and wreaking havoc across all levels of government. He gets away with it because he’s so effortlessly bland. Half the people I mention him to assume I mean Steve Baker.

Next month in Bremainers Ask – Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London. He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project. His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security, and British politics. He contributes regularly to both print and broadcast media. He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2012), and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

If you have any questions you would like to put to Anand, please email them to us no later than Sunday 4 April.

Votes for Life – The Elections Act

Votes for Life – The Elections Act

Since Bremain in Spain’s inception, regaining our right to vote in UK elections has always been a high priority. After years of campaigning, the 15-year rule has now been overturned and our right to vote in UK elections has been re-established, regardless of where we live.

However, we still have a long road to travel to ensure relevant processes and procedures are in place to make voting in UK elections a reality. We must keep up the pressure on government to follow through on their commitments in a timely fashion, and before the next general election.

Bremain will also be looking at further ways to make our voting contribution more meaningful, such as a campaign for dedicated MPs for Britons living overseas.

Check back here regularly for all the latest news updates, as and when they happen.

On 23 March 2023, Bremain Chair Sue Wilson attended a meeting at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to discuss the restoration of full democratic voting rights to Britons living abroad.

The meeting was with officials from Elections Directorate at the DLUHC in Westminster.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the next steps, the process and to establish the timescale. This is what we learned ……….

Secondary legislation

In order to restore full voting rights following the passing of the Elections Act by Parliament, secondary legislation will be necessary.

This will take place in the Autumn session of parliament 2023 with the intention of delivering ‘votes for life’ ahead of the next General Election. The secondary legislation to deliver the overseas electors change is expected to be made and come into force in January 2024.

Improvements to the registration process

To facilitate voting arrangements, the process of registration will be made simpler, and the frequency of re-registration will be extended from 1 year to (up to) 3 years. An online registration service will be complemented by the introduction of an online absent vote (postal or proxy) application process.

As soon as the changes come into force, newly enfranchised electors will be able to apply to register to vote. We will then be encouraging our members to act quickly, rather than wait until an election is announced.

The franchise of eligible voters will be extended to include all of the following British citizens, regardless of how long they have been living abroad:

  • those previously registered to vote in the UK
  • those previously resident in the UK

In addition, those that left the UK before they were old enough to register to vote will no longer have to rely on the registration status of their parents/guardians.


The verification process

The process will require the verification of both personal identity and a previous UK address.

Regarding identity verification, this could be established, as now, via a check of applicants’ details (including NI number) against DWP records, or if that is not possible, via documentary evidence, such as a UK passport. Failing that, an attestation (a declaration that certain facts are true) from a suitably qualified elector (not a close family member) would be acceptable.

Re address verification, if it is not possible for an Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to verify an address by a register check, other options will be available, such as documentary evidence from a bank, building society, utility company, tax office or a variety of other organisations. A full list is available online (see below). Failing that, an attestation – as with ID verification – would be acceptable.

Following the meeting, Sue said, “I came away from the meeting impressed with the level of detail provided, the comprehensive nature of the planning and preparation, and the understanding of the issues we face as overseas voters. I was impressed with the knowledge and abilities of the people I met and with their willingness to engage with us and to listen to our concerns. Now, bring on the next election, but not before next spring, please!”

For further information, go to the government website: Overseas electors: Delivering ‘votes for life’ for British expatriates


The Elections Act has received Royal Assent and has now become law. It will allow British citizens abroad to vote in UK elections, by removing the 15-year limit. It will also extend the annual re-registration requirements to just once every three years.

In response to an enquiry regarding overseas voters’ measures in the Elections Act, the Electoral Commission said, “The Government has not yet made the legislation necessary to bring these changes into force, and we do not expect them to come into force before summer 2023. More detail on the implementation of these measures is expected to come from the government in the coming months.”

You can read the Government’s announcement re the passing of the Elections Act here

You can read an article written by Bremain Chair, Sue Wilson, on the passing of the Elections Act here

Our campaign for the restoration of our voting rights, and the scrapping of the arbitrary 15-year rule, moved a little closer to fruition this month. The controversial Elections Bill, which includes the government’s manifesto promise to restore our voting privileges, has made some progress through parliament. On 7 September, the bill passed the Second Reading in the House of Commons.  

On 22 September, the Committee stage began, and is scheduled to continue on 19 October. You can watch the latest proceedings on Parliament TV here

In tandem with the passage of the bill through the Commons, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) started its Elections Bill Inquiry. Many campaign groups submitted evidence to the committee, Bremain included. 

We asked our members why their vote was important to them and used many of your testimonies in our report. Many thanks to all those that contributed. You can read about our presentation of evidence to the committee here, in an article by our Chair, Sue Wilson.  To read our evidence report in full, click here 

The date for the second reading of the Elections Bill has been announced as 7 September, at 12.40 BST.

The second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the general principles of the Bill. At the end of the debate, MPs will vote on whether they think the Bill should proceed to the next stage – the Committee Stage.

You can follow the progress of the Bill here

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV, or watch a recording after the event here

On 26 July, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) announced a new enquiry into the controversial Elections Bill.

The bill includes government plans to introduce voter ID at polling stations, the aim being to “protect the integrity of elections”. However, many campaigners have argued that election fraud is extremely rare, and the bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Committee Chair William Wragg said:


“These proposals make significant changes to the implementation of and potentially participation in elections. It’s natural that they are properly interrogated and claims by the Government that the plans would protect our democracy are tested before implementation. Although few would argue against shoring-up our electoral system in principle, it’s critical to ensure that it is done correctly, that it is fair, and that it is necessary to do so.”

Of course, the bill also includes the long-awaited restoration of democratic voting rights for Britons living abroad, affected by the arbitrary 15-year rule. We are encouraging our members to write to their MPs with their views on the Elections Bill – good and bad – and we will be presenting evidence to the committee in due course.

You can read more about the proposed enquiry here

You can read more about PACAC here

If you wish to submit evidence to the committee, you can do so here. The deadline is 31 August 2021.

Veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler OBE, has been fighting for the restoration of our democratic voting rights for 25 years. 
On 17th July 2021, he celebrated his 100th birthday. Bremain could not let this occasion pass un-noticed, so we asked our members and other campaign groups to join us in sharing our good wishes.

Bremain members contributed to our birthday book. You can view the book & read our members’ comments here

Campaign groups across the UK & the EU contributed to our dedicated video, which you can view here

We wish Harry a very happy birthday, & many more to come.

On 5 July 2021, the government bill set to restore our democratic voting rights was finally brought before parliament. A government press release stated that the new legislation was designed “to strengthen the integrity of UK elections and protect our democracy”, and included this aim:

“To increase participation in our democracy, the Bill will deliver the longstanding commitment to remove the arbitrary 15 year limit on overseas electors voting in UK Parliamentary general elections.”

The Elections Bill is proving controversial, though not because of the scrapping of the 15-year voting rule. The cause for concern is the planned introduction of voter ID, which threatens to disenfranchise many further voters, and is regarded by many as undemocratic and unnecessary.

Bremain will be following the passage of the new bill with great interest, and will provide regular updates.

More information on the Elections Bill is available on the official government website here.

You can also access updates on the Parliament website here, including the latest government publications and details of the bill’s progress. The government describe the bill thus:


“A Bill to make provision about the administration and conduct of elections, including provision designed to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process; about overseas electors; about voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens; about the designation of a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission; about the membership of the Speaker’s Committee; about the Electoral Commission’s functions in relation to criminal proceedings; about financial information to be provided by a political party on applying for registration; for preventing a person being registered as a political party and being a recognised non-party campaigner at the same time; about regulation of expenditure for political purposes; about disqualification of offenders for holding elective offices; about information to be included in electronic campaigning material; and for connected purposes.”
For further information:

Read the Elections Bill in full here 

Read the Explanatory Notes here 

Read the Elections Bill Impact Assessment here

The government officially announced today that British citizens who have moved abroad will be given ‘votes for life’ as the UK Government scraps the arbitrary 15-year limit on the voting rights. All British citizens who are living overseas who have been previously registered or previously resident in the UK will be able to vote in UK Parliamentary General Elections. In addition, the new rules will mean overseas electors can stay registered for longer requiring them to renew their registration details once every three years, rather than annually.

Overseas electors will also be able to reapply for a postal vote or refresh their proxy vote at the same time as renewing their voter registration, streamlining the process and helping to ensure they have appropriate voting arrangements in place ahead of an election. These changes, which will form part of the Elections Bill will come into effect in time for the next scheduled General Election in 2024.

Since the 2010 General Election and each subsequent election, the Conservative party have pledged to repeal the fifteen year rule and provision was made in this year’s Budget in March.

In yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, as part of the Electoral Integrity Bill, the commitment to remove the fifteen year rule was announced.

After months of inactivity, it seems the British government’s manifesto commitment – to scrap the 15-year rule – is finally taking a step forward.

The Electoral Integrity Bill – which includes the restoration of the democratic voting rights of millions of Brits abroad – will form part of this spring’s Queen’s Speech.

There was further good news in the Budget yesterday. If you look closely at the small print on page 48, you will find reference to additional funds set aside expressly for the purpose of securing our #VotesForLife 

2.41 Overseas Electors The government is providing an additional £2.5 million to remove
the limit preventing British citizens who live overseas from voting after 15 years.

You can read an article by Sue Wilson about the bill in the Yorkshire Bylines here