Madeleina Kay, also known as “Super EU Girl”, is an upcoming pro-EU activist and a member of Bremain in Spain. Madeleina made international news earlier this month after being escorted out of the Brussels press conference on the state of progress of the Brexit negotiations – despite having press accreditation. You can read more about how her fancy dress costume raised eyebrows in this Euronews article
Prior to taking her activism to Belgium, Kay was invited to participate in the panel of Channel 4’s Brexit debate in Bath, where the audience was supposedly made up of people who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. In this exclusive article, she shares her impressions of the evening and tells us about her current vision for the ongoing fight to stop Brexit.
“I was delighted when a Channel 4 News producer invited me to take part in the “Remainers” panel in the BrexitReality debate. The programme was filmed live in Bath (a heavily Remain voting constituency) in the evening, and as I would miss the last train home to Sheffield, I was forced to stay in Bath overnight, which I was more than happy about as they put me up in a very nice hotel. The day before the filming, I received the final panel shortlist and was slightly nervous when I discovered I was up against MPs from the Labour, LibDem, and SNP parties as well as a Conservative Party member (apparently, they contacted about 40 Tory MPs and couldn’t get a single one to participate… I wonder why?). I was the only young person on the panel; nonetheless, I felt I held my own during the debate and made some important points, although not as many as I would have liked.
Also on the panel was Hugo Dixon, one of Boris Johnson’s former school chums and a vocal Remainer. Unsurprisingly, we got on swimmingly, and voiced many of the same opinions. It was interesting to discover more about his work – attempting to make the fact-based argument to remain in the European Union. I was a bit alarmed when, in the introductions, he mentioned the “H” word, drawing parallels between Brexit and Nazis. I don’t think the majority of people who voted Leave are Neo-Nazis; I think they were lied to and influenced by the ongoing slur campaign against the European Union driven by the right-wing press. I also believe there has been a significant lack of education about the European Union in Britain, and there is a huge amount of ignorance regarding what it actually does and how it benefits the member states. I think that rather than taking a “Project Fear” approach, we need to inspire and educate people about the European Union, and I like to do that by wearing fancy dress costumes and using books and illustrations to communication my message. Having said that, I think that facts and rational argument also play a key role in reinforcing this.
The panel debate was led by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and followed the preceding week’s “Leavers” panel, which was filmed in Wakefield, an area with a high Brexit vote. There was a high level of audience participation, and as the programme only lasted for 30 minutes, it was difficult to present a developed argument. The purpose of the debate was to show “all the shades of Remain”, and as such, many of the audience and several of the panel were actually “lapsed” Remainers who have given up the fight and accepted the “will of the people”. Unfortunately, this resulted in the majority of the debate revolving around whether we should be pursuing a second referendum on the final deal and whether that would be undemocratic, rather than other issues such as EU citizens’ rights and how we might change the conversation about the EU to promote its values and the opportunities it provides. I was especially infuriated by the number of young people in the audience who had effectively given up on Remain, including a representative from Better Brexit for Young People. I didn’t have the opportunity to point out that there is no “better” Brexit. Instead, there is either the Brexit the Tories serve up or WTO rules, depending on how the negotiations progress. I did make the point that the young 15/16/17-year-olds who were not of voting age on 23 June 2016 ought to have a say in their future when the negotiations are finally over in March 2019 (or however long it takes). I also argued that “the people”, regardless of whether they voted Leave or Remain, have a right to approve the final deal in a second referendum on the terms of exit. If the Tories deliver something totally under-par, then even the most ardent Brexiteer should have the right to reject it. After all, why would be chose to become economically, socially and culturally poorer?
I received two rounds of applause (more than anyone else!) for my contributions, as the audience was generally quite receptive to my arguments. Nonetheless, I was slightly disgruntled to discover that there appeared to be several Brexiteers planted in the audience (if the Bath Conservative Twitter feed is anything to go by), who I believe had snuck into the audience under the guise of being “lapsed” Remainers. One of them made a totally unsubstantiated and illogical argument about EU member states not following EU policy regarding refugees. He claimed to have converted to the Dark Side because the EU has failed to force member states to implement pro-refugee policy. (Many other Brexiteers argue that the EU is too controlling of member states, but it is a recurring theme that they want to have their cake and eat it.) I was a bit thrown when Krishna directed that contribution to me, asking how I would respond. After a brief hesitation, I made the point that actually, to focus on one minor issue like that is to lose sight of the bigger picture. It disregards everything that the EU has achieved in the last 44 years and it overlooks the multiple benefits of EU membership that we are set to lose as a result of Brexit. I received a second round of applause when I pointed out that the Brexit vote was a result of a lack of education and publicity about how EU funding is used.
I would have liked to have taken Steven Kinnock to task on the Labour Party’s stance on Brexit. He was typically in/out in Brexit Hokey-Cokey style with regard to the Single Market, Customs Union etc. However, there was a suspicious absence of conversation about Corbyn during the debate, and it was impossible to alter the direction of the conversation, which was being forcefully led by Krishna. Nonetheless, I was incredibly grateful to be given a voice as a young British citizen and also an unrelenting #StopBrexit campaigner. I still believe there is everything to play for, and we must continue the fight for our rights. Never give up! All the Brexiteers need is a little imagination, and they will see that remaining in the European Union is the best possible outcome for everybody.”
You can follow Madeleina on Twitter @SuperEUGirl