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A practical strategy for Remainers
05 Aug, 2018

World Peace – and a people’s vote

London4Europe Committee member and former senior civil servant Michael Romberg sums up the strategy. Key: we have to deserve to win the referendum on the terms (people's vote) by offering Leave voters a better future. Only a few months left.

The case for Remain

“World Peace”. Those are the opening words of the Schumann Declaration – the May 1950 founding document of what is now the European Union. So that is what it is all about. Peace between member states. Peace in the face of external threat by offering political support to the NATO military alliance.

The EU has helped member states make the transition from dictatorship to democracy – and it keeps established democracies up to the mark.

It is not all about the single market or the customs union – important though these boosts to our economic prosperity are. These are just means to an end.

I wish to Remain in the EU because I wish the UK to be part of the great European peace project.

Peace between states is rooted in understanding between individuals

Freedom of movement is not some add-on, an economic tool to get workers to factories. It is a central part of breaking down the barriers between the peoples of Europe.

We all share a common history, a common culture. Go into a museum in London or in Kiev, in Madrid or in Stockholm, and you see how similar art, culture, technology, thought have always flowed across Europe. You also see the local variations that make this Continent so fascinatingly diverse.

I support freedom of movement. I am glad that three million of our EU fellow citizens have made their homes here and that one million UK citizens have made their homes in the EU. To those of us who can perceive the EU’s Unity in Diversity that seems as natural as people from Yorkshire retiring to Bournemouth.

For young people especially EU freedom of movement seems as normal as freedom of movement between English counties. But the underpinning infrastructure – from reciprocal healthcare to a ban on roaming charges – needs to be built; that was the EU’s task and it is still needed.

A People’s Vote with the option to Remain

In June 2016 the country voted to leave the EU. The result should be respected. The Government did not need to make quite so much of a mess of it but they were right to work on a plan to leave the EU, send in the Article 50 notification and negotiate a framework for future relations with the EU.

That however is the end of the June 2016 mandate. There was no plan in the Leave campaign, so there can be no mandate to implement whatever plan is subsequently cooked up. Instead, as is normal with any project, there needs to be a review. Having gone down the referendum route, only a referendum has the political authority to confirm or change course.

So there should be a people’s vote offering the British electorate a choice on the ballot paper: Brexit on the agreed terms; or Remain.

Deserving to Win

Problems with Brexit will lead some to vote Remain. That might scrape us over 50%. But our aim should be to settle the question – and to heal the country.

June’s Leave voters will only vote Remain in 2019 if they think that it is in their own interests to do so. So we need to come up with a policy offer that will make them believe that Remain Britain is the best hope for themselves and for Britain.

That means addressing the grievances that Leave voters had – though we do not need to adopt their solutions. “Nobody listens to us” – we can promote proportional representation. “Left behind communities” – better schools and colleges. “Too many immigrants” – emphasise how immigrants assimilate, and make that a reality.

We need to get on with it

The first task is to obtain the people’s vote with the option to Remain – you can sign up to the people’s vote campaign here.

But in parallel with that campaign we need to work up how to win it. That means persuading Leave voters that their concerns have been heard. As a non-party body we should not push one party’s solutions. But we should show how all parties have manifesto commitments that would in their very different ways address the expressed concerns. Staying in the EU would make that much easier – not least because the government would actually have the time to address these concerns, not worry about just keeping the show on the road by implementing Brexit.

 

 

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