Nick Hill, Co-Chair of Lewisham East, reflects on how the UK might take it first steps towards rejoining the European Union. Be Focused, Active and Bold - F-A-B!
Our world changes (again) on 31 December; clearly for the worse (again). We do get rid of 2020, a year which very few will remember with affection (perhaps if Trump is kicked out of office …), but - one way or another - the UK’s transition period will end and, either a new deal (or the bare bones of one) comes into play, or we crash out. It’s hard to see positives, just as it was when we formally ran away from the EU. It will be a sad, shameful day for our country, one that we tried so hard – positively, democratically and patriotically - to prevent. But positives there are.
From now on, finally, we are not fighting to stop anything, nor to defend or oppose. The worst has happened, the consequences will sooner or later become apparent to all. We are, instead, from now on, fighting a campaign we can frame ourselves, to rebuild, repair, progress and advance, campaigning for change for the better. For the first time in five years, dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire for change will be our ally.
We are not going to pretend that’s going to make anything easy. Polls, showing ever-more people viewing Brexit as a mistake, don’t mean that people will rush to support the UK quickly rejoining the EU.
Especially, in light of Covid-19, there is going to be an even stronger desire in 2021 among many people - assuming the terms of our exit are settled by the year-end - to ‘just get on with it’, even if ‘it’ is widely accepted to have been a mistake. And, whether we like it or not, and whatever it says about our dire electoral system, the basic arithmetic of Parliament is highly unlikely to change for, at least, another few years.
Furthermore, we can expect little, if any, formal support from the leaderships of the main opposition parties. Keir Starmer is not going to make the issue of rejoining the EU part of Labour policy and, even the LibDems, under Ed Davey, are trying to avoid being seen as purely a party for Remain/Rejoin. That picture could change, but only as a result of strong pressure from popular opinion for the parties to come out more openly in support of, at least a fresh referendum. It will be the cart leading the horse.
This may all sound downbeat, supportive of the idea that we have to take a 10-year (or more) view on a return to the EU. Perhaps, but not necessarily. Nobody can predict how events will unfold. We will be realistic about (and be prepared for) how long ‘it’ might take, even probably will take, but we should not see that as a reason for being dejected or passive now. There is plenty to be done to help make ‘it’ happen.
After all, let’s not pretend that, if the UK returned quickly to the EU, (grudgingly?), all would be perfect. We, as a populace, would probably still be content to whine from the side-lines, would still have politicians happy to use ‘Brussels’ as the excuse for their failures, and would still have a large number of unreformed Quitters.
Many of us would embrace an immediate return as we could work on those challenges from a position of greater strength. But how much better it will be, if we can help ensure that, when the UK does resume its position within the EU, it is a different, positive UK? One that acknowledges and supports the goals of the European project and wants to help shape the future of our continent? The EU will be much the better for it, as well as the UK. We see this as a goal well worth continuing to fight for.
So, as Quitters are fond of three-word slogans, we will do the same, planning and building, by being:
Focused Keep the local groups together and cohesive (and create and build more), keep the national groups supported, maintain contacts (whether or not there are actual events) and related activities in this difficult environment.
We need to ensure that, if the tide turns in favour of an early return to the EU, we are ready to be full-on again to help win that campaign.
Active This may not be the time for organising marches and mass demonstrations; but it is the time for building and strengthening contacts and relationships with our European partners, at every level.
We will get involved with, and initiate, projects that will help turn public opinion away from an ‘us and them’ attitude towards the pursuit of shared goals, experiences and values. Ultimately, we will undermine those multiple ‘Quitter lies’ through demonstrating the realities of the EU project, and to help reassure our EU partners that Quitters do not speak for our country.
- Bold At the same time, let’s not shy away from what we believe in. Wear pro-EU badges and stickers. Wave the ‘Blue and Stars’ when you want to. Remind people why we believe in our country being an EU member state. Continue to work within the political parties to keep pressing the case for supporting rejoining the EU, irrespective of the attitude of the leadership.
Our country will rejoin the EU, however long it takes. Our job now is to make everything ‘Absolutely FAB.’ Make this our pledge!
Co-Chair, Lewisham East
This article is written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily represent the views of London4Europe or the European Movement UK.