How many times have you asked yourself: “Why can’t pro-European groups get together and show a unified campaigning front just like Leave managed?” Through the Round Table, Jo Pye explains just how close we are getting to this objective.
As various movements have waxed and waned over different strands of anti-Brexit campaigning, motivated activists have joined various organisations, often at the same time.
Personal (human) rivalry played an unhelpful part at the most critical time. It didn’t help that our political parties couldn’t find common ground to place the counter arguments of why the UK had prospered as an influential member in the EU. And where was the probing press and media to counter the Leave falsehoods and misrepresentations?
Perhaps we couldn’t explain why it felt good to be part of a continent with shared values, chances of prosperity and freedoms. Peace is so much less emotive than war. But there was a clamour for change from the disaffected who had been left behind with six years of austerity. It was so much easier for Governments to blame the EU for what it had failed to do with the sovereign powers it already had and had never lost.
So the fractured pro-Europeans never got their chance for a People’s Vote, and then had to confront the tragedy of an unnecessary election in December 2019 when a heady mix of jingoism, oven-ready nonsense and the need to shake things up removed most available campaigning oxygen.
But a little oxygen remained: over the 2019/2020 Christmas and New Year period, a small group of reeling stalwarts coalesced within Grassroots for Europe, a network of 250 local campaigning groups. They put on a successful National Conference in January 2020. This was the range of campaigners and campaigning entities that hadn’t thrown in the towel. A genuine spirit of camaraderie and common campaigning cause was palpable.
Within six days of the conference, the UK was in Transition and the fog that was to become the UK-EU Trade talks began in earnest. And so did the start of the Pandemic in Europe. By early March 2020, a small group of those activists had started to meet regularly via the new-fangled Zoom app. Their aim was to build on the collaborative threads that had emerged from the Conference. The challenge, then, was to build them into an effective entity.
As each campaigning organisation began to piece together its often-divergent new strategies and tactics, the extent of the challenge became clear. I called it “a Collaboration of Equals." Could we achieve the longed-for “unified voice” that anti-Brexiters craved?
We asked Grassroots for Europe to take on the task of facilitating a “Round Table”, at which it would also be an equal core contributor in its own right.
The first Round Table took place virtually on 28 April 2020. It comprised an already diverse set of participants - Grassroots for Europe, the European Movement, Another Europe is Possible, The3Million and the Brussels-based Pro-Europa, plus input from Women4Europe and UKPEN.eu.
Moving forward in time, Round Table #9 is now planned for 1 December 2020 and, to date, 17 leading campaigning groups are taking part, each with their own take on what needs to be done, but all with a shared desire to find common ground and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.
The Round Table is quietly and methodically uniting the campaigners for optimised campaigns, in whatever form each wishes to follow. As an active member, EM will be publicising related causes as part of its ethos to support kindred movements.
The latest initiative to join the Round Table is Voices 4 A Better Deal (V4BD).
Formally established in early November 2020, this non-partisan civil society campaign aims to gain a wider hearing for voices from UK business, industry and society calling for a better deal between the UK and the EU. Brexit isn’t done yet and we deserve the best we can get.
Working together beyond January 2021 is a must - and it has come not a moment too soon.
London4Europe and European Movement Greater London Regional Representative
London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.