We have had a sizeable and interesting mailbag after the recent two-part article by George Stephenson “Why Rejoin the EU?” The response from readers was so overwhelming that we decided to put yur contributions in one place. Here’s a selection – no doubt they will stimulate a few more! We have refrained from commenting further. But you can….
Richard Burnett-Hall: Could you please provide EM members an opportunity to comment directly on articles like this. If they’re worth reading, they’re worth discussing.
The most obvious reason for not automatically wanting to rejoin the EU merely because we think Brexit was wrong (and no-one thinks that more strongly than me) is that the EU is not a bus you can just get off and on. It is simply not possible to turn the clock back and return to the status quo ante. We’ve lost a number of special concessions that we might well not be able to re-negotiate again, not to mention the Medicines Agency and the financial regulator, and why would the EU wish to be generous to us in setting our annual membership fee?
Secondly, the Eurozone countries have a perfectly justifiable reason to co-ordinate their policies on relevant matters that does not apply to non-Eurozone ones. When a member, we should have been taking the lead in creating a group of non-Euro members who would have a somewhat more distant relationship with the Eurozone ones that avoided being kept in a straitjacket needed only for those with a common currency. I would advocate the UK proposing such a group now, that might eventually replace the EEA.
Kate Harris: You cannot deal in theory. People are visceral. You have two choices:
- Let things get so bad in the UK that people are desperate, the UK is back in the 'bust' part of the 'boom and bust' cycle it is so used to and the government of the day seeks a bail out and help from the EU. This is probably the route things will go, because short of overhauling the Monarchy, the Shires, the Privy Council and all that machinery, you will not change the embedded perceptions of 'politics' amongst the people of the UK. Civics is not taught in schools and the entire emphasis is now on promoting the values of 'The Commonwealth' in order to promote 'harmony' in our communities. By the way, my betting is that they will put Liz Truss in as the next PM - I know, crazy isn't it? But she can be a kind of NZ PM pastiche and will be easily managed by the Conservative Politburo. Just see if I am right.
- Work extremely hard at grass roots level to promote TRADE. Yes, goodies, from Belgian chocolate to Polish amber, it's the goodies that the UK population like and need - and why shouldn't everyone have access to them? - high quality, luxurious, ethical and affordable. To do this, you will need to revive twinning arrangements and across-continent visits. It won't be easy and it won't be quick. Back around 2012, I had a dream of a massive EU trade fair in the UK, with all these goodies on display. TRADE is the way people come together. As far as 'politics' is concerned, that horse has bolted. People have been sensitised to the point of pain which they cannot come back from. Save your funding to send poor families on holiday in Brittany, poor pensioners on a short trip to the sun, poor apprentices on a trip to great EU manufacturers. Let them experience the cleanliness and beauty of the cities, the great public transport and the kindness of the working EU people. The UK is in the grip of a real crisis. Education is denied to most. Food, cleanliness, heat and light are what is needed. Keep the faith.
Thank you for reading. I can't do any more, I did my best. I am now busy developing my own life.
Nicolas Chadwick: I don’t wish to seem negative, but I can’t see the UK rejoining the EU any time soon. Even if there was firm, enduring and broad-based support for renewed membership in our country, EU institutions and most member states are not likely to see the UK as a worthy candidate, at least until we had proved over a long period that we were serious and trustworthy in our desire for long-term membership and with no further tendency to engage in disruptive behaviour (a well-recognized characteristic of the UK throughout its 45 years as a member state).
The best way of working towards this objective in the medium term is to put in hand a process of policy realignment towards closer cooperation in specific areas such as defence and security, law enforcement, energy, sustainable technologies, climate change, etc., while using quiet diplomacy in our bilateral relations with core member states to convince them, over time, of our potential as a partner supportive of European values and a creative contributor to the long-term viability of the European project.
At the same time, the UK must start to put its house in order, reinvent itself as a forward-looking, democratic nation and chart a realistic course appropriate to the changed circumstances and existential threats of the 21st century.
So let’s not bang on too much about rejoining at this stage. Let’s focus on realistic opportunities for cooperation in areas where our country has a clear contribution to make (CoVID, medical research) while we start to think about the huge task of remaking our country as a worthy player on the European, rather than the global, stage.
Garan Goodman: Greetings from Munich. The single most important reason to be in the EU with a full loud strong voice is to help stop Europeans from murdering each other in wars and genocides. History proves this point. It isn’t an argument one hears enough, but it has to be the most important above trade or laws.
Or doesn’t it matter now with NATO and a globally engaged US President? Right now, Putin is massing troops and arms on the Ukrainian border. Would that still have been the case had the UK still been in the EU and making lots of deterrent noise? And what is the outcome should the Russians grab Ukraine, for the EU and the detached UK?
The argument of security should be the basic reason for us in campaigning to become closer to Europe or rejoining.
Leo Aliferis: I'm an American and I've lived here for over 50 years! I have an 'insider/outsider' perspective on this country!
The UK is different from all the other EU countries. During the war Europe suffered as a whole entity, whilst the UK was bombed it was never occupied (except for the Channel Islands). During and after the war, whole populations from different countries intermingled and shared life experiences in common, whereas the British didn't.
Britain was never invaded by Europe, which accounts for the disdain for the EU today. The last time Britain was invaded by Europe was under the Normans. In the 40's it would have been under the Germans. That was avoided with the help of the Americans, which accounts today as part of the disdain for Europe, as Brits feel more of an affinity to America, even though, in a sense, America is a kind of 'ersatz' Europe as many of us Americans are of European descent anyway! Irony!
Economically, the UK needs Europe for trade etc. but disdains being in company with Europe, because the Brits feel exceptional with their Royal Family and their glorious history of Empire.
But as we say in America, "Bullshite and Bologne makes the world go round", especially backed up by media, mass and social. And with most of the dull-witted population manipulated by unscrupulous trolls looking to fill their own pockets, the future looks grim, given CoVID and Climate Change, being as well in the hands of an inept and irresponsible government!
Daniel Saville: I have just read George Stevenson's opinion that we must develop stronger arguments for rejoining the EU to convince the undecideds. Whilst I agree that this should be the ultimate goal, to argue for it now would put off far more of the public than it would attract.
British people's wounds are still raw from the Brexit battles and no one has the stomach for more endless rounds of political debate and plotting. I believe you are far more likely to build a strong coalition if you address one problem at a time, starting with rejoining the EU area for sanitary and phyto sanitary rules to help NI, then quick wins like rejoining Erasmus and agreeing visas for artists and musicians.
Soon we could rejoin the Customs Union. It would be far harder for Brexiters to argue against each of these points in turn as they will always lose on the practical implications.
Please don't frighten off the majority with a dogmatic position, when most would be comfortable with a compromise that could be improved over time.
Jose Antonio Poncela Blanco: My personal view is that sometimes opposing a rational argument to an emotional decision is not enough. We need to win the minds but also the hearts of the voters and opposing economic benefits to patriotism, an administrative institution against a nation will not work. If the discussion is framed as the benefits of Brexit against the benefits of rejoining the EU we may win the argument but not the votes. Many years of us vs them and the way Europe is portrayed at school (see the attached) have not helped and asking an English nationalist not to be so will not work either.
We need to win the rational argument, and I think we already have, but we also need to offer an inspiring project, something to win the hearts. This is something Europeans, and the EU Commission itself, has paid little attention to. We used to believe that the product was so good that there was no need for any marketing effort. But Brexit is proof to the contrary. We need to start talking about the future of Europe, what kind of Europe we would like to see in 20 or 30 years from now and why we need to join now to be part of it in 30 years, to shape it, to make British voters believe that there is something big being born and we are part of this history.
This is a long shot and it will be hard to turn English nationalism into anything else or anything different but I think it is the only way, to convince these voters that the way to be an English patriot in the 21st century is to be pro-European, a European patriot.
Kenneth MacArthur: Thanks for the e-mail. To add to George's arguments, I think pro-Europeans in the UK need to decide whether they are comfortable with - and comfortable arguing for - the UK being part of 'a country called Europe' - ie, being part of a political community shared with the other 27 EU member states.
If not, then I fear the arguments will always be transactional in nature, and the chance of winning them much less.
Ian Maitland: If the referendum result had been Remain, the Brexiteers would not have given up their campaign.
Nor must we, though we are not yet in sight to a Return majority,
We need to be back as participants in EU decision making, so we need to start making the case.
James Clarke: Thanks for this article. Well written and well thought out.
We at Renew (who were and are 100% remainers) came to a similar conclusion and have been advocating for a return to the Single Market and Customs Union as a solution to most of the problems Brexit has been causing.
For us, the argument has never been about Europe, it has been about the UK and how to solve UK problems.
Please feel free to get in touch. We are happy to help out, especially on campaigns pushing for common-sense on SM and CU.
Linda Bruce: Totally agree that small steps like membership of Customs Union and Single Market is the way forward, especially if this guarantees FoM. The case for rejoining needs to have all the information about what benefits we had and would have again, as this wasn’t stated prior to the referendum strongly enough and would possibly not have put us in this mess if everyone had realised what the potential impacts would be!
It needs to be a positive message! Onwards and upwards!
Ian Gordon: I should love us to rejoin the EU.
But I doubt very much whether the EU would seriously entertain allowing us to rejoin for a generation or two. It takes time to re-establish integrity and even longer for it to be recognised.
Clare Noeken: This is a good email. If you’re looking for three-word slogans, here are some things that we will not have until we are back as a full EU member:
Voice, Vote, Veto.
Rights, Recognition, Reciprocation.
Craig Nicol: 'Top seat at the table' or similar slogan?
Lucy Lacaille: The European Court of Human Rights should make a difference, especially as people's rights are being eroded by this government.
Nancy Bonney: My aim is to rejoin Europe. We are now only a small island, though a rich one. We can do more good in the world as part of Europe.
Toby Clark: This is an opportunity to have me sign a petition, become a donor, post via Facebook and Twitter. Just a matter of marketing. If you don't know how, find a supporter who does - be proactive.
Enver Gjoniku: I wish that could be done but now is dead and buried unfortunately. We should have stopped it before it happened. Now is too late, I think.
Jack Duffin: It's not Brexit, it's the two-faced clown that is our PM.
Trish Garcia: No way would I ever choose to rejoin the EU under any proposal. Just because we are experiencing a hard time this past 2 years which has mostly been due to Covid and all the hardships it's brought us, is no reason to go crawling back to the EU! This great nation of ours has overcome the hardships of two World Wars, with all its deprivations, and I am sure that given time we will survive without the aid of the EU, thank you very much. Can't believe that it could even possibly be considered!