National Interest Panel

14 May 2018

Brexit and the National Interest – Public Panel Debate – Friday 11 May – Maidenhead

Organised by Berkshire for Europe and Open Britain Reading


The national debate on Brexit came to Maidenhead last Friday evening, with a high profile panel discussion including Dominic Grieve, MP for Beaconsfield and Catherine Bearder, Member of the European Parliament for South-east England. The panel was followed by a surprise guest speaker, EU Supergirl, Madeleina Kay.

In a packed hall, the audience heard that a new instruction to the government on Brexit will have to come from the people. “It was started with the people, so it has to end with every single person”, said Catherine Bearder.

Dominic Grieve said that he has quiet confidence that we can persuade people of what is in our country’s best interest. The public are entitled to change their mind, he said, and government should respect that change of mind.

The panel discussed reasons why the national interest should come first in the Brexit debate.

Mr Grieve said that the 2016 referendum has created an “impossible series of questions to resolve“. The conundrum is how to “maintain the benefits of frictionless trade which can only come through essentially a Single Market and Customs Union, and reconcile that with trying to fulfil the expectations of those who voted to leave”. He added that “if you undermine 50 years of settled policy of integration, you’re going to have to break a lot of eggs to make your new omelette”.

On a historical note, Mr Grieve said that “politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, who helped create the Single Market, understood the benefits the EU could bring” which is why co-operation on Justice and Home Affairs issues was started by Conservative governments in the 1990s.

Catherine Bearder warned that British companies who manufacture using mostly imported components, will no longer be able to export after Brexit, due to world Trade Organisation (WTO) Rules of Origin. She added that manufacturers would do well to check the Rules of Origin requirements. However, she also said that Brexit will not just affect trade, but also law enforcement, health and environmental matters.

Mike Galsworthy, Co-founder of Scientists for EU, explained that the European Union is one of three science powerhouses in the world, the other two being the United States and China. It is in Britain’s interest, he said, to be part of an EU collaborative scientific network. “While our science funding nationally has been stagnant, the EU has been ramping up funding,” he said.

Elena Remigi, founder of the InLimbo Project, said the human cost of Brexit will be high. She highlighted the issues raised by ‘settled status, which EU citizens will have to apply for, despite having come here legally and, just like the Windrush generation, having worked and paid taxes in Britain. “Immigration lawyers have compiled a list of 150 questions regarding settled status, which, unless addressed, will leave EU citizens very exposed,” she said.

Madeleina Kay, said “a lot of people feel powerless to do anything about Brexit, but they are afraid of what it is going to do to our country, and to our children’s lives and opportunities”. She said we must make a positive case for remaining in the European Union, and make it seem more attractive than Brexit.

Notes for Editors:

The panel debate took place on Friday 11 May at the St Piran’s Centre, Maidenhead. The panelists were:

The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP

Catherine Bearder MEP

Dr Mike Galsworthy Scientists for EU

Elena Remigi In Limbo Project

The debate was chaired by Andrew Knapp, Emeritus Professor of French Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Reading. Questions were submitted by audience members.

Berkshire for Europe represents a collective of grassroots campaigning groups in and around the Thames Valley, and is affiliated to Britain for Europe and the European Movement. The event was supported by: Maidenhead for EU Windsor for EU, West Berkshire Stronger Together, Pulse of Europe High Wycombe. The event partner was Open Britain Reading.

Links: @BerkshireforEU

Contact for Editors: Peter Leisupe, Chair Berkshire for Europe. Email: Mobile: 07789 958528