And the 2 responses generated by Len’s article
And the 2 responses generated by Len’s article
I was working with a local painting group on the theme of Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, and we were asked to produce our own version of an embrace painted in Klimt’s style. I took a painting by Theophile Steinlen and adapted it.
While I was painting, it occurred to me that Klimt’s painting is far more predatory than romantic and, at the same time, I was whimsically reminded of Trump’s hair by the shape of Steinlen’s hat. I suddenly saw an opportunity to express the apparent seduction of our Brexit-obsessed government by a US-led economic fantasy as a substitute for our membership in the EU and the loss of all the rights that that entails. Mrs May looks conflicted in her response to Trump’s advances as the European crown slips off her head. Will she or won’t she succumb?
The attempted subjugation of Mrs May and our future independence by the wrap around Stars and Stripes in some fantasy, post-Brexit world market also alludes to the current revolt against sexual harassment. The #maytoo was a gift!
“Dense Fog in the Channel: Continent isolated.”
This mythical British newspaper headline may never have existed, but it precisely illustrates the view from the mainland of a hazy state of confusion across the Channel. From the mainland, we see the United Kingdom retreating into a stifling fog of its own making, through which the mainland is squinting for glimpses of rationality. For the past six months I have watched the unfolding of events in the UK from my home in Leuven, Belgium where I live in a young, energetic, highly intelligent student community. They bring their own unique perspective to the debate on affairs in the UK. The emotional reaction is what you really notice – their attempt to puzzle out our self-imposed quarantine. In this article I will share their views and reactions towards the events taking place in the UK, and particularly the emotional response within this student community.
The view from the international community on the mainland
Firstly, there’s the fascination and bewilderment. My Europe is perplexed by what’s happening in the UK. Why, they wonder, does the population so passionately support such a destructive and divisive action? What do the people actually want to gain from Brexit? Why don’t they care about the damage to businesses and the economy? And ultimately, why did the Cameron Government trust a decision of such magnitude and complexity to an unprepared electorate?
Following the perplexity, there’s the sadness. My Europe is watching our brutal act of self-harm, and it brings no pleasure to watch it all unfold. There is sometimes a sense of hurt. The UK has attained a uniquely advantageous position within the Union: it has enjoyed the privilege of opting out of the monetary union, and the passport free Schengen zone; it has maintained sovereignty over monetary policy and justice and home affairs legislation; it is not bound by the public deficit cap set at 3% of GDP. In addition to its special status, the UK has prospered from EU membership. It has benefitted from free trade within the EU and had access to EU external trade agreements which have been negotiated on bilateral terms. EU law has tightened consumer protection and employment rights, set environmental and food quality standards, all of which contribute to the safety and wellbeing of UK citizens. The EU is one of the most powerful and influential actors in the global arena. Being a strong player within the Union, the EU provides a platform for the UK on that global stage. After the UK has profited so greatly from EU membership, my Europe is offended by the rejection.
The last emotion you notice is the shock. In the midst of such turmoil, why, they wonder, are the British public so complacent? Where is the resistance? Don’t they care that their economy is floundering? That the Chancellor has set aside £3 billion of tax payers’ money to cushion the economic blow, on top of the billions already wasted in the process of administering the act? Don’t they care that they are going to lose their power and influence in the global political arena? Don’t they care that while Europe continues to trade freely within itself and with its many external trade partners, the UK will become isolated from the world’s already complex network of trade links?
What’s also noticeable is what they don’t say. With all attention on government rhetoric, nobody appears to have heard the impassioned voices of the fervent anti-Brexit movement in the UK. And of course, nobody congratulates the UK on the ‘new opportunities’ that await. Nobody is impressed at this bold, reckless leap into the unknown. At best there is sometimes a sense of nostalgia. The EU will continue to thrive without the UK, but it won’t be the same. Europe is compassionate and sentimental. We will be missed.
The view from the British national on the mainland
So how do I respond to my Europe, as a British national, living on the mainland in an international community? My answer: the people don’t care because they don’t understand that they have been conned. After all, these dire consequences were known before the 23rd June 2016, but the media and pro-Brexit politicians have continued to manipulate the public view throughout the past 20 months since the referendum. The manipulation of public opinion has been conducted with masterful deceit. There was little ideological opposition to the EU before the referendum. Nobody explained why it would be so wonderful to be ripped out of the single market and customs union, what great fortunes would result from having our EU citizens’ rights annihilated. Indeed many of these inevitable outcomes were denied as ‘project fear’. Nationalist sentiments were stirred through claims to sovereignty and patriotism, with meaningless slogans promising to ‘take back control’. An anti-immigrant sentiment was whipped up with baseless rhetoric sketching a distorted picture of the UK at ‘breaking point’ with ‘mass immigration’, so scapegoating the very people whose contribution to our country has assured our public services, advanced our economy and enriched our diversity. And the majority of media sources have perfidiously added fuel to the doctrine, throwing in hyperbolic slurs which label pro-EU campaigners as anti-democratic ‘remoaners’ and politicians as ‘enemies’ or ‘traitors’.
The many advantages of EU membership have been twisted to support a skewed argument that we’ll somehow profit from our isolation. In any future trade agreement with the EU, the UK will have to maintain standards set by the EU, but without a voice in setting those standards; maintaining access to the single market will mean respecting the four freedoms. These conditions always existed; indeed the prominent promoters of the Leave campaign should be utterly disgraced by the reality that is now emerging. But instead of reflecting on these facts and considering whether this is the right way forward, the stance of the Leave supporters has grown stronger – ‘look at those EU bullies’, they say ‘enforcing their rules and quality standards. How lucky we are to be leaving the EU’. When you’re faced with such a warped view of reality, it’s not so difficult to understand why the people (especially the young who are going to be most brutally hit) are just rolling over and taking the beating.
Amidst the perplexity, the sadness, the hurt and the shock, the EU will reap any benefits it can afford. Brexit is bad for all of us, but from the view of the mainland, it is a British problem. Nobody likes it; nobody will profit from it. But crucially, nobody will be harmed more than the UK itself. The Eurosceptic sentiment which has swept over many parts of Europe in recent years, has subsided as it witnesses the chaos unfold in the UK. A growing sense of unity, of Europeanness is unfolding. To the blessing of other Eurosceptic member states, the UK jumped first. And no one else is about to follow.
Hania, Berkshire for Europe member now living in Leuven, Belgium
A point of view offered by a local activist from Berkshire
A recent poll found 40% of 18-24 year-olds would be willing to campaign against Brexit in some form over the coming months (https://www.ofoc.co.uk/poll/). That would be 2.8 million people from this age group alone. Yet I’ve spoken to so many young people, and older people too, who are horrified by Brexit but are doing nothing because they simply don’t realise there is anything they can do. Very few have heard of Best for Britain or Britain for Europe. They have no idea that there are any organisations campaigning to change course on Brexit, nor that it might be possible to do so. When they do hear it would be possible, many are greatly uplifted at the news. So how on earth can we allow a situation where citizens in a democracy with a fundamental right to seek a change of national policy are instead acting like prisoners on death row with no hope of appeal ? How on earth can we allow Brexit to go ahead when the majority don’t want it, just because so few realise they could still choose an alternative?
A game-changing groundswell against Brexit is currently waiting in the wings for the right cue to call it to centre stage. But will that cue ever come? This is how I dream it could happen: Please imagine for a moment that everyone in the country hears that popular big names have got together with youth campaigners and launched a new umbrella movement on Brexit. Let’s imagine that a host of popular figures, led by David Attenborough, JK Rowling, Brian May, and young campaigners, have stood up publicly to launch this umbrella movement which they have named “Hope in Unity”. The launch is well covered across national and social media. Everyone hears that Hope in Unity’s purpose is to campaign against the social and economic effects of Brexit and for a popular mandate to restore the UK’s full EU membership . They hear that the movement aims to renew not only the UK’s place in our regional community, but also to replace the growing inequality and intolerance in our society with growing solidarity and hope. They hear that a new umbrella “Supporters’ Base” website has been launched, underpinned by a whole network of pre-existing campaign groups. Memes go viral suggesting this might be the tipping-point for changing course on Brexit. All who agree with the movement’s aims are encouraged to register. From the Supporters’ Base website all these people can then access their Constituency Events Wiki, Special Interest Groups (eg under-18s, workers’ rights, NHS etc. ), access the Network Resource Catalogue, and potentially choose to join a Constituency Planning Forum. From the Constituency Events Wiki they would find info on all the street stalls, door knocking, leafleting, MP visits, “flash choirs”, media events, community events, training etc., both those already being organised on a limited scale by some brilliant grassroots groups, as well as advice on how to start these up and expand them. “Barnstorm”-style campaign training sessions could be rolled out online, to be undertaken at home with a group of friends or organised to do with others at a local meet-up in a cafe or pub. The Network Resources Catalogue would provide a searchable catalogue of creative ideas and downloadable, printable and orderable materials supplied by the various campaign organisations and a few by the umbrella network itself. Within a week of the launch hundreds of thousands of people have registered, and Hope in Unity “Join now!” posters are going up in windows across the country. Just imagine how such a visible and unified campaign could release a groundswell of new-found hope. People would start believing that change might be achievable. The national narrative will change as everyone sees that the younger generations will inevitably reverse Brexit in a future mandate. So the discussion becomes not a question of whether, but rather when, and after how much loss, the UK will renew its EU membership.
I believe this vision of the near-future is not just a dream but a real possibility. However, whether it actually happens will depend on visible popular demand for it. Public figures may be reluctant to put themselves forward, or even to respond to approaches from a particular group, but they may be more responsive to a plea from thousands of their fellow citizens. And equally, an initiative by an external figure or figures with widespread appeal and a grassroots mandate could bring together all the different groups. That is why I have started a petition for just such an umbrella launch to release all those millions currently imprisoned by a belief in Brexit Inevitability. We need the whole country to hear our calls for #TheSavingsOfUnion not #ExtraCosts, #WelfareState not #TaxHaven, #Protection not #Deregulation, #TradeDemocracy not #SecretSellOuts, #HumanRights not #LossOfAppeal, #Freedom not #Barriers, #Unity not #Enmity, #Influence not #Isolation, #Solutions not #Scapegoating, #AllOurVoices not #PressBaronPower, #OurSay4OurFuture not #LackOfFranchise, and #FullEUMembership not #PoorerDeal or #CliffEdgeCatastrophe. And who better to appeal to given the need to select, than JK Rowling, the author from whom the generations most opposed to Brexit learnt so much about sticking up for others, fighting prejudice and discrimination, the power of love and friendship over hate and arrogance, and the possibility of changing course? Then, for even more generations, David Attenborough has been the voice of wondrous discoveries. He must know the threats of Brexit deregulation to the environment, and having seen our continent at war and grown up with two refugee foster sisters, he has seen first-hand the worst effects of nationalism and scape-goating. As for May (the guitarist not the nation-wrecker), there are few with such ability to bring together and empower people to work as a team through songs like “We will Rock You” (sometimes now sung in rallies as “We are E.U”). Who better to bring together massive Unity Concerts to show friendship with the other 27 and make Britain’s young people visible to all in summer 2018? It is after all these young voices which most need to be heard on Brexit. They are the ones who would live with the worst consequences of a mandate from the grave. The petitioned “Our Future, Our Choice” was founded by a young student of EU and human rights law along with a young Bregrexiter. It already has connections with the major pro-European groups and recently landed an effective interview with Sky News. “Team Future” was founded by Manchester teenagers after the 2016 referendum as a response to being cut-out of the crucial decisions about their future, both during and since that vote. They want a say for those who will be most affected, i.e. young people, and in particular, Northern working class young people like themselves. Of course, there is already much great work being done by existing campaign groups, and this would underpin and determine the success of an umbrella campaign. That’s why the petition will also be delivered to campaign groups “Britain for Europe”, “Best for Britain”, “Another Europe is Possible”, “European Movement UK”, “INFacts”, “Open Britain”, “Healthier in the EU”, “Scientists for EU”, “Wales for Europe” and “Border Communities Against Brexit”.
Together, a coalition of sympathetic national treasures, determined young people, and a whole network of co-ordinated campaign groups. How else to break through onto the front page and release a truly grassroots groundswell of activism? And how else than that to defeat Brexit?
Kate Smith (mum of 2 young kids, SEN assistant, concerned citizen)
#HopeInUnity #groundswell #VOTErenEUal #PleaseTeamHufflepuff
We often talk about the pain and distress caused by losing our job or not having enough money to see us through the week. If it’s a consequence of Brexit, this will probably be declared as being a small price for someone else to pay for the imagined benefits of leaving the EU. To such people, Brexit means that Britain can halt immigration and have money left over to spend on the NHS. But not only that has now been exposed as a false promise, but it has also revealed the real physical pain that will be caused for many by its damage to the NHS.
Without any government commitments on residence, Brexit is clearly bad news for EU qualified medical professionals who want to live in Britain and build a career in the NHS. But it is looking to be even worse news for those of us who cannot afford private medical care and rely on the NHS for all of our medical needs. We may not be personally affected by the anticipated job losses in a Brexit battered Britain, nor may we be worried about substantial price increases arising from the pound’s loss of value, but we will all feel the effects of a NHS that is starved of funds and manpower.
NHS figures already acknowledge that Brexit will result in a loss of staff originating from the EU. Around 4.5 per cent of the total NHS workforce of about 1.3 million comes from the EU. They work as doctors, nurses, health professionals such as radiologists and physiotherapists and also as the lower skilled health care assistants who keep the hospitals and care homes running. The NHS admits that it currently needs to recruit another 40,000 nurses. Nobody knows where they might be coming from but we can be pretty sure that it won’t be from the EU. Since the Brexit referendum, the NHS has confirmed that 10,000 staff from EU countries have already left and there is nothing to suggest that this trend will be reversed. In fact, since the referendum, there has been a 96 per cent drop in the number of nurses from the EU applying to work in the NHS. The newly hostile attitude to immigrants and the low value of the pound now make Britain an unattractive destination as a place to live and work. This is likely to persuade health industry workers from the EU and elsewhere in the world to keep away from the UK for the foreseeable future.
To some, the idea of 4.5 per cent of the NHS workforce possibly leaving to seek employment elsewhere may not sound like a big disaster as that figure can probably be absorbed. Unfortunately, that 4.5 per cent is not spread evenly across the country but is concentrated around London and the South East. The region’s health care network is therefore disproportionately dependent upon EU staff which means that any absence or reduction in workers will be far more noticeable.
It is important to remember that a high percentage of people attending hospital do so because they are in some form of physical pain. A broken ankle, a worn hip joint, a cancer that needs surgery, agonising kidney stones. Unlike the emotional pain of redundancies, these afflictions really hurt and due to the predicted staff shortages and funding cuts caused by Brexit, these people can expect to be enduring their pains for significantly longer.
A recent article in The Lancet has explained that after a ten-year financial squeeze imposed by the Conservative government, the NHS is not in any condition to put up a robust defence against its difficulties. Yet the effect of the NHS losing staff from the EU will mean more than just a reduction in manpower. For many of the NHS’s customers, it will amount to a genuine continuation of physical pain. The patients who found themselves waiting for hours on trolleys in the corridors outside A&E centres last winter can attest to knowing something about real pain. The signs are now that in future, patients must be resigned to even longer waits.
When a hospital is short of resources, whether staff or funding, everything slows down. If it relates to the predicted loss of the 10 per cent of doctors who come from the EU or of the lower skilled health care assistants who keep the hospitals functioning, any reduction in their number will affect the hospital’s ability to treat its patients.
It is important to note that this is not Project Fear. Just do the maths. When, due to its inability to recruit or retain staff from the EU, a care home is unable to take-in more residents, patients without independent support cannot be moved from their hospital beds. This means that the trauma victims in pain who are waiting in a hospital’s A&E must remain on their trolleys until a bed becomes available upstairs.
The same predicament affects local GP practices. If two GPs in a small surgery can deal with around 100 patients per day, there is no leeway if one of them decides to return to their home in the EU. Replacements can take months or years to find and the remaining doctor has no capacity for seeing more people in one day. This means that potential patients may be waiting for weeks of pain, discomfort or worry before they can have an appointment with a GP.
Watching loved-ones waiting in pain for an operation that is repeatedly postponed is likely to become a more real consequence of Brexit as the NHS struggles to cope with the increasing demand caused by an ageing population. As the Lancet article pointed-out, being a tax-funded system, any economic shocks that reduce tax revenues will have an impact on the NHS. Its funding may be ring-fenced by the Treasury at present but two thirds of NHS Trusts are already in deficit. They cannot be expected to compensate for the post-referendum devaluation of the pound which is increasing the cost of medicines and vital equipment. This can mean that potentially life-saving drugs may not be available to those who need them and their pain and suffering will continue.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) oversees medicines regulation in Europe and has become one of the first organisations to announce its plans move back to Europe due to the UK’s intention to leave the EU. Once a new medicine is approved by the EMA it becomes immediately available for clinical use throughout Europe. When the UK leaves the EU it will no longer have access to those new medicines and must quickly establish an approvals organisation of its own. This has happened to Switzerland which has discovered that the majority of new medicines only gain approval for use in the country after a six-month delay. Pharmaceutical companies prefer to have their products approved for the big markets such as the USA and the EU first. Small markets such as Switzerland and, potentially, the UK have a lower priority for costly and time-consuming approvals processes. In medicine, a six-month delay before a potentially life-saving drug becomes available is likely to be too long to wait for many families. Britain will be at the back of the queue for new medicines and is likely to remain there indefinitely.
When Nigel Farage surrendered to his lack of will-power and resumed smoking cigarettes, his excuse was that, thanks to his detailed knowledge of modern medicine, he believed that “the doctors have got it wrong about smoking.” He must now be hoping that he is right and that he will never need to call-upon the services of the NHS. However, as the instigator of Brexit he is probably fully aware of the consequences that his actions will have for ordinary people. If he subsequently discovers that doctors really did know more about lung disease than he did, we must not be surprised if we find that he has gone private.
Hello. After a bleak summer which has seen all things Brexit go from dire to worse, we’re back and battle-ready. We hope you’ll join us.
Our first newsletter of the autumn rounds up what’s coming up in the weeks ahead, and how you can become involved. Happy reading!
Not a member? Then go the “Get involved” page and sign up now.
Meet Peter Leisupe, our new Chair!
Hello everyone! I am the new chair of Berkshire for Europe, and I look forward to the fight ahead against the idiocy that is Brexit.
Berkshire for Europe has now awoken from its summer slumber, ready and anxious to continue the fight. Already we have joined up with Open Britain with a joint stall in Broad Street Reading this Saturday. Please come and meet us. We will have other events coming up over the autumn. Our first social event will be on the 19th of September in the Three Guineas, where I hope to meet you all and talk about what needs to be done to defeat Brexit. (More details of both events below.)
It is amazing over the last two months how the Brexit political landscape has changed. Labour is beginning to see some sense with its policy shift to supporting continued membership of the single market during a Brexit transitional period. This is a start, we of course will be fighting to persuade
them to oppose Brexit full stop.
The Conservative party is descending into farce with red lines moving and promises of the end of European Court of Justice “Interference” seemly a distant dream. There are many Conservatives who oppose Brexit. We must support them and persuade them to show courage in standing up for what they believe in. A key goal for us must be to engage the young: after all, it’s their future and it will be their country! We must mobilise them.
Brexit is most definitely not a done deal, there is still absolutely everything to play for! Let’s work
together and stop this lunacy.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Marie for her hard work in setting up and growing this group over the past year. These will be big shoes to fill! I am happy to know she will still be with us as Secretary so that knowledge will not go from the group.
Council Election Update
We’ve been lucky to have experienced candidates standing for two of our most crucial open roles in the Council, as Chair and Secretary.
Marie French, Founder and outgoing Chair, has stepped down from the position of Chair due to personal circumstances but will be staying on to support the group as Secretary. Peter Leisupe has taken up the reins and will lead the group into the next phase as you read in his introduction above. As there was only one candidate for each role, these were elected by default and members were not called upon to vote. You can see the full make-up of the Council on our website under the “Who we are” page.
However, we still have several vacancies, the most urgent of which is Events Officer. The group needs an organised person to get our public and national events organised. This applies to our public conferences and also gathering up local people to come to national events and taking part in initiatives such as leafleting etc. on a local level. High energy levels and organisation are a must for this central role. This is a crucial role, particularly as the group re-launches this coming month. If you think you are the person to step in here, please get in touch! We could do with your help.
We also still need a Campaigns Officer as well as other ad hoc helpers from those who can lend a hand with anything from fundraising to leafleting. Get in touch with us and let us know your availability, however much or little time you have to give to the campaign.
Help Stall Brexit!
Berkshire for Europe and Open Britain are joining forces to run a stall outside the main entrance of Marks & Spencer on Broad Street in central Reading on Saturday the 2nd of September from 10am-4pm. This national day of action is also supported by the European Movement, to which Berkshire for Europe is affiliated.
Leaflets and cake (as in “have your cake and eat it”) will also be available. Leaflets from a variety of pro remain for groups will be handed out.
Open Britain will be asking the public to sign their anti-hard Brexit petition Berkshire for Europe will of course will be supporting a hard remain message that’s anti-Brexit altogether.
Please come and join us. We need volunteers to staff the stand and engage with the public. Come when you can and stay for long as you are able.
Drink and Be Merry
We’re a sociable bunch at Berkshire for Europe and enjoy the times away from the campaign when we’re just chilling, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights in a relaxed environment. We don’t spend all the time Remoaning about Brexit, or even talking about it!
Our first social of the autumn is on Tuesday September 19 from 7 pm at The Three Guineas, Reading Station. It’s a nice central location with stacks of public transport so we look forward to seeing people there. Just rock up, grab a drink and get stuck into the chat! Food is also served if you fancy eating.
Five Reasons to Fear the Great Repeal Bill
The Great Repeal Bill may represent the most extensive transfer of power away from elected representatives in history. It empowers the government to remove rights and protections that we all value. Dr Sam Fowles, lawyer and academic, will explore the powers in the bill, rights, protections, and people most at risk, and how we can fight back.
7.30pm Wednesday 6th September
RISC, 35 – 39 London Street, Reading RG1 4PS
More info Jackie Oversby: 07745310794 / email@example.com/reading
Now is the Autumn of our Discontent…
A string of events is planned nationally over the coming weeks, including:
September 09 – People’s March for Europe, London 11am https://peoplesmarch4eu.org/
There are also plans for marching on the conferences of all the main political parties this autumn: on September 17th at the Lib Dem gathering in Bournemouth, on September 24 when Labour meets in Brighton and on October 1 at the Conservative conference.
Our colleagues in Sevenoaks and Swanley have a good summary: http://sstie.uk/autumn-of-discontent-stop-brexit
Some of us are going to be going to some of these events where possible – especially those closer to Berkshire – leave a message on Facebook or chat to us at the drinks if you want to travel together or share a lift.
MEMBERS HAVE THEIR SAY
‘I Voted Leave …’ By Len Middleton (who didn’t)
“I voted Leave” – Yes, there is a Facebook page called that! It’s here: https://www.facebook.com/euIVotedLeave – Over 150,000 people follow this page.
Is this a place to post?
I think the jury’s out on how much of Facebook is an echo chamber, but if you want your view to be seen by 150,000 people this might be the place. Just because it has 150,000 followers doesn’t mean they all pay attention!
What do you find there?
This is not for the faint-hearted. People post things for which they would be arrested if they said in the street. I’ve reported one posting for racist content. Another poster was complaining that someone “grassed him up” to Facebook. But there are also several other pro-EU posters – so it’s not all bad!
Dispatches from Mainland Europe
Outgoing Campaigns Officer Hania Orszulik writes:
I am leaving Berkshire for Europe for a year while I study for an MA in European Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium. During this year away, I will keep in touch with this this fantastically committed group, and do what I can from afar to support the campaign.
I look forward to bringing quarterly updates from mainland Europe, with reactions from the media and the public from a European perspective.
Persuading Leavers to Remain… or not
Member Paul Easthaugh has written eloquently for our website on the best approach for the public persuasion that will be needed if we are to persuade Leavers to change their minds.
Read it in full in the next blog post down from this newsletter.
Want to contribute an article to a future newsletter? Get in touch!
Although the prospects for another referendum are looking increasingly rosy, nobody can predict the depth and extent of the chaos that will be needed to make it happen. At present, we cannot foresee the point at which the country will say; “OK, this has gone far enough. It’s time for a vote on it.” Sometime within the next 18 months would be sensible, of course, but regardless of when the time comes, the Remain camp will need to be confident of reversing last year’s original vote. Although a 52 to 48 result in favour of remain would be enough to win, it would be no more conclusive than the original referendum outcome and the bickering and hostility would continue. This means that the Remain campaigners will have to persuade a lot more people to change their minds in order to gain a conclusive outcome.
It is a characteristic of human nature is that people will always resist admitting that they were wrong. In most cases the evidence needs to be pretty conclusive before they consider a climb-down and even then, rational judgement cannot be assured. Arguments used during on-street canvassing may be rock solid yet the Brexit enthusiast will be capable of listening politely and then ignoring everything they have heard regardless of how rational and conclusive it may have been.
When canvassing, this makes it essential to identify and counter an individual’s reasons for supporting Brexit. Economic arguments will not work because if they did, nobody would have voted for Brexit in the first place. The Remain campaign failed to see this, which is why it lost. People will bicker about hard or soft Brexit, Customs Union membership or not, but these are not the real reasons behind people voting to leave, they are just incidental details. The key factors can now be narrowed down to “Getting Our Country Back” and stopping immigration from wherever it might originate. Another, less specific but equally compelling reason is that, thanks to years of tabloid abuse, many people simply don’t like or trust Europeans. Without an ability to argue persuasively against these points Remain supporters cannot hope to swing the vote.
The key point to remember is that voting to leave for most was not a rational choice. People might try and support their decision with statistics and political justifications, but ultimately it was a gut reaction fostered by beliefs and perceptions that are much harder to dislodge. Somebody can be battered with powerful and convincing arguments yet they will still not be persuaded that they were wrong.
Readers of The New European (who I hope will include all readers of this newsletter) may have read a recent article in which Anthony Clavane describes his findings during a recent visit to Clacton. He interviewed a substantial number of Baby Boomers, namely people over the age of 65, to discover whether there was any regret about their having, in the words of Vince Cable, “shafted the future of our young people.” Clavane concluded that, in short, there wasn’t. Not a jot. Pensioners, gits and geezers in various stages of decrepitude were unanimous in their belief that they had acted in the country’s best interests to shape its destiny for the benefit of young people who don’t have enough life experience to know better. Hard or soft Brexit is irrelevant, they just want out. It won’t matter to them if the economy collapses because it will be worth it and everyone has to make sacrifices. It will be a price worth paying “to get their country back”. One 92-year-old interviewee said; “Unlike the youngsters, we knew what it was like before we were in the EU…I’d have no regrets if the kids did lose their jobs… But I know how we used to live and how things used to be. We used to be much better off, definitely. The main thing is that Britain should have control of its own destiny.”
False Memory Syndrome is clearly a widespread malaise in Clacton as those of us who can also remember those days have no misconceptions about what a generally miserable and impoverished place Britain was to be in. Living in The Poor Man of Europe meant strikes, a huge trade gap, pollution, unaffordable foreign travel, a repressive judicial system and stultifying class divisions. People still complained about immigrants but in those days they were coming from Jamaica and the West Indies. Food was awful – so bad that newly arrived restaurateur Michel Roux recalls that he could only buy olive oil from a chemist. As far as this correspondent was concerned, the only good things to come out of the sixties and seventies were The Beatles and Carly Simon. To be fair, many Brexit head bangers would agree with this yet would still fall back onto the apparent need to “reclaim our sovereignty” as the ultimate solution to every ill. It may turn Britain into a crap country, but it will be our crap country. We can, of course, hope that when the next referendum occurs most of them will be dead. This will disqualify them from voting in a more conclusive way than the 16 to 18-year-olds, the EU citizens resident here and Brits living overseas were the last time.
This article is not, however, the place to spell-out and counter the gaping holes in the sovereignty argument, but it is something that anti-Brexit campaigners, must be equipped to do. Extensive reading, research and further articles here should, and must, equip every Remainer with the ability to shoot the sovereignty argument down in flames whenever it is heard. Of course, for the reasons explained earlier, that is still no guarantee that Brexiters will change their minds. The head bangers will still stuff their fingers in their ears and shout “la, la, la”. But it is our job to undermine their self-confidence, to introduce a worm of doubt that eats into their convictions. They still may never admit that they were wrong, but perhaps when the next polling day comes around they might just decide that it’s not worth firing-up the Zimmer frame, but to stay in front of the telly and leave politics to the young.
Well, we wouldn’t have predicted this at the start of the campaign – this week’s election has given us a Hung Parliament. That means a great deal of uncertainty, and, of course, that anti-Brexit parties could well have the balance of power.
It means our campaign is more needed than ever, to push for a revoking of Article 50, now more likely than it was before the election, and to hold the Brexiteers to account, and to do all we can to fight to stop this madness. Remember, it’s not over until we’re truly out, Article 50 can still be revoked, whatever you may have heard. So there is still so much to be done, still so much we can achieve together.
We need your help in campaigning for the cause, now more than ever. Please join us, and do what you can to support our work.
However, the pace of the past few months has taken its toll, and we’re all feeling a little battle-weary. That’s why we’re taking a bit of a break over July and August, and standing back to recharge our batteries before taking up the campaign with renewed energy in the autumn. Don’t worry,though, we’re going nowhere, and, like the Terminator we’ll be back, with full details of events, and everything else we’ll have going on once the leaves start falling off the trees.
Keep an eye on the website, and our social media accounts, they’ll still be updated.
Have good summers. We look forward to picking up the fight with you again in September!
Berkshire for Europe
With the General Election campaign in full swing, we’re all doing our bit to fight hard on behalf of pro-EU candidates. We know June 8 is now only a few weeks away, but we’re still putting together a list of candidates we’re supporting, with some taking longer than others to respond to our probe about where they really stand on Brexit.
Welcome to our latest round-up of all things local and Brexit-related as we at Berkshire for Europe continue to push locally for the UK’s place in the EU as the General Election campaign grinds on.
We will do our darnedest to support whichever candidate is most pro-European, and are urging people to vote tactically where necessary, even if it means, this time, putting a cross by the name of a candidate from a party you wouldn’t normally vote for.
In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be in touch with more news on candidates, and the difference you can make, both in voting tactically and in helping us campaign.
To read the rest of the newsletter, click here