Ed: This is a press release from Grassroots for Europe
Update 26 April 2022: From Steve Rouse, Chair of Swindon for Europe:
I felt compelled to write the first draft of the letter to Starmer because I was alarmed at the brainwashing effect his words, ‘There is NO case for Britain rejoining EU”, will have on the public. I was astonished at the pure arrogance of such a bald statement, as if it were a fact.
Who says? Only you, Mr Starmer. So own it as just your opinion.
Right now there is a majority of UK citizens who believe that leaving the EU was a mistake and many of those now believe we should not rectify that mistake. Why then are both Tory and Labour, purely for electoral purposes, brainwashing them? This is a crime against our country.
Over a thousand pro-European campaigners from scores of groups across the country, including Labour supporters, have written to Sir Keir Starmer urging him to moderate his hardline backing for Brexit. The campaigners are urging Sir Keir to stop claiming that “there is no case for rejoining the EU”. They say he should recognise the reality that Brexit isn’t working and that, in the national interest, the question of the UK’s relationship with the European Union will need to be revisited sooner rather than later.
The letter was organised by Grassroots for Europe, founded three years ago as a peer network for the local pro-EU civil society campaign groups which sprang up across the country around and after the 2016 referendum.
The campaigners challenge Sir Keir over his continuing claim that there is no case for rejoining the EU. They ask why Labour can’t keep a more open mind on our future direction. They encourage the opposition leader to open up a national dialogue, rather than shut it down.
Proposals for a more positive relationship with Europe could be a vote winner for Labour, if argued “with clarity and conviction”, the letter says.
Grassroots for Europe (GfE) adds that “there is very much a case for rejoining” – a case now made stronger by the threat of Russian aggression, the role of the EU in rallying democracies in support of Ukraine, a queue of countries eager to join the bloc and an America which increasingly see a united Europe – not an isolationist Britain – as its main ally on the continent.
The national chair of GfE, John Gaskell said, “The Covid-19 pandemic masked the first effects of Brexit, and forced us to pause and scale down our campaigning. But across the country, polls show that doubts over the 2016 vote continue to grow, and many people who voted Leave have now seen that Brexit has no benefits. People have seen a business struggle or fail, had their future taken away, been made insecure and suffered deep personal dislocation and distress.
“Many of our people are shocked to hear the blanket dismissal of even the possibility of rethinking Brexit. It defies common sense and risks tying Sir Keir’s own hands when a Labour government has to deal with the continuing damage of a Brexit that isn’t working.
“Our supporters come from a well-informed and motivated part of the electorate – one that might at the next General Election be willing to at least lend their votes to a Labour Party that properly reflects our progressive and internationalist outlook.”
Richard Wilson, founding chair of GfE and chair of Leeds for Europe, added: “The majority of Sir Keir Starmer’s supporters agree that Brexit was a bad idea which has then been made worse by the way it’s being implemented by his Tory rivals. Enormous damage has been done to Britain already and – unless it is reversed – that’s only going to get worse. It looks frankly ludicrous to dismiss the option of rejoining the EU out of hand and claim there is no case for it.
“Rejoining should at least stay on the table, along with other options such as rejoining the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.”
Lord Andrew Adonis, the Labour peer and chair of European Movement UK, commented recently: “There is obviously a case for rejoining the EU… A majority of the public already think Brexit was a mistake. It won’t be long before there is majority support for moving step by step towards rejoin”. Grassroots for Europe agree with Lord Adonis.
Notes provided by Grassroots for Europe:
- The following organisations have signed the letter which Grassroots for Europe sent today to Sir Keir Starmer:
Bremain In Spain, Berkshire for Europe, Brighton & Hove for EU, Cheltenham for Europe, Cornwall for Europe, Cotswolds4Europe, Croydon for Europe, Devon for Europe, Dorset for Europe, East Kent European Movement, EM Staffordshire, EUnitySeahaven, European Movement – Cumbria & N Lancs, European Movement – Derbyshire, EU in Brum, European Movement – West London, Gwynedd for Europe, Harpenden for Europe, Herefordshire for Europe, Kent Bylines, Kettering for Europe, Leeds for Europe, Lewisham East for Europe, Montgomeryshire for Europe, North Somerset for Europe, Northampton for EUnity, Open Britain Reading & Berkshire, Oxford for Europe, Pro Europa, Pulse of Europe – High Wycombe, Rejoin EU, Rejoin EU Party, Salisbury for Europe, South Southwark for Europe, Stratford4Europe, Streatham for Europe, SW Surrey branch of European Movement, Swindon for Europe, UKIN.EU, Veterans4Europe, Wales for Europe, Weaver Vale For Europe, Wellingborough for Europe, Women4Europe, Wycombe For Europe, York for Europe
Over 1000 individuals have signed the letter.
- The full text of the letter is reproduced below .
- Richard Wilson is Vice Chair of the European Movement UK.
- John Gaskell is Chair of the South West Surrey branch of the European Movement UK.
- Sir Keir Starmer repeated his statement that “there is no case for rejoining the EU” most recently on 6 April on a national radio station. A report on Sir Keir Starmer 6 April interview on radio station LBC is here:
‘We can’t reverse Brexit’: Keir Starmer plans to skewer govt over issues plaguing deal – LBC
- According to YouGov’s latest finding (7 April)***, 49 per cent of adults overall believe the UK was wrong to leave the European Union (38% right, 13% don’t know) and that view is even greater among 2019 Labour voters at 84 per cent (9% right, 6% don’t know).
- Overall, 56 per cent reckon Brexit has been handled badly (30% well, 13% don’t know) – rising to 86% among Labour supporters (8% well, 6% don’t know).
- Lord Andrew Adonis’s comment, see:
- Grassroots for Europe is a peer network of over 70 local pro-EU campaign groups. Our aim is to support their action by sharing knowledge and expertise, facilitating links between groups and activists, and backing innovative grassroots campaign initiatives. Further details can be found at:
Here is the full text of Grassroots for Europe’s letter to Sir Keir Starmer
20 April 2022
Dear Sir Keir
We are writing to ask you to please refrain from repeatedly stating that “There is no case for rejoining the EU” as if this were an immutable fact. Most recently you made this comment in your interview with James O’Brien on LBC radio on 6 April 2022.
Instead, why not allow for the possibility that there could be such a case, even if you are currently unpersuaded? For example, you might say:
“It is clear that Brexit isn’t working and that we need to find a better way forward. I am open minded about what form the future relationship between the UK and the EU might take.”
“I don’t believe that the country is yet ready to address the issue of rejoining the EU.”
As Leader of the Opposition and prospective Prime Minister your words carry considerable authority with the public. Many people take their lead from you. In respect of the question of Brexit, you are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are stifling public debate, particularly amongst potential Labour supporters, on the extremely important question of the UK’s relationship with Europe. Why not show brave and principled leadership on this issue and do the right thing for Britain and Europe, rather than ducking the issue in the hope – misguided in our view – that it will secure you a few more votes in the so-called and largely mythical “Red Wall”.
In truth, there is very much a case for rejoining the EU, particularly at a time that the whole of Europe is under threat from authoritarian and violent regimes both outside and inside our borders. We can see that other countries are now queueing up to join the EU and it looks increasingly likely that Ukraine will be a member before very long. The USA is increasingly looking towards the EU rather than Britain as its main partner in dealing with the Ukrainian war and for its European policy more generally. Our isolation because of Brexit becomes more apparent by the day.
By all means, fight to regain “Red Wall” seats but, in doing so, please don’t irrevocably damage the future of our country. That’s Boris Johnson’s job, not yours.
Please don’t forget that in 2019 almost 54% of votes were cast for parties offering Remain or a second referendum. Not only is keeping the question of rejoining the EU the right thing to do for our country, but it can be a vote winner too if the case is made with clarity and conviction.