At a meeting on 17 September hosted by Malvern for Europe, their guest speaker Lord Andrew Adonis reviewed the factors leading up to Brexit, the perils facing the UK due to Johnson’s Brexit and put forward an intriguing set of ideas based on the European Movement’s “Step by Step” approach. This approach is designed to lead to improved relations with the EU, becoming a part of the Single Market and Custom’s Union again and hopefully, eventually, rejoining.
He was scathing in his assessment as to why there was not a second referendum (which he believes Remain would have won) on the actual terms of any deal. He explored his reasons for believing that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were delusional in thinking they could win the 2019 general election or that there would be a massive swing to the overly optimistic Liberal Democrats. He characterized Corbyn as being profoundly anti-European and unelectable as a Prime Minister and expressed his frustration with the choice in that ill-fated election where a quarter of Remain voters voted for Johnson just to keep Corbyn out. His frustration and disappointment at how the Remain campaign was run and the impact of Brexit was evident. As was his embarrassment that the current more centralist Labour Party had actually voted for the Johnson deal while ‘in a state of political trauma.’
Present day polls suggest around 60% now think Brexit was a mistake and Andrew talked about some of the negative impacts of Brexit including those on Erasmus, artists and musicians, the borders delays and increased trading costs, fishing and agriculture and the difficulties around borders with Ireland, which he pointed out were impossible to solve unless Great Britain was at least in the Single Market and Customs Union.
In looking at the reasons for Brexit, he poured scorn on Boris Johnson and his egotistical, Machiavellian scheming to remove Theresa May by pandering to populism and nationalism and making the EU ‘the scapegoat for the austerity of many northern towns and cities.’ He also explored some of the dangerous links between donations to the Tory party and those who promoted Brexit.
However, as Andrew pointed out,
‘This is a low point but I fully believe it is absolutely possible to reverse this. … A huge amount has happened in the last two years and the negative realities of Brexit are becoming increasingly evident.’
As the blame game and the Covid factor become tired arguments he stressed,
‘it is possible for the European Movement to become a mass movement and it is perfectly possible that in ten to fifteen years the UK can rejoin the EU, it is the pragmatic thing to do.’
His view is that having many thousands of individual and group members in the European Movement would add weight in persuading political parties to present the pragmatic idea of rejoining the Single Market and Customs Union in their next manifestos. It could also encourage political parties to work together electorally on policy areas where they have shared ideas, especially around Europe. For all the difficulties the UK faces Andrew stressed that we can and must do better as, ‘Brexit will reduce trade and our country’s wealth to spend on supporting and investing.’
He also highlighted the dangers facing democracy internationally and the challenges of ‘dark money’ and that while ‘the EU is a match for China and the USA the UK by itself is not.’ He applauded the progress Germany had made since the ravages of WW2 and their political system that blended local representation with PR. Andrew warned of the dangers that face European and UK democracies from Russia and an expansionist, non-democratic China.
In his talk and in answering a diverse range of questions from the audience he pointed out that he believed the UK should be pragmatic politically as ‘a closer relationship with Europe will increase our prosperity and safeguard our futures.’
Although some of Andrew’s analysis was disquieting, his message about the UK’s future relationship with the rest of Europe through the beneficial influence of the European Movement was positive. He concluded:
‘We are European in our outlook and values, together we can do this.’
Ed: The European Movement UK is a cross-party organisation working to build closer relationships with the EU that it believes will benefit our country. It has more than 12,000 members, some 160,000 supporters, 123 local groups, and has strong networks in Westminster and communities throughout the UK.
For more than 70 years, the European Movement has worked to build a closer relationship with the rest of Europe. The countries of the European Union, with whom we share both deeply held values and a common history, are our closest neighbours and natural trading and cultural partners.
Martin Griffiths is Chair of Tewkesbury for Europe and worked as a teacher in the UK and throughout Europe.
Martin added, ‘It was great to see members from Ledbury and Hereford for Europe back on the street on Saturday asking the public how they felt Brexit was going!