More than 120 campaign groups belonging to the Grassroots for Europe network have written to the European Parliament urging MEPs to keep the door open to cancelling Brexit.
The open letter to the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, asking him to recognise that the prime minister does not represent the prevailing view of UK citizens – and that most people now want to remain in the EU.
As MPs in Westminster prepare to vote on the government’s Brexit deal, MEPs in the European Parliament are about to begin the process of scrutinising the Withdrawal Agreement, which cannot be approved without their consent.
The letter says: ‘As people in the UK have realised that the empty promises of a pain-free Brexit made by the Leave campaign cannot be delivered, support for EU membership is growing – with opinion polls suggesting a clear majority in favour of the UK remaining in the EU.’
It says that the legitimacy of the 2016 referendum result has been called into question by revelations that the Leave campaign exceeded spending limits, their use of discredited microtargeting techniques on social media and investigations into illegal funding.
Referring to the recent European Court of Justice judgement that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU on the same terms and conditions, the letter concludes: ‘We therefore call on the European Parliament to give a positive signal that you are open to a revocation of the Article 50 notification by the UK – and that you would support an extension to the Article 50 process, if it is necessary, in order to allow the matter to be democratically resolved.’
It adds that the Withdrawal Agreement fails to protect the rights of British EU citizens to travel, work or retire anywhere in the EU – and that British citizens should be consulted over whether those rights should be taken away.
Grassroots for Europe co-organiser, Richard Wilson, said it was important for MEPs to realise that there had been a surge in pro EU feeling:
‘When Article 50 was triggered in March 2017 almost nobody knew what Brexit meant but since that time the grim reality has slowly been revealed.
‘The rights of British citizens are being stripped away, our livelihoods are being gambled with – and while our government has been arguing with itself and the UK Parliament, the British people have been largely ignored.
‘We represent ordinary people from the length and breadth of the UK and abroad who have seen how the mood of the people has shifted against Brexit since the 2016 referendum. There are new groups springing up all the time and we are part of what is now arguably the largest pro EU network in Europe.’
He said it was important that MEPs were made aware of this surge in pro EU feeling: ‘We are asking them to keep the door open to the British people, keeping open the possibility of the UK staying in the EU and revitalising its historical friendship with our European neighbours.’