Readers are sceptical momentum behind Rejoin will come before the 2030s.
I have just finished reading the excellent Brexitland by Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford (recommended in TNE some weeks ago). It provides an analysis, often of survey information over decades, of why the UK divided, and continues to divide, into two camps over Brexit. In essence, I agree with the book’s conclusion that this is a matter of identity politics, with each group sincerely holding very different views of how we wish our society to look and our country’s place in the world.
On the one hand, there is hope for those of us who see a future for the UK in re-joining the EU. But, on the other hand, it will not be a quick process as it would rely on a significant increase in numbers in the population holding a more open, internationalist view. The passage of time may provide that by demographic change.
I doubt whether Rejoin becomes a significant electoral battle cry in the next decade and possibly longer. Which means that, at the age of 70, I may well not see it. So, if it is pretty much futile to campaign for Rejoin now, what can we do? Well, we can campaign on the issues that led us to support membership of the EU. The tackling of climate change, the protections against rapacious multinationals, a more open policy about immigration, working closely with our neighbour countries, etc. Although we should not ignore opportunities to lay the foundations for a future rejoin campaign.
But there is an immediate issue concerning workers’ rights, previously underpinned by EU legislation. It comes as no surprise that the business secretary has announced that his department is “reviewing” protections such as the working time directive. The campaign against any weakening of employment legislation must start now.
I fear that Brexit, despite its highly damaging consequences that are already unfolding before our eyes, will not be reversed in my lifetime. Although I will not cease to do what I can to bring about a reversal, I do not see any likelihood of this for a long to come. I am not being negative, simply pragmatic and realistic. If the UK or any of its constituent nations wants to re-join the EU, then it has to embrace the European ideal, European values and visions.
The only nation that shows any sign of doing that sooner rather than later is Scotland. Northern Ireland might eventually see its future within a united Irish Republic.
That leaves poor Wales and the England that is at present in the grip of a group of leaders who have wittingly deceived and misled so many people in the past five years for their own gains.
Younger people will, I am sure, want to reverse this fatal mistake because they will not be willing to accept the restrictions Brexit places upon them, but they must first take politics seriously and be willing to step up and be part of radical change in order to achieve proportional representation and even to be part of new political movements that put people before party.
The New European has shown that there is a need for concerted action and compromise among all those who oppose Brexit. The way ahead may be hard and long, but we must take it – the alternative is too awful to contemplate.
Vice president and former chairman (2016-2018) of the National Liberal Club, London
In March 2017 a weekend conference was arranged to look at what had happened as a result of the referendum. It was a tremendous event but mainly served to allow hundreds of very angry people to meet hundreds of other very angry people and feel none of us were alone.
Its value was a collective treatment for Brexit PTSD and for that alone it served its purpose and more. However it didn’t really decide anything constructive. Would there be any mileage in having something similar in, say, a year from now (hopefully safely by then) but with a determination to result in a constructive way forward?
Recent correspondence in these pages prompted by Alastair Campbell’s challenge, I was struck by two things: firstly, the repeated references to our undemocratic First Past The Post electoral system – which I believe was the ultimate midwife of Brexit – and secondly, our relative lack of assertiveness in not more aggressively pursuing (ideally the positive aspects of), the Remain cause.
As regards the electoral system, the perennial beneficiary is the Conservative party. As they are not going to relinquish electoral arrangements which have effectively kept them in power for 30 of the last 40 years, it is imperative that the proportionally disenfranchised majority of the British people mount a concentrated and determined campaign to bring about a fairer and more representative voting system.
One argument not made loudly enough, not least by the then Labour Party leadership, about the benefits of EU membership was that it protected people against the worst excesses of hard right and left-wing fanatical politicians.
Less than a month into Brexit, and the Tories already have EU workers’ rights in their cross hairs, and in due course this will be followed by attacks on hard won EU consumer and environmental protections.
We must take every opportunity, without crowing, to show that this is what the ‘Brexit Dividend’ means in practice: the most vulnerable people taking the biggest hit, in a cowboy economy run by cowboys for the benefit of cowboys.
Perhaps Remainers/Rejoiners can take solace in the words of that great European, Fyodor Dostoevsky: “It is better to be unhappy and know the worst, than to be happy in a fool’s paradise.”
• Have your say by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our deadline for letters is Tuesday at 9am for inclusion in Thursday’s edition. Please be concise – letters over five paragraphs long may be edited before printing.