On the morning of 23 June 2016, after the referendum when the news on the TV announced that Britain had voted to leave the EU, I cried. I cried for myself as a through and through European, for the loss of my EU citizenship. And for my family spread across Europe, who I will find more difficult to visit. And I cried for Britain.
Understanding how it happened
I spent the greatest part of these past five years after my retirement campaigning against Brexit. I was also trying to understand why it happened. After we left the EU, I have been fighting with groups who try to avoid as much Brexit harm as possible.
But to my horror, I saw a poll today which showed that the divisions along the pro/antiEU lines are still 50/50. It seems that not enough people have changed their minds. Rejoining the EU is not a possibility at present.
When I started to campaign for the EU with Together In locally, in a Conservative and UKIP supporting area, I was met with huge anger. People blamed the EU for whatever issues made their lives tough.
They read the trashy tabloids and Eurosceptic propaganda, the lies, and false promises by the Leave campaign. Sadly, the Remain campaign was too confident and did not manage to persuade people. When I offered to answer people’s questions about the EU system, which I knew was not perfect but which I had worked with, they were not interested. They simply shouted ‘out!’.
Do people not care?
Do people not care about the losses to fishermen, farmers, car workers, haulage industry, creative industry, small and medium businesses exporting to Europe and students who lose Erasmus? Is the loss of influence we had on the support of regional, national, and international life we had with Europe still not sink in?
Yesterday a group called The Citizens, together with a group of MPs took the government to court about the interference into elections and referendums by foreign forces. The government’s own Russia Report confirmed that there had been interference. However, this was not pursued any further.
What will happen if all the legal cases against our politicians in the current government, including the PM will win? If it is confirmed by a court that the Referendum really was illegal? Will that change any minds?
Working with campaign groups
Today is the 5th anniversary of the Referendum. For me, the only benefit of Brexit is the wonderful people I had the chance to meet in person and on social media. Let me say ‘thank you’ to some of them.
A great group of people started by a journalist, was One Day Without Us. The aim was to highlight the importance of migrants and the benefit of migration to the country. Their motto was “Proud to be a migrant. Proud to stand with migrants.”
The original objective to hold a one day strike was too ambitious without the backing of the unions. I think it was an opportunity missed. We campaigned for two years but then sadly disbanded due to lack of support.
The first anti Brexit group I joined in Whitehall was the No10 Vigil. Through parody, music, songs and dance, they protested three days a week opposite Downing Street. Many talented people, like a Boris Johnson look alike named Drew, and dancers like Steve and his daughter who travelled from Swindon, used their art to demonstrate the harm Brexit will bring. We had guitar players, opera singers and many tourists who gave us the thumbs up.
The Vigil also marched in numerous cities and held events across the UK, often with other groups like EU flag Mafia. One group handed out EU flags at the Proms. Their last march with the Peoples Vote campaign brought together over 1 million people. I am proud to say that I was there at many events and most of the marches. Accompanied by my two dogs who also joined the Wooferendum events.
Today, I will join the group who has protested at parliament persistently with STOP BREXIT (and Bollocks to Brexit) shouts. Steve Bray is the figurehead and he is known to politicians and media alike. Now SODEM support demands for a close relationship with Europe and highlight corruption, lies and injustices perpetrated by the present government.
The right to protest itself is at risk with the new PCSC Bill, so we take advantage of being able to exercise our rights while we can.
A loss of identity
Some of us might cry again tomorrow. Because for most of us, Brexit means a loss of an identity we were proud of. We are Europeans, however many Australian, Asian or American deals the UK signs: the Continent of Europe is where we are and where we belong: it’s only around 13 miles away. We have family and friends there.
And it is not just about trade, it is an emotional bond. We are part of European history. Our allies and partners since the horrendous wars showed that for Europe to secure peace, we needed to work together. A Union of Sovereign States in Europe is not a tool for robbing us of sovereignty, but it is to unite us with all our resources to face common challenges together.
We have not seen each other due to lockdown and some are still not able to join us. But it will be great to see the ones who brave the dangers of travel to see old friends. Some campaigners from Kent might be there too.
The most active ones were the Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells group. Sevenoaks, Swanley, Tonbridge for Europe has been amazing before Brexit actually happened, but like many other groups have not kept up their enthusiasm. National groups Best for Britain and fast growing European Movement with local branches are doing great work to keep the European spirit alive.
We will most likely finish tomorrow singing Ode to Joy, the European hymn of unity and brother/sisterhood of men. This year, due to Covid restrictions was the first time I had not organised a flashmob of Ode to Joy at Trafalgar Square.
We carry the secret wish in our hearts that hate will not win and that we will eventually rejoin the EU. Keep our star alight!