2022: The year that Brexit was put to the test, and failed

Published on December 23, 2022

This year we have seen four chancellors; three PMs; two Heads of State and one new ministerial position, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency (currently vacant). With national economies and the EU recovering from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, Brexit has highlighted and exacerbated how vulnerable the UK economy is to weather these storms. 

Six years on from the referendum and Brexit is still nowhere near ‘done’.  

Meanwhile, European Movement UK has firmly established ourselves as the only organisation with the courage and resources to expose and reverse the calamity of Brexit. 

Despite the disastrous Brexit deal we are able to finish the year on an optimistic note (just look at recent polling). With support for rejoining the EU building, we are playing our part in reinforcing that and are able to look forward and into 2023 with optimism, focus and a pragmatic, deliverable vision. 

But first let's reflect on what everyone at European Movement – our grassroots groups, our members, staff and political ambassadors - have achieved over the last year in the fight to reverse the calamity of Brexit.  


Here at EM UK, we have worked hard to assert our cross-party approach during the past year. In July 2022 the National Council approved the appointment of two new Vice Presidents – Caroline Lucas and Vince Cable – to add heavyweight cross-party political experience to our leadership, alongside Michael Heseltine, our President.  

As well as recruiting high-powered politicians to represent our movement this year, we are proud to say that we have grown our team and now have 15 staff located right across Britain. 

Together we work to design campaigns, boost membership engagement and organise events which combined will help us win the Battle for the Soul of our Country.  

The hard work of our new political leadership coupled with a growing team of staff has led to (at time of writing) 5,291 members joining our movement in 2022. 

Public opinion is shifting. Together we can reverse the calamity of Brexit.  


Our campaigns are rooted in exposing the lies of this Brexit government, and this year we ran several campaigns to fight for the Battle for the Soul of our Country:

Boris Johnson is going. Make Brexit go with him - £173,340 raised  

We saw 7,500 supporters donate a whopping £173,340 to our Brexit war chest to reverse the calamity of Brexit. We laid out to our supporters that although Boris Johnson may be going his legacy is still costing us and continues to cost us. In fact, Brexit is costing Britain £1 million per hour. Our rights are under threat. Brexit isn’t working. By donating to this campaign supporters have contributed to our investment in shifting public opinion, including polling, media monitoring, social media campaigns and the staff who lead this critical work.   

Stop the Trade War with Europe23,000 signatures  

This petition was a direct call on Rishi Sunak to admit that the Good Friday Agreement and Brexit are incompatible. We didn’t just receive signatures online for the ‘Trade War Petition’ but also designed and printed a complementary leaflet with a QR code linking to the petition, thousands of which have been delivered to local groups for activities throughout the year. 

As well as this we hired a van and used the Leave Campaign's tactics to demonstrate the disastrous effect a trade war would have on our country, taking the message straight to Westminster for the Brexit government to see.

Democracy, Freedom, and Peace in Europe 19,000 signatures  

This statement united our supporters in denouncing Putin's invasion objectives to spread war, oppression, and authoritarianism. We encouraged our supporters to add their voice and speak up to protect our common European values of democracy. Here at EM UK we will continue to work hard in 2023 to promote peace in Europe.  

Brexit isn’t working 15,000 signatures/stories 

We asked our supporters to give us examples of how Brexit is affecting you in local communities across the country. We presented this information as a Brexit Heat Map demonstrating which areas of the UK are the most affected by Brexit. It shows starkly that Brexit is nowhere near ‘done’. 

Save our Standards - 20,000 signatures and counting...  

Our most recent petition calls on the government to drop the Retained EU Law Bill and save our environmental, food quality and workers standards. 

Our specific demands are for the government to: 
• Provide a legally binding guarantee that they won’t slash our standards or drop EU laws which positively build on our established regulations and standards; 
• Commit to retaining or improving key legislation on wildlife protection, animal welfare, employment rights, environmental protections, food standards; 
• The government must engage openly and transparently with third-sector organisations that are raising concerns about the implications of divergence in these areas, and; 
• Remove clauses that allow Ministers to change the law without adequate democratic and parliamentary scrutiny. 

We will continue to fight the Retained EU Law Bill into 2023. 

Erasmus+ and Horizon 

In 2022 we established a working group, in collaboration with the Erasmus+ Alliance, which features members and National Council members, which in 2023 will focus on establishing campaigns on Erasmus and Horizon. This is because an important first step towards eventually re-joining the EU is to re-join these educational powerhouses.  


Local groups and grassroots activities 

European Movement’s local groups network is growing in size and strength. In 2022, groups started to pick up their activity following a tough couple of years during the pandemic. 

Local campaigning 

Around a dozen groups across the country took the Heat Map campaign onto street stalls. With maps of their local area, it’s a great way to start conversations about how Brexit isn’t working and the real-world impact it has.  

Petitions are also a great way to get people talking. Our local groups always play a big part in increasing petition signatures and our most recent petitions have been no exception.  

As well as supporting national campaigns, our groups and branches have also been highlighting local issues and attending events in their regions. York for Europe’s ‘Poos in the Ouse’ campaign drew attention to sewage issues in their river, Berkshire for Europe were back at Reading Festival handing out stickers and recruiting young people and EUnity Seahaven borrowed the EM stall backdrop to attend the regional Labour conference. 

Building Bridges Fund 

For the past year, local groups have been able to apply for funding through our Building Bridges initiative. Groups can apply for up to £500 for activities that help to build bridges in their local communities. Thanks to this, we’ve seen an array of actions including a French school fête supported by Leeds for Europe, twinning activity in Wandsworth, Wales for Europe running a stall at Plaid Cymru party conference and a business survey in Swindon among others. 

Grassroot Summit 

In November, we held the Grassroots Summit in London (Birkbeck College, University of London), inviting local groups and key members to join us on the day. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with friends old and new to discuss current and upcoming campaigns. In all, around 200 people joined either in person or online. You can catch up with the action here. 




The National Council agreed in March 2022 that EM should divert resource towards supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion so EM partnered with the Mayor of London to hold a mass vigil for Ukraine. According to figures from the Met Police, this went down as the 10th largest rally in UK history. 

Anna Bird shared the stage with Sadiq Kahn, David Lammy, Emma Thompson, Chair of the London Assembly, Andrew Boff, the President of the Trades Union Congress, Sue Fearns and Vitaly Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, beamed in via Zoom. 

After the event we also ran a series of member briefings on aspects of the war which sought to platform European voices and highlight the European response to the war and produced a practical action pack for local groups.  

We then went on to hold two briefing events, on the EU’s response to the war, and the refugee crisis. These events only further established the importance of working with our European neighbours in order to protect European values of democracy, peace and freedom.  

Party Conferences  

EM attended all the major party conferences in England throughout September and October and, thanks to our presence, we were able to build some excellent new relationships across all parties. During conference we:  

  • Hosted 5 fringe events across the three main party conferences.  
  • Broke the Brexit silence in the media. We were invited onto BBC Politics Live to challenge Labour over their 'Make Brexit Work' slogan and took our message directly to the doors of politicians at Labour and Conservative conferences. 
  • Put Europe on the agenda of all the political parties. Our fringe with Labour Movement for Europe highlighted that there is no solution to the cost-of-living crisis without closer ties with Europe.
  • Watched the Green Party pass a motion for the UK to rejoin the EU as soon as the political situation allows. During our fringe at the event we also laid out our step-by-step strategy for rejoining.
  • Grew our movement. Our membership is now four times that of UKIP and we packed-out the house for our fringe event at Conservative conference. 

In 2023 we look forward to again attending all the major party conferences and strengthening our cross-party ties. We are also excited to engage members of the Liberal Democrats at their party conference in 2023 which was cancelled this year in line with the mourning period of Her Majesty the Queen II.

Big 4  

In November 2022 European Movement UK hosted ‘The Battle for the Soul of our Country: In Conversation with the Big 4’. 150 of our members and esteemed guests joined us in London, along with around 1,000 more joining virtually to hear from Lord Michael Heseltine, Sir Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas MP and former MEP for London, Seb Dance. Hosting the evening was LBC’s esteemed Sangita Myska. 

The event was a celebration of European Movement UKs cross-party relationships, to demonstrate that, despite four of Britain’s most senior and respected politicians having differing views on a plethora of issues, they are all united in the view that Brexit isn’t working and that only together can we reverse the calamity of Brexit and win the Battle for the Soul of our Country. 

You can watch the full recording of the event here. 



This year, the European Movement UK has deepened its partnerships with the Young European Movement (YEM), European Movement in Scotland (EMIS) and Wales for Europe. Reciprocal membership arrangements have most recently been made with Wales for Europe meaning members get the benefits of membership of both organisations, and in 2023 we hope to do the same for members in Scotland as well as for members of YEM.  

European Movement Scotland 

In June 2022, European Movement Scotland along with European Movement UK hosted an event with Michael Russell, Sarah Boyack MSP and Andrew Adonis. There was a great turnout of members and press both physically and virtually at the event and this contributed to strengthening the relationships between members of EMiS and EMUK.  

Young European Movement 

It has been an action-packed year for YEM UK. In April, YEM hosted BEYOND 2022, a three-day conference focusing on YEM’s contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, empowering young activists to champion a stronger Europe.  

As a stalwart supporter of Ukraine in its battling against Putin, YEM Manchester co-hosted an event with the Ukrainian Society where President Zelensky spoke virtually, while the organisation also participated in a separate march in solidary with Ukraine.  

In July, YEM hosted its first Climate Action Summer Academy in London, a three-day event tailored towards activists interested in maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection in the UK post-Brexit and empower them to champion this into the future.  

They also sought to charter a future back inside the European Union, and were delighted to participate in the Rejoin March which took place this October, where YEM President Julius Lajtha spoke on stage alongside a plethora of high-profile speakers. 

Wales for Europe 

With the launch of our new reciprocal membership scheme between both organisations, as well as joint funding for a membership and campaigns coordinator in Wales, the partnership between Wales for Europe and European Movement UK has become even stronger this year.  

Collaborative events such as the Erasmus+ webinar discussion, and a speaker event with Andrew Adonis, were successful and engaging. Wales for Europe have also had a wide range of events and activities this year, including speaker events with former Wales MEPs, a presence at the National Rejoin March alongside European Movement UK activists, a picnic event in Cardiff, and stalls at the Corwen Show and the Plaid Cymru autumn conference! 

Other pro-EU actions

National Rejoin March 

In October 2022 thousands of protestors in London marched urging the government to rebuild our relationship with Europe. The National Rejoin March demonstrated the strong, vibrant movement of people who are still committed to reclaiming our European future. The grassroots event was organised by a broad alliance of regional, local, and other pro-European groups. Many European Movement partners and local groups were in attendance, as well as EM colleagues Molly Scott Cato, Jackie Jones, Mike Galsworthy and Julius Lajtha, some of whom gave inspiring speeches. 

Leeds for Europe Petition  

In November 2022 Leeds for Europe started a government petition urging the “Government to hold a Public Inquiry into the impact of Brexit”. On December 5th, 2022, the government responded to the petition stating that “The UK’s departure from the EU was a democratic choice and the UK-EU institutions are functioning as intended. The Government does not believe this to be an appropriate subject for public inquiry”. 

However, this did not deter EM and since the government responded a further 20,000 people have signed the petition. If the petition reaches 100,000 the government will be forced to debate the petition. This is a prime example of the strength of local groups and the power we hold as an organisation.  

Sign the petition here 

The year ahead

This year has been difficult for everyone, with the political cost of Brexit clear for everyone to see.  

But through all of this we’ve been working hard, laying the groundwork, building up our leadership, getting out to conferences and growing our supporter list, all in order to bring us closer to winning the Battle for the Soul of our Country. 

2023 is going to be special. Public opinion is shifting, it is becoming clearer that we can’t make Brexit work!  

The success of 2022 was thanks to the contribution from our members and supporters so, if you haven’t already, join the movement today! 

Help us put Europe on the political agenda before the general election