I wish you a prosperous New Year on behalf of the European Movement.
But today, 31st December, also marks two years since the end of the Brexit transitional period: the day when the UK fully withdrew from the European Union.
The Covid pandemic overshadowed the full impact of Brexit. More recently, we have been preoccupied with the Ukraine War, the severe effects of the energy price shock on living standards and the political upheavals following the resignation of Boris Johnson.
But we can now begin to see more clearly the consequences of “having got Brexit done” and the dishonesty behind the promise of “Brexit benefits”.
And it’s more important than ever that we speak out against this dishonesty and work together to reverse the calamity of Brexit.
Most obviously, the negative economic fall-out is becoming apparent. Numerous firms have cut back their trade with Europe because of new bureaucratic obstacles. The same obstacles have pushed up costs, adding to inflation. An exodus of EU nationals has aggravated the chronic labour shortage in some sectors. Businesses have cut back on badly needed investments. The promised boost from big new trade agreements has been seriously underwhelming.
And many individuals are now experiencing the practical difficulties of travelling and working in Europe. Others have seen the reality of cutbacks in collaborative research or student exchange.
Many of the costs of Brexit were predictable and predicted. What is also noteworthy is the shift in political opinion. There is now a clear and rising majority who judge Brexit as a mistake and favour the restoration of close economic links.
Many of the costs of Brexit were predictable and predicted. What is also noteworthy is the shift in political opinion. There is now a clear and rising majority who judge Brexit as a mistake and favour the restoration of close economic links. Becoming a member of the European Movement is a way of working with like-minded people to channel this changing mood into political action.
We are approaching a tipping point where the political mood will clearly favour taking the first steps back toward Europe:
A key issue will be breaking the deadlock over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Another will be re-joining the Horizon project, which is essential for scientific collaboration.
And work will begin this coming year preparing for a review by governments of the skeletal post-Brexit ‘deal’. Even government ministers have been thinking aloud about mechanisms for recreating the essential features of the Single Market.
The political parties which campaigned against Brexit have chosen to remain largely silent about the possibilities of rebuilding our relations with the EU. They have judged that the issue is too divisive or difficult. But there is a big opportunity in the coming year for us to build pressure and influence the next government to take a more constructive, pro-European stance. The European Movement is at the heart of that process.
For many of us, the battle over Europe is about more than economic costs and benefits, important though these are. It is about our identity and our values in relation to the rest of the world – a Battle for the Soul of the Country.
My own involvement in pro-European campaigning goes back to the 1960s and the first referendum on membership. Like many of you, I was actively involved in the Remain campaign and then the campaign for a People’s Vote. I don’t regard Brexit as the last word on the subject.
I have now taken on the role of Vice President of the European Movement to work with our 16,000 plus members to undo the damage and division of recent years and return to our place amongst the other countries of Europe.
Thank you for your continued support throughout 2022, together we can continue to create change in 2023.
Vice President, European Movement UK