I write to wish you a Happy Christmas and to thank you for supporting the European Movement during 2017.
I will write again to mark the New Year with some thoughts about the challenges for 2018, but I do not want to let the current year pass without recognizing the progress we have made.
In the national debate there have been two key victories. The first came when the Supreme Court supported Gina Miller and ruled that the Article 50 process could not be initiated without legislative authority; the second came when the House of Commons supported Dominic Grieve’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill and voted that the withdrawal process cannot be completed without a new Act of Parliament – which secures the principle of a “meaningful vote” on withdrawal when the true shape of the proposal is clear.
The two victories were vital because they establish the principle that Britain will not leave the EU without proper process. The 2016 referendum result was not – as the Brexiteers like to say – “an instruction”; still less was it an invitation to bypass legal process. It was an expression of popular will – which led Parliament to initiate the Article 50 process.
But British democracy has deep roots – and our history has taught us both the power and the limits of expressions of popular will. When Margaret Thatcher described referendums as “a device of dictators”, she didn’t mean that democratic governments should ignore popular will; she was reminding us that there is an extensive history of referendums being used by populist and unscrupulous factions to undermine the rule of law.
Democracy is a way of life not an event; it calls the powerful to account and subjects them to constant challenge. The key story of 2017 is that the British instinct for democracy is alive and strong, and it is that instinct which provides us with our opportunity to avert the prospect of Brexit. We shall do so by challenging the Brexiteers, calling them to account and demonstrating the dishonesty of their claims and the implications of their recklessness.
Brexit will be defeated not by rejecting democracy but by enlisting it.
That is why the progress we have made in the European Movement in 2017 is so important. Our membership and supporter base has grown, our social media presence has grown and the number of active branches has grown from 18 to 60.
The dedicated team of staff and volunteers at our London office has grown; we are now located in a new campaign hub, close to Westminster, and we have launched a NationBuilder website and integrated platform which significantly enhances our capacity to campaign effectively.
We are now offering a better membership package, with the full weekly EU Insider Briefing; our quarterly Foresight newsletter; and an exclusive discount for The New European newspaper. Our campaigning this year saw us backing pro-EU parliamentary candidates in the June General Election and we have run six national action days in support of our European vision. During our Autumn of Action, we also rallied and marched at the Labour and Conservative Party conference, and we helped to organise a pro-EU Conference and mass lobby of Parliament.
Our collaboration and partnerships with other leading pro-European organisations is also developing. In August, we officially announced our affiliation with Scientists for EU, Healthier IN the EU and Britain for Europe and we have been working closely with Open Britain.
In short – 2017 has been a year of significant progress, but the real argument lies ahead.
I will write again to mark the beginning of the New Year, but close by reflecting on the progress we have made and wishing you a merry Christmas.
Thank you once again for your support for the European Movement.
European Movement UK