The wind died down and the skies tried to clear, as six of your H4EU activists hit the market town of Ledbury, armed with 7 new questions on a board that paid occasional homage to Halloween. It might have been the magic of the pumpkins - or that of the witches’ hat that brought the sun out and showed the date as being October 30th instead of the 28th – but no one challenged either. The blue and yellow open gazebo outside St. Katherine’s offered information about the European Movement, and activists on the other side of the High Street, squeezed between the Organic Shop and a van selling beefburgers, chatted to shoppers, encouraging them to express their opinions on 7 effects of Brexit: in the shape of dots, stars and funny faces. While the stickers guarantee anonymity on the board, many a strong opinion was voiced but will not be divulged. The magic allowed us all to keep smiling, safe and dry until we reached home, after which the rains began.
Here then, are the questions and the answers given:
1. ARE OUR RIVERS AS WELL PROTECTED AS WHEN WE WERE IN THE EU?
YES: 4 % DUNNO: 17 % NO: 79 %
This morning’s Guardian reported the Government’s removal of the requirement for the annual tests of water quality we conducted as EU members, and also trashed EU-derived sewage pollution rules for housebuilders. People are very much aware of the deterioration of our rivers, and such behaviour from the Government was bound to anger them.
2. IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE LIVING ABROAD?
YES: 89 % DUNNO: 4 % NO: 7 %
Many responders are parents or grandparents, and more than aware of the opportunities for study and work experiences that their children will be denied. Incidentally, this morning I read of the new visa Britons will need to acquire each time they visit a different EU country, around £6 per person, per country, unless you are under 18 or over 80. Thanks, Brexit!
3. DO OTHER COUNTRIES SEE THE UK AS A GLOBAL LEADER?
YES: 11 % DUNNO: 6 % NO: 83 %
There were a lot of comments such as “Not any more”, “Not now” “I doubt it very much”, and so on. This is what our government has done for us!
4. DO YOU KNOW ANY RESTAURANTS OR BARS THAT ARE SHORT OF STAFF?
YES: 71 % DUNNO: 24 % NO: 5 %
Not everyone felt able to answer this one. Many don’t go out much these days as it’s too expensive. But Hereford and Ledbury venues were mentioned.
5. IS IT EASIER FOR UK BUSINESSES TO TRADE WITH EU COUNTRIES NOW?
YES: 0 % DUNNO: 15 % NO: 85 %
A no-brainer, really, this one. Nevertheless a few people felt uncomfortable enough to put ‘Dunno’ instead of ‘No’.
6. DOES THE UK HAVE EFFECTIVE CONTROL OF ITS BORDERS?
YES: 4% DUNNO: 9 % NO: 87 %
A lady who mainly agreed but felt that many questions were too general to be answered satisfactorily, said borders were a huge topic. What sort of borders were meant? And then there was the question of whether borders should exist at all, and wouldn’t it be better if everyone could go wherever they pleased. I personally have some sympathy with this idea, but it cannot be decided by a national government, let alone by ourselves...
7. HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR US TO JOIN THE EU AGAIN?
5 YEARS: 5.5% 10 YEARS: 22.5% 15 YEARS: 36% 20+ YEARS: 17%
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN: 19%
The last answer (It will never happen) had not been contemplated by us, but we added it by request.
Yet we are convinced that sooner or later British governments will have to yield, or be pressured into a union with the countries on our doorstep, whether that be the EU as it is now, or a reformed version of it. Surely those people who still cling to the insular belief that we are ‘best off if we go it alone’, and ‘who cares about experts’, will be either persuaded, or eventually superseded, by those who want more (eg. the young), those who point to national bankruptcy and those who understand that such huge problems as climate change, for instance, have to be faced at an international level, with experts from different regions and eventually all countries working together.
Those who wish for a return of the Empire of Great Britain should remember that Empires rise and fall – we need only to think of the Egyptians, the Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and many others. Our time has come and gone, and the only way to remain players on the world stage is to unite with our neighbours and treat them as we would be treated ourselves, with empathy, not brinkmanship.
Over 80% of those who spoke to us believed that Britain would rejoin at some point, the majority felt this could happen within a generation, more or less. Many of us will not see it happen, if they are right, but I am convinced that it is a necessity, and will happen, whether our current members are there to see it or not!
Harriet Pahl Herefordshire4EU Ledbury, 28th October 2023