REUL Action Day: Activists take to the streets because Brexit is far from done

Published on February 09, 2023

On Saturday 4th February, 37 local groups across the country took part in the Retained EU Law Bill Action Day. This was a crucial next step in the campaign to ‘Save our Standards’.  

From Leeds to Lancaster, local groups handed out over 20,000 leaflets, managed to raise our petition to almost 40,000 signatures, and spoke to over 2,000 people about the dangers of the Retained EU Law Bill. An outstanding result from our network of activists.  

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped at the weekend to raise awareness about the dangers of the bill. 

The overall message we heard from the Retained EU Law Action Day was that public opinion is shifting, and EMUK would love to share some positive interactions that took place throughout the day.  

Campaigners in Macclesfield were greeted with overwhelming support when handing out campaign leaflets. They spoke to Leave voters who now regret their decision, such as a long-distance lorry driver. 

In Beverley, local groups from Hull and East Yorkshire spoke with some 2016 Remain voters who were so relieved that there is a movement still trying to reverse the calamity of Brexit. They were thrilled that the European Movement continues to draw attention to the fact that, regardless of what lies the Brexiteer government continues to spew, Brexit is far from done.  

For some in Beverley, such as Cathy Goldthorpe, it was their first face to face event since Brexit and the Covid pandemic in 2019. Cathy very kindly gave us an overview of her day:  

“Saturday morning began well. Our group of 9 all aged in their 70s and 80s were struggling to erect our ‘Hull and East Yorkshire for EU’ banner when a young woman in her early 30s enquired what we were doing and what we represented. When we told her she beamed support and announced very loudly her appreciation. We were told that we were an inspiration for our generation who without doubt had voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.  

So how did Saturday’s event contrast from those before Brexit? The people shopping in Beverley looked far less affluent and many appeared down at heel and harassed.  

I concentrated on talking to the teenagers through to the middle aged. My contact with OAPs in the first few minutes had been less fruitful as many were clearly very unhappy leavers who didn’t want to admit there was a problem and didn’t want to talk. East Yorkshire was and still is a leave voting fortress with the Unherd poll last week scoring the constituency of East Yorkshire as 10th in the country as having the least Regretters of Brexit. The teenagers generally knew little about politics and what was happening at government level, but they were polite and interested to learn about changes to legislation in Britain and how there was no guarantee at the moment that rights we have now would be retained. The working population without doubt was where the disgust with the present government was expressed. It was in this age group where people listened intently and responded by expressing their own frustration or support for the Brexiteer Government. 

There was concern about worker’s rights. However, whether Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem or Green, Leaver or Rejoiner each and everyone expressed disgust at how the government’s lack of control over water companies pumping sewage into the sea and rivers. This issue had unanimous support across the board. Not one single person defended the government on this topic. 

It was an interesting morning. Our East Yorkshire community is clearly very divided on Brexit. People who voted leave are very reluctant to talk. Only a few defended Brexit. Most would not discuss it. The people who looked the happiest were those who would engage in conversation and express outrage and even government supporters fell into this category. They too arrogantly declared their support and looked content. Those who refused to chat without doubt looked the most disillusioned”.  

When campaigning in North Hertfordshire, the local branch reported that people in the area were much more receptive than in the past, with local groups handing out double the leaflets than on previous action days. Public opinion is shifting, and it is becoming clearer to people on the ground that Brexit isn’t working. 

In Esher and Walton, the local group was really surprised at the level of awareness on the issue as well as the amount of opposition to the Bill. David Nickerson, Group Chair, stated “We thought it would be much more difficult to engage people on the subject, however, it became one of our easier street stalls”.  

Lancaster for Europe distributed plenty of leaflets and had great engagement when using the ‘Brexitometer’ style presentation. Many conversations they had were with the public and they even had a letter published in the local paper – raising awareness of the bill even further. Most importantly though according to Group Chair, Jon Moore “the morale of the group was given a shot in the arm, by having the chance to do something!”. 

Steve Rouse, Chair of Swindon for Europe, spent a whopping 6 hours on the stall. Steve used music from all over Europe to help get further interest in the stall, particularly from the younger generation. This included a group of teenage Italian politics students who spent roughly an hour chatting about Brexit and a young girl from Poland who stopped by the stall to thank the local Swindon group for everything they are doing to reverse Brexit.  

The main concern related to the Retained EU Law Bill was around the River Ray becoming even more polluted, but still overall people were not fully aware of the dangers that the bill poses.  

The highlight of the day was a special appearance from Heidi Alexander, former MP, who actively helped the group campaign on the stall and demonstrated that MPs are also extremely concerned with the Retained EU Law Bill in its current form.  

Finally in Cambridge, Group Chair Paul Browne shared his thoughts on the stalls effectiveness in raising awareness on the Retained EU Law Bill. Paul stated that they didn’t converse with anyone who thought that the Retained EU Law Bill was a good idea. However, as mentioned by other groups, there is still a complete lack of awareness of the bill and the dangers it poses to everyday life. Paul managed to get a piece published in the local press about the Action Day. This came as a surprise considering several of the conversations with people on the streets revolved around the lack of media coverage on the bill, in particular the fact the bill wasn’t even mentioned on the news the night it was in the Commons.  

The specific concerns people are facing in Cambridge seemed to centre around workers' rights and environmental protections with worried farmers speaking openly about these issues. Brexit has already negatively impacted the farming industry and the Retained EU Law Bill will only make this worse. 

The overall message from the day in Cambridge was that people are either unaware or else have negative feelings towards the bill.   

We are clearly making huge strides in our campaign, and I know that with enough support we can make a difference to the Retained EU Law Bill. On Saturday at the Action Day, we saw public opinion shifting and on Monday we witnessed almost 50 Lords pick apart the bill in its current form. Neither the politicians nor the people on the ground want the Retained EU Law Bill to be passed.   

Brexit is far from done and together we can prevent it from going any further.  

Thank you again to everyone who took part in the Retained EU Law Bill Action Day and to anyone who is interested in getting involved with local groups in the future you can find your local branch here: Our Branches - European Movement 

Emma Knaggs  

Head of Grassroots Engagement 

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

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