Britain's pro-European voice was dramatically strengthened this week when six groups campaigning to keep Britain's ties with the European Union moved into offices together in Millbank Tower, a location already associated with some of the most impactful political campaigns of the last quarter century (watch the video above).
The groups – Open Britain, the European Movement, Britain for Europe, Scientists for EU, Healthier IN the EU, and InFacts – have created what staff working there have playfully dubbed ‘Project GCHQ’, which is in reference to the work of the “Grassroots Co-ordinating Group” (GCG) which brings together these campaign organisations with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on European Relations. Other campaign groups, like Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), are also using the new offices as a base for some of their operations.
This ‘GCHQ’ is based not in Cheltenham but on the first floor of Millbank Tower – almost exactly at the mid-point between where Labour ran their winning campaigns of 1997 and 2001 and where the Conservatives were based for the campaign that returned them to office in 2010. A few minutes’ walk from Parliament and the TV studios at 4 Millbank, the office brings pro-Europeans right to the heart of the hour-by-hour and day-by-day battles over the Government’s Brexit legislation.
The GCG was created recently to formalise ad hoc meetings of pro-Europeans and is chaired by Chuka Umunna MP. At ‘GCHQ’ each group has its own specialism, but the creation of the common space is helping significantly with co-operation and co-ordination of campaigns.
Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of the Grassroots Co-ordinating Group, said:
“In our democracy, it is vital that the people get their say on Brexit, rather than their elected representatives in Parliament being reduced to some rubber stamp for whatever plan Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove have been putting together behind closed-doors. The creation of ‘Project GCHQ’ is a major step forward in ensuring grassroots campaigning organisations, who represent hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country, are now working together, in cooperation, to ensure the public’s voice is heard in the Brexit debate.”
James McGrory, Executive Director of Open Britain, said:
“The very name Millbank Tower conjures up memories of some of the most effective and revolutionary political campaigning of the last three decades. Our battle is as tough as that faced by parties excluded from office for 18 or 13 years. But we are every bit as determined to succeed in our task. Project GCHQ is not the first step in that journey, but it is the biggest so far.”
James MacCleary, Campaign Director of European Movement UK, said:
“The European Movement is here for the long haul – we were founded nearly 70 years ago with Winston Churchill as our first Honorary President. We have built a national network of local campaign groups who agree with us that the UK’s place is at the heart of the EU. The Brexit deal must be put to a public vote with the option to reject it and stay in the EU. That is why we are proud to be part of the Grassroots Co-ordinating Group, bringing likeminded pro-EU organisations together.”
Anne Weyman, Vice-Chair of Britain for Europe, said:
“Britain for Europe have never believed the referendum of June 2016 was the end of the debate on Brexit. It was really only the start because before then we only had vague promises. Now we have concrete proposals, the people have every right to object to them and say no to the Government’s Brexit. We are enthusiastic about Project GCHQ and the opportunity it gives us to continue to build on the work we have been doing with others.”
Lara Spirit, co-President of Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), said:
“Too many young people feel like they do not have any voice in the Brexit debate. That has to change as Brexit affects their future more than anyone else. We know we are stronger and our voice louder when we are together, which is why being able to drop in and out of a bustling new campaign headquarters and share information and ideas is so exciting.”
Dr Mike Galsworthy, Co-Founder of Scientists for EU, said:
“The British science community is overwhelmingly pro-European. We've gained so much value from playing leading roles in the fantastic EU space, health, science and innovation programmes. We need people to know that Brexit is hurting all this already. Being part of the Project GCHQ team means we can get clear data on our colleagues’ desks immediately and our arguments on science and innovation are heard by the widest possible audience.”
Dr Rob Davidson, Director of Healthier IN, said:
“The damage to our NHS from Brexit is real and growing daily, as we lose vital staff – and we haven’t even left yet. It is vital that we do anything we can to stop the Brexit rot in the NHS and Healthier IN is very pleased to be part of Project GCHQ where data scientists, researchers and social media experts have come together to form a smarter and more powerful pro-European campaign.”
Hugo Dixon, Chairman of InFacts, said:
“As new facts emerge, it is becoming clear the government is negotiating a miserable Brexit that will be bad for our power and bad for our prosperity. We need a high energy joined up campaign to stop this. Getting all these groups in the same building is a big step to achieving that.”