Located in West London, Ealing European Movement has quickly become one of the European Movement’s most dynamic activist groups. The group came about informally after the 2016 referendum as a way of continuing the positive campaign for Britain’s place in the EU, and for a People's Vote on the Brexit deal - but has expanded considerably over the past year. The group now boasts over 700 supporters and has the support of several local MPs. Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq (one of the first MPs to support a People’s Vote) frequently attends group events, and both Virendra Sharma and Steve Pound have lent a hand at the group’s street stalls. The group has also developed a close relationship with Ealing Council, who passed a motion affirming their support for a People’s Vote in April 2018.
Ealing is incredibly intertwined with the EU; around 55,000 people living in Ealing are from other countries in the Union. 276 of them are nurses at Ealing hospital. The EU has invested millions of pounds in projects within Ealing, including theatre groups and schools. The local university, the University of West London, benefits from the Erasmus+ student exchange programme - yet another thing that Brexit threatens.
The group’s volunteers reflect the area’s diversity of EU nationality. Group treasurer Geoff Warren explained his group’s motivation for coming together by saying
“Some of our volunteers are EU27 citizens, who have made their home here, unsure of their future status in the UK. Some have UK family members in the EU27 with EU27 partners who could be driven apart. They’re mixed in age and nationality, but united in opposing Brexit”.
The group’s youngest activist Curtis Parfitt-Ford hasn’t limited his efforts to his home borough - he is also a frequent presence at People’s Vote headquarters, where he recently assisted the digital team in developing software to help people more easily contact their MP. Speaking about Ealing European Movement’s considerable expansion, he said:
“The response we've had from all over the borough has been fantastic - we've more than tripled our initial support base over the last year. Our work has been such a success thanks to a strong local team working in partnership with the European Movement on a national level, really pushing out a positive message about a People's Vote across the entirety of Ealing”.
The group has been an active presence throughout the borough all summer, and as the campaign for a People’s Vote reaches a critical juncture, they have no plans to slow down anytime soon. When asked about the group’s future plans, Parfitt-Ford simply replied “We remain committed to giving Ealing the final say it demands on Brexit. Our voices must be heard, and they're stronger together”.
When asked why he chose to get involved in the People's Vote campaign, Tees4Europe chairman Scott Hunter said:
“Like most other people who had never taken part in political campaigning before, I watched the 2016 referendum on TV with a growing sense of alarm. About a week before the vote there was an edition of Newsnight broadcast from Middlesbrough where Kirsty Wark interviewed a group of workers who had just lost their jobs at the Redcar steel plant. These were not the people shouting about sovereignty and Global Britain, but they were all planning to vote for Brexit, and when asked why, they replied that the steelworks had to close down because EU competition laws meant that there could be no tariffs to prevent the Chinese from dumping steel on the European market. Except that this wasn’t true. But it was too late. The referendum was lost, and I recognised that trying to fix that had just become a DIY job”.
Tees4Europe was only founded in February, but they are already making a huge impact on their local community. At their meeting last week, the group was joined by Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman MP to discuss the negative impact of a No Deal Brexit on communities in the North East. Chapman told the group that “Leaving without a deal is something that this country should not be forced to withstand. It’s probably fine if you live in the south of England and you are in finance, and are personally wealthy, but if you’re working in a processing industry, manufacturing industry and working in the North-East of England, then you sure as hell will feel it. If we leave without a deal, jobs are going to be on the line”.
Because of their success Tees4Europe is currently in the process of expanding, and they are currently concentrating their efforts on the town of Darlington. Darlington may have voted by 56.2% to leave the European Union in 2016, but there is reason for optimism. According to recent data, the town boasts the highest level of support for a People’s Vote in the Tees Valley. Group chair Scott Hunter said, “when we looked at the figures, we realised that we had to make a move”.
Although the group campaigns in an area which voted Leave in 2016, Hunter says “I am pleased to be able to report that [our group] have shown remarkable resilience over the past months. Our events are well supported, and people are active on social media”. An above average leave share requires an above average amount of campaigning, and Tees4Europe has certainly risen to the challenge. Members of the group also play an active role in their community beyond the fight for a People’s Vote – their most senior member, Kitty Grove-Stephensen, recently took to the sky in a sponsored flight at the age of 87 to raise money for MS research.
This summer, the group hopes to continue their recent expansion and intensify their efforts even more. Local groups like Tees4Europe have been crucial to the success of the People’s Vote campaign so far – and, as the campaign reaches a critical juncture, they will continue to play a vital role in what happens next.
To read more about Tees4Europe, click here.