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South West March & Rally for Europe

Posted on 30th March, 2018

Two Thousand Five Hundred People March and Attend Rally in Exeter City Centre on Saturday.

      

Ben Bradshaw tells activists from all over the South West that Brexit is turning out to be a serious mistake for our country and that the British public must be given a say on the terms of any deal.

Remain campaigners came from the tip of Cornwall to Bristol, from Cheltenham to Bournemouth to join a march and rally for Europe organised by local organisation, Devon for Europe.

 

The marchers, waving their EU flags and #StopBrexit and #FinalSay placards wound their way along Exeter’s streets from Belmont Park to the rally venue, Princesshay, in the centre of Exeter, there to hear speeches by MPs, MEPs and many others.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, was the first to speak, saying,

“I’m delighted to be joining people of many other parties and none, united in our view that Brexit is turning out to be a serious mistake for our country and that the British public must be given a say on the terms of any deal. It is much more expensive, complicated and difficult than people were told during the Referendum and the promises made then broken or forgotten. We must think of the next generation’s future, as we reach vital decisions over the next few months.”

Wera Hobhouse MP, Clare Moody MEP, Ben Bradshaw MP and Julie Girling MEP

 

The speeches by MPs and MEPs were interspersed by speakers representing local youth, university, farming and councillors. There were also speeches from Thomas Haynes, from Labour Youth and Sam Campling, Chair of Devon and Cornwall Young Liberal Democrats.

Molly Scott Cato (Green) was the first MEP to speak. She said,

Each time a promise cannot be fulfilled the Brextremists blame our EU friends, driving us further apart and making a tolerable Brexit less likely. It is becoming clearer by the day that Brexit is all pain for no gain. We must resist; leaving the EU is not a done deal.

“This rally will demonstrate the strength of opposition to the government’s extreme Brexit plans and will serve as a reminder that our democracy allows us to change our minds. We must have another chance to consider the future of this country.

 “It’s time to campaign for a people’s poll on the final deal, so everyone, and most specifically a young generation who weren’t able to vote in the EU referendum, can have a say on whether they want to accept the deal the government has negotiated, or remain as fully-fledged members of the EU.”

 

Julie Girling, who was elected as a Conservative, but now sits as an Independent, was the next MEP to speak. She made it plain that she wanted to stay in the EU as it would be better for Britain.  She said that many Conservative MPs agreed with her.

 

Clare Moody, Labour MEP, who in January had given a very well received speech at an Exeter meeting organised by Devon for Europe, said,

“As we approach the anniversary of delivering the Article 50 letter, despite the agreements reached to move negotiations on, we are no further forward in finding solutions to the most intractable of issues – the borders of Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Coming together in Exeter is a great chance to show that there are very many citizens who do not accept that leaving the EU is good for our country and that we know Brexit can and should be stopped.’

 

‘As hard as I look, I do not see anyone around this great region who will be better off by Brexit. I do see much uncertainty and hear too many accounts of the unforgiveable insecurity that many citizens are experiencing. This is not just damaging for individuals and families, it is damaging to us as a society.Today is an opportunity for us to stand together and remember our great tradition of being an open and welcoming country.”

 

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath and on the Committee for Exiting the EU) said,

 

"Brexit is not inevitable and there is still a lot to play for. The DUP-backed Tory government is tying itself into knots over issues like the Irish border and fisheries. All the people in this country who are unhappy with where Brexit is going need to rally together and fight. We will not stop Brexit without a fight but our country's future is worth fighting for. Politicians won't change Brexit, but the people can. We need a referendum on the deal. It is the only democratic way out of Brexit. The people must finish what the people have started."

 

Tim Skeet from Britain for Europe, the organisation giving a national voice to over 50 local groups, including Devon for Europe, said afterwards,

 

“A truly inspiring event, at which I was honoured to speak. Such energy and fire in the eyes if a British public aghast at the madness of a policy that will help no one. Complacency is the enemy but Exeter and the Southwest spoke loudly today.”

 

Devon councillors from many parties, including Martin Shaw, Jacqi Hodgson, Martin Wrigley, Emma Brennan also shared the stage to voice their concerns for the impact on the NHS, the environment and jobs. Emma gave a rousing and much appreciated rendition of “Who do you think you’re kidding Mrs May” to the Dad’s Army theme tune.

 

Martin Shaw, an Independent Devon County Councillor, said,

 

“I was elected because people were concerned about our local NHS, but the economic damage Brexit is causing will cut the money available for the health service. It has already cut off the flow of European nurses and doctors to hospitals in the South West.”

'Brexit has damaged our reputation as an open, tolerant country and diminished our standing in the world.'

 

Those present also heard the stories of those whose lives are already impacted or threatened by Brexit, including farmers and non-UK EU citizens presently living in stressful limbo.

 

Cheryl Cottle Hunkin and Margaret Boyde were able to give an Anti-Brexit farming perspective. Cheryl reminded the rally that the NFU had advised its members to vote in favour of remaining in the EU. She feared a non-agreement, resulting in sky-high WTO tariffs, for example 59% on the export of beef to the EU. Added customs checks mean more red tape would be created- not less. Margaret, who had farmed for a considerable period in France, added that farmers need to be anxious about their support payments, as it was only guaranteed until 2020. Amongst her many other worries was the possibility of US food coming to Britain, having been raised with much lower welfare standards, so resulting in “chlorinated chicken” being imported.

 

Veronique Martin and her husband Miles gave a compelling account of what life was like for those who, in all good faith, had moved to the UK as a member of the EU and now felt themselves to be, “In limbo”. Veronique said,

 

"The limbo we’ve been forced into over the past 20 months is tearing us apart. It’s destroying us and our deep love for this country.”  

 

Martin added,

 

“The one country I can live in is the one country my wife cannot live in”

 

The organisers very purposefully gave a platform to a group whose voices have been too little heard - the young. James Dart, from Exeter University said he felt both European and British. He was on of several speakers who referenced David Davis’ comment that, “If a democracy cannot change its mind it ceases to be a democracy.”

 

Summing up the day, Sir Graham Watson, former Lib Dem MEP and leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament from 2004-9, thanked and congratulated everyone for coming and Devon for Europe for their organisation of the day.  He said,

 

“We have a hell of a job to be done. Everyone must write to their MPs, attend street stalls and do everything they can.  We have 24 weeks to stop Brexit. In the Referendum the British people were sold a pig in a poke. We now need a Referendum on the final deal.”

 

Quoting Ben Okri, the poet Sir Graham said,

 

“The romance of independence,
Of freedom, is stronger than the truth of unity.
That is why it took us no time to fall
And all of history and future history
To return.”

 

Alex Pilkington, Chair of Devon for Europe, said, “With the government’s own impact assessments showing unprecedented damage to the economy, the prospect of further de-funding of the NHS and with heightened tension with Russia and Trump’s tariff war, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that Brexit will be very bad for Britain. The South West is set to pay a heavy price. As a region we have the highest percentage of exports to the EU compared to the rest of the UK. We firmly believe that democracy is an ongoing process and that in a democracy people must be given the right to change their minds. Especially now that the promises of the Leave campaign have been shown to be empty and false. The British people must have a final say  on the negotiated Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU”.

 

Chris Bray - 24 March 2018

At a sold-out meeting hosted by Devon for Europe in the Coaver Club in Exeter on Friday, Clare Moody (Labour MEP for the South West and Gibraltar), gave an inspirational message to those in all parties and none who are fighting to stop the UK’s “clueless” drift towards Brexit.

 

Clare strongly criticised Theresa May’s decision to trigger Article 50 and start the process without thinking things through or being clear about what our future relationship would be. Clare stressed that after 43 years of being in Europe, “you don’t pull out the roots so easily. It’s a complex business….and the pennies are only now slowly dropping!”  Clare cited, as an example of wilful manipulation of the facts , that the PM, as Home Secretary, had, against all the evidence and logic showing the positive contribution made by foreign students (and their propensity to leave on time), chosen to include them in the immigration figures, stoking the anti-immigration fires.


The MEP had some criticism of those who were aware of the benefits of the EU, but didn’t talk about them sufficiently. The referendum was lost in the years running up to June 2016 due to a combination of factors, including a predominantly hostile media. She believed that, during the campaign, the Leave side had said exactly whatever they thought their audience wanted to hear.  So, sometimes they said we would be staying in the Single Market and Customs Union and other times we would be leaving all that behind.


Clare reported that, at the EU level, impact assessments had been carried out, but apparently, to her evident dismay, not in the UK. She confirmed that many on the EU side still do not want us to leave but that we are already regarded as a “third country” post March 2019. Interestingly, the EU Parliament, of which she is a member, will vote, in true democratic style, on the final deal and they had their own “red lines”. Getting the vote through is “not a given”.


Strikingly, Clare summarised Brexit thus: “We are breaking something, not making something!”


Turning to the way forward for the majority of people who recent polls indicated wanted to remain in the EU, Clare said it was very important that they should speak passionately to other people about the fact that there was “no upside to Brexit”. People were going to lose their jobs, people were going to be poorer and there wasn’t going to be an economic or environmental upside. In fact, the reverse.


Clare answered a large number of questions on topics ranging from Northern Ireland to the Social Fund and confirmed fears that there was very little time in which to resolve anything. She was highly critical of the PM’s use of the phrase “Implementation Period”, saying there wouldn’t be anything to implement!


Clare made it clear that the British people had a right to take a view on the final deal and that it might be that they felt it was better to remain in the E.U.  In response to a highly-applauded question on Jeremy Corbyn’s position, Clare said that Jeremy and the Labour party leadership had moved in the last year and she felt that they would move further in 2018.  She made it clear that she was in favour of remaining in the EU and was talking to others in the Labour party to advance that position.  She urged everyone present to write to their MP and for those in the Labour party to write to the party leader if they felt strongly about stopping Brexit.

 

Anthea Simmons - January 2018

 

Questioning Brexit

Posted on 4th November, 2017

Members of Devon for Europe travelled up to Westminster to join 500 attendees at the pro-EU conference organised by Britain for Europe on behalf of Britain for Europe, European Movement, Scientists for EU and Healthier IN in the EU.

Speakers at the conference stressed that an exit without a deal was a disastrous outcome for the UK. Current negotiations are deadlocked and Brexit is in a mess.

Many members took time to personally meet their MPs and bring to their attention concerns about the current state of Brexit. Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin, a farmers daughter, met her MP Geoffrey Cox eager to discuss the effects of Brexit upon agriculture and the challenges that the farming community faced as a result of Brexit.

Ben Bradshaw met a delegation outside the Houses of Parliament where a vibrant anti-Brexit demonstration was taking place. Ben was especially interested in the effects on industry. Exeter sent 70% of its exports to the EU in 2014, whilst the South West has the highest percentage of exports to the EU of all UK regions.

People from across Devon joined thousands of others from all over the South West, for a Stop Brexit rally in Bristol on Saturday. Many not previously involved in politics, but motivated by a deep unease that Brexit could be a tragic act of national self-harm,have joined Devon for Europe, a cross-party campaign group committed to keeping the UK in the EU. The gathering in Bristol brought together similar organisations in the European Region (constituency) of South West England and Gibraltar, while parallel rallies were held in the other UK regions.

Speakers at the Bristol rally, including members of all major political parties, highlighted the dangers to jobs, the NHS, scientific research in addition to political isolation and weakness. Many expressed an overwhelming sadness surrounding the growth in intolerance towards migrants and the loss of a community that had brought peace and cultural richness to Europe. Non-UK citizens who had moved to the UK, loved the country and had established families here, said they no longer felt welcome and feared family division. The younger generation’s views were expressed by a 17 year old, angry that having been born in the UK as a citizen of Europe, he had had no say in his change of citizenship, which will limit his ability live elsewhere within the EU, and mix with other Europeans.


Julie Girling, one of our MEPs for South West England and Gibraltar, summarised the sentiments of the rally when she argued that it had become clear that the promises of the Leave campaigners in the Referendum cannot be met. Consequently, the mantra that ‘The people have spoken’ no longer had relevance and needed to be replaced with ‘The people want to speak on the deal’.

 

Julie Gregory - 17 October 2017

 

Trying to Stop Brexit not Storm Brian

Posted on 4th November, 2017

Strong winds and driving rain could not stop members of Devon for Europe from waving the flags for both the EU and Devon at the Wills monument in Totnes on Saturday 21st October.


Car horns tooted in support, people stopped to congratulate the brave souls, and some even joined in flying the flags high into the wind.


Devon for Europe is a local branch of over 700 members campaigning to keep the UK in the European Union. It is a cross party organisation actively collaborating with other groups in the South West, and affiliated to Britain for Europe.


Members of the group will be travelling to Westminster on Tuesday 24th October to lobby Devon MPs and attend a pro-EU conference.

 

Campaigning against Brexit

Posted on 4th November, 2017

A rally organised by anti-Brexit campaigners still fighting to keep the UK in the EU, was held in Totnes on the anniversary of the Brexit referendum.


Around 35 people joined hands and waved EU flags in the rally in the town’s civic square organised by the Devon for Europe group.

 

Alex Pilkington, the chairman of Devon for Europe, said: “As negotiations draw to a close, the option for the UK to remain in the EU has to be put back on the table, true democracy demands nothing less.”


The group is campaigning to stay in the EU, holds regular street stalls and meets monthly in Totnes and other Devon towns.


In March this year, the group held an anti-Brexit vigil in the square to mark the triggering of Article 50 to take the UK out of the EU.


Mr Pilkington said: “On our street stalls we have certainly noticed a marked shift in peoples attitude toward Brexit since the general election, the result of which has given them more hope, and is encouraging them to join us in ever greater numbers.


“The Government has no mandate for a hard Brexit, and its weak position makes the chances of it negotiating any suitable deal even less likely than before.”

 

Steve Peacock - Totnes Times - 18 July 2017 - Link to Article