Andrew Adonis, campaigning politician, academic, and author decided that as he’d rather overlooked our corner of the West Country thus far, he’d pay a call and shoehorn a visit to Taunton into his whistle-stop tour. As a result, on Saturday 16th March Somerset LOVEs Europe hosted his ‘Brexit Day Is Cancelled’ talk at an open-to-all forum here in the heart of our county town. The meeting was attended by a full house comprising interested members of the public and seasoned supporters alike.
Lord Adonis knows his way around Westminster for sure and now he knows his way around the highways and byways of the UK too! Having made it his business to visit the 100 most staunchly Brexit backing areas of this country he listened and learnt – a lot. The resulting dossier of very real grievances voiced by the people that he met urgently and very obviously needs to be addressed, but those issues can be much better resolved by Britain remaining in the EU, where the top task should be to promote social justice and reform.
So began Andrew’s energetic, seemingly around-the-clock endeavour to ensure that Britain would remain within the European Union. Yesterday saw him rocking up to the County Cricket Club on the No 54 bus from Yeovil via a mini, scenic expedition through some of Somerset’s towns and villages.
Lord Adonis was introduced to us all by Somerset LOVEs Europe Chair Sherri Dingle who kept the formalities brief in order to allow maximum time with Andrew. He opened by reminding us that being a member of the EU was an accepted, conventional position prior to the 2016 Referendum, but is one now rendered radical because the goalposts have been shifted around us. He pressed home the fact that so much time and so many resources have been squandered on Brexit when they might have been used to tackle issues that were justifiably found to be at the heart of so much discontent, such as homelessness and the funding struggle related to the NHS.
The mixed blessings of the media in all its forms became a hot topic for questions afterwards with the BBC coming in for much criticism from the floor for its failure to challenge the lies and disinformation peddled without qualms, by so many. We listened to the sorry tale of the evolution of the government’s narrative, that witnessed the Prime Minister in particular appeasing the right-wing within her Party and it was noted that over a very short period the 52% became the 100% and the 48% became the 0% with the overall situation growing ever worse as the lack of detail and absence of a long term plan could no longer be denied.
The Backstop was fulsomely explained in all its reason and necessity. Flagged up were the inherent dangers to peace in Northern Ireland that might ensue without it or without something very like it. At the heart of the peace, an open border between NI and The Republic of Ireland is to be found. Reinstatement of a hard border would only recreate old divisions, which would in turn foster crime such as smuggling, undoubtedly to be run by modern day paramilitary organisations for the purposes of raising funds and as a means of controlling the population at large.
The £39 Billion divorce bill was dissected to reveal not an arbitrary figure plucked from thin air, but rather a total sum required to cover the obligations that this country must acknowledge, as it must fund the UK pensions of EU workers to date, monies committed and owed to farmers going forward and costs for infrastructure projects started but not completed, to name but a few. The EU will never negotiate any kind of trade deal if we default on obligations legally accrued. Andrew made clear that World Trade Organisation terms are not a viable option; no other country follows this model without painstakingly negotiating enhanced deals with partners on a one to one basis. With market volumes halving as distance doubles is it any wonder that near neighbours form the foundation of every nation’s most beneficial and profitable trading activities? Yet Leave supporters want to take us out of our enhanced trading zones!
So, what are we to make of next week and the ongoing developments in Parliament? Edge of the seat entertainment it may be at times, but we all recognise that under the original terms of Article 50 our time is running out. Andrew expounded his view that Theresa May’s Meaningful Vote 3 would not be passed if held and he did expect that it would be put before The Commons once more. He also anticipates that it will be defeated, though nothing is certain amidst the amorphous throng of our MPs with their ever changing allegiances and loyalties.
Hence we arrive at the extension to Article 50, which we hope will lead us in the direction of a 2nd Referendum. This will be the surest way to ‘seal a deal’, having also listened to the concerns of the 52%. We need to carry on emailing to our MPs, even ones that we see as hopeless. We need to be organised. We need to make the right arguments for Remain and to campaign relentlessly. We need to encourage our young people to mobilise, and crucially right now, we need to gather in London to Put It To The People on 23rd March.
We sent Andrew on his way with a bottle of Somerset Cider Brandy. We hope it made up for the fact that we kept him so long that he missed his train!
Armed with hope, optimism, passion and belief we need to demonstrate that there simply is no good reason for leaving.
Notes by Somerset Loves Europe Press Coordinator, Jo Christofidores