Over a thousand pro-European campaigners from scores of groups across the
country, including Labour supporters, have written to Sir Keir Starmer
urging him to moderate his hardline backing for Brexit. The
campaigners are urging Sir Keir to stop claiming that “there is no case for rejoining the EU”.
They say he should recognise the reality that Brexit isn’t working and
that, in the national interest, the question of the UK’s relationship with
the European Union will need to be revisited sooner rather than later.
The letter was organised by Grassroots for Europe, founded three years ago
as a peer network for the local pro-EU civil society campaign groups which
sprang up across the country around and after the 2016 referendum.
The campaigners challenge Sir Keir over his continuing claim that there is
no case for rejoining the EU. They ask why Labour can’t keep a more open
mind on our future direction. They encourage the opposition leader to open
up a national dialogue, rather than shut it down.
Proposals for a more positive relationship with Europe could be a vote
winner for Labour, if argued “with clarity and conviction”, the letter says.
Grassroots for Europe (GfE) adds that “there is very much a case for
rejoining” – a case now made stronger by the threat of Russian aggression,
the role of the EU in rallying democracies in support of Ukraine, a queue
of countries eager to join the bloc and an America which increasingly see a
united Europe – not an isolationist Britain – as its main ally on the
The national chair of GfE, John Gaskell said, “The Covid-19 pandemic masked
the first effects of Brexit, and forced us to pause and scale down our
campaigning. But across the country, polls show that doubts over the 2016
vote continue to grow, and many people who voted Leave have now seen that
Brexit has no benefits. People have seen a business struggle or fail, had
their future taken away, been made insecure and suffered deep personal
dislocation and distress.
“Many of our people are shocked to hear the blanket dismissal of even the
possibility of rethinking Brexit. It defies common sense and risks tying
Sir Keir’s own hands when a Labour government has to deal with the
continuing damage of a Brexit that isn’t working.
“Our supporters come from a well-informed and motivated part of the
electorate – one that might at the next General Election be willing to at
least lend their votes to a Labour Party that properly reflects our
progressive and internationalist outlook.”
Richard Wilson, founding chair of GfE and chair of Leeds for Europe, added:
“The majority of Sir Keir Starmer’s supporters agree that Brexit was a bad
idea which has then been made worse by the way it’s being implemented by
his Tory rivals. Enormous damage has been done to Britain already and –
unless it is reversed – that’s only going to get worse. It looks frankly
ludicrous to dismiss the option of rejoining the EU out of hand and claim
there is no case for it.
“Rejoining should at least stay on the table, along with other options such
as rejoining the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.”
Lord Andrew Adonis, the Labour peer and chair of European Movement UK,
commented recently: “There is obviously a case for rejoining the EU… A
majority of the public already think Brexit was a mistake. It won’t be long
before there is majority support for moving step by step towards rejoin”.
Grassroots for Europe agree with Lord Adonis.