An instruction in the lost art of campaigning.
Let me tell you how I got here. After the EU referendum in 2016 I was devastated and deeply disappointed by what I perceived as a vote against migrants, and for a misplaced belief in British exceptionalism. However, at the time it seemed that the vote had been won democratically and I wasn’t going to argue with that. ‘Leave means leave’, we were told and I accepted that begrudgingly. I believed our politicians when they said they would negotiate a deal and though I expected some negative economic impact and mourned the right to free movement across Europe that had become a big part of how I myself and many of my friends imagined our futures, I thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be alright.
Then, last summer, questions over the legality of Leave campaign began to appear, challenging the validity of the referendum result. The Leave campaign breached its spending limits, reaching millions in the crucial last days before the vote, yet so far the government has refused to act on the illegality of ‘Vote Leave’. In addition, very real evidence came to light that Russia attempted to influence the referendum result. I began questioning if a vote for Brexit was in fact, ‘the will of the people’, but I also recognised how difficult and divisive it would be to reverse the result. For now it seemed, we were stuck with it.
I became worried when it became increasingly clear that the government deal that took two years to work out would be voted down in parliament (It was in fact resoundingly rejected). Panic set in in earnest when I realised that Theresa May’s strategy was to run down the clock, returning again and again with the same, minimally modified deal, while there was less consensus in parliament than ever. It seemed that the fronts were hardening between those who wanted to remain and those who just wanted to ‘get out’ and risk a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
While some Brexiters think Britain will thrive under ‘no deal’, this is absolutely not based on fact. Slogans about ‘taking back control’ and putting ideology over the very real needs of the British people dominate the ‘no deal’ side of the argument.
The full consequences of ‘no deal’ are too vast and complicated to spell out here in detail, but just to give you a quick taste: It would trash the Good Friday agreement (there would have to be a hard border on the island of Ireland), the UK would revert to WTO trade rules meaning that we would have to pay much higher tariffs on trade with the EU, our largest trading partner. This would, without any doubt, mean that prices for goods will go up. In addition, there would be massive delays at our ports which means there is a very real chance of food, medicine and fuel shortages. Companies that invested in British branches and factories to access EU markets have already halted investment and moved some of their operations to other EU countries. Claiming that no jobs will be lost is therefore an outright lie. A ‘no deal’ Brexit will make us poorer. In addition, it will remove countless crucial protections, including environmental protections, workers’ rights (Equal pay in the UK – thank you, EU!) and social rights. Even if you believe there’s a left-wing case for Brexit, this will leave the current (or next!) Tory government free to dismantle these rights as they see fit.
Brexiters insist that new trade deals could be forged, yet I have very little confidence that this will be as straightforward as they claim, given our track record of negotiating. In addition, our social services and the NHS are already overstretched, people’s lives are already precarious, we can’t willingly plunge our country into a recession. We can’t afford ‘no deal’. Let me tell you this, from the bottom of my heart, I’m terrified, as ‘no deal’ is still currently the default and will come into effect on 29th March if no agreement is reached.
So now for the ray of hope. I’ve supported a People’s Vote since last summer and while it used to be portrayed as a bit of a lunatic fringe movement, if you’ve watched TV or read the news over the last few weeks it no longer seems that mad. Parliament is in deadlock and more and more MPs and political pundits have brought up the idea of a People’s Vote, not only to reach some kind of consensus, but also to work out what people actually wanted when they voted for Brexit. Then yesterday, a massive breakthrough as the Labour leadership significantly shifted its stance by calling for a vote on a second referendum in Parliament. This could actually happen.
It took me a good four months to spring into some kind of action. If you, like me, believe we need a second referendum, you don’t have quite as much time to get your arse into gear. There was a lot of complacency from people like me at the last referendum. I absolutely didn’t believe ‘Leave’ would win, I went to the ballot box, I cast my vote. Democratic duty done.
The time for hoping that things will just sort themselves out is over. This time, we have to mobilise, make our voices heard, spell out what EU membership means to us. Our politicians have to know, our friends and families have to know. We will not let Brexiters steal our futures, our adventures, our freedom.
To find out how to make an impact, I spoke to Helen Atkinson, Press Officer for Manchester for Europe and Stockport for Europe.
Here’s what you can do right now:
1.) Email your MP:
A second referendum is by no means a done deal yet. We need MPs to support this! So if you believe this is the way forward, email your MP. You can find your MPs email address here. You can write a personal message where you spell out your reasons, but some campaigns also offer templates (here and here). Keep emailing them as new developments come to light and tell your friends and family to do this if they believe a second referendum is the only way forward.
If your MP already supports a People’s Vote, message them to show support, even if you wouldn’t vote for their party. Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen have been incredibly outspoken in their support for a People’s Vote. Everyone who wants to stop this nonsense is an ally.
2.) Join your local People’s Vote groups on facebook to find out whats going on.
If you’re not in the Manchester area, a quick google search will do the trick, I promise!
4.) Get out and meet people. 26th January is a national People’s Vote day of action and there will be rallies and street stalls across the country. Join your local People’s Vote campaign and start winning hearts and minds! You have something to say on this and your voice important. You can find out what’s happening close to you here.
If you’re in Manchester, come to the People’s Vote rally at St. Peters Square on Saturday, 26th January from 2 – 4 pm. I’ll be speaking, so if nothing else, you can see me freaking out as I get crazy public speaking nerves. Here’s the event.
Finally, join us at ‘Not my Breakfast’! We’re having our first meeting at YES in Manchester tonight from 7 pm (22nd Jan). If you don’t feel like writing anything for the blog, that’s fine, just come along and discuss.
Also, we’ll be publishing more on how to get involved, posting useful updates on what’s going on and essays on what Europe means to us. If you find any of this useful, please share it with your friends!