Maybe now we can create a better social Europe

We spoke to former British ambassador to France Lord Ricketts, Julie Ward MEP and some of the British in Europe coalition groups for their thoughts at this crucial time.

23 January 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Lord Ricketts

Now everyone can see what Brexit would actually mean, it’s essential we ask people: is that what you want? Or some improved version of the Prime Minister’s plan? Or shall we just stay in?

May’s deal is dead, so it would have to be either a People’s Vote or a Norway-style deal – something mostly off-the-shelf from the EU with some of the UK’s red lines rubbed out, potentially including free movement, which would be very interesting to British people abroad.

The route to a People’s Vote would be discussions among the parties and the government accepting it has to try a new approach, or going back to Brussels and being rebuffed again.

There will have to be more blockages and rejections and still no Commons majority for anything, then perhaps a People’s Vote becomes possible. It is very unlikely a majority of MPs would vote to cancel Brexit without one.

Julie Ward MEP

Let's hope Brexit is never going to happen. It would be a complete disaster.

But maybe through this we can be a better social Europe – a Europe for people, for the many and not the few. That’s Labour’s perspective and what I’m fighting for.

We’re running out of time and desperately need to extend article 50. That is the priority but not just for more of the same. There needs to be a democratic mechanism that gives a clear signal, a People’s Vote or a general election on parties’ manifestos so people can decide.

Mrs May’s win in the vote of no confidence makes an election less likely but it is still possible. My experience of politics has taught me that anything can happen. Sometimes things happen that no one had even thought about. But something really has to shift now.

I observe elections as research for the European Parliament and am sceptical of those who claim the UK sets an example of democracy.

In 2017 in Kenya, for example, presidential elections were cancelled by Kenya’s supreme court because of similar interference as happened in our referendum with Cambridge Analytica. We often have a high opinion of ourselves, but I say “look at what they had the courage to do”.

Brexpats – Hear Our Voice 

BHOV is diverse, with members right across the EU. Reactions have varied. For many, the withdrawal agreement was never going to be adequate because issues such as freedom of movement and cross-border services have been left to being bargained over in the future relationship.

Some fear what might result from a People’s Vote and wanted peace of mind now. We are united, though, in our disgust with Theresa May.

After two years, seven months of limbo, or what for many feels like purgatory, we’ve had enough.

That was very much of Mrs May’s making in the wilful absence of any meaningful guarantees. To now scold her opponents and say people, in particular us, need “clarity” was one glib statement too far.

British Community Committee

Vice-Chairman Christopher Chantrey said: All the things we’ve been talking to Brussels and the UK’s Brexit Ministry about over two years are in the bin.

All we’ve got is arrangements that – so we are told – will be made by France. We’re in the hands of their goodwill. There’s no time to arrange matters like pension uprating and the UK paying for pensioners’ healthcare if there is no deal – not to do 27 bilateral deals.

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