Grassroots for Europe Round Table # 18 Tuesday 21 September 2021

Topic: Campaigning – Slow Burns and Quick Kills.

Contributors:  Fiona Godfrey, Richard Corbett, Mike Galsworthy, Luke Piper, Mike Buckley, Tony McCobb, Richard Wilson.

Chair:  Fiona Wishlade 

Apologies: Naomi Smith, Irina Von Weise,

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British in Europe:  Fiona Godfrey  ‘What the EU hopes to see from a new UK-based pro-EU campaign.’ Fiona has spent 25 years working in the EU and spent 5 years voluntarily working with EU on citizens’ rights.

  • Trust was lost in 2017 when Theresa May refused mutual recognition of residents’ rights and turned residents into ‘bargaining chips.’ EU then realised May did not want to negotiate but adopt a ‘winner takes all’ approach. Trust deteriorated rapidly during negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and has now reached a very low ebb.
  • Peace in Europe is valued highly by EU countries after the ravages they experienced in WW2, living in the USSR, and the wars after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. This was not a UK government consideration.
  • Values. Johnson has no values other than power and enrichment of his cronies. The speed of devastation being inflicted on the UK shocks most other European countries, who cannot understand why Brits are not resisting the slide into dictatorship or autocracy. Impending dangerous legislation (elections bill, human rights, etc) will make the UK unacceptable to the EU. At present the UK state lacks the legislative or constitutional capability to meet the Copenhagen criteria.
  • Does EU want UK back? No, it’s a destabilising force, not a friend, only a problem, which can now be ignored in planning for the future. Many think UK has done EU a favour by leaving, but there is an expectation that UK attention-seeking will continue to irritate and disrupt. EU will not save UK from itself, because EU wants stable, democratic neighbours. UK citizens need to act now. UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK are ‘living bridges’  with whom we need to engage and keep talking.
  • ‘British in Europe’ will continue to help where it can.

Future of Europe Conference:  Richard Corbett

  • The Conference is the biggest and widest consultation ever attempted and is an experimental pan-European initiative. Individual UK citizens and bodies can participate as it is not geographically “blocked.” [https://www.futureeu.europa.eu/]
  • Europe is moving on, looking to the future 10-20 years ahead. Participation by under 25s is emphasised.
  • The process is at three levels:
    • A Digital Platform for ideas and proposals. A.I supplies multilingual translation into 24 languages. There have been 26,000 contributions to date. [The European Movement and Grassroots for Europe is encouraging local groups across UK to participate and there has been active response.] [https://www.futureeu.europa.eu/pages/getinvolved]
    • Citizens’ Panels are convened within every EU27 nation, drawn from citizens randomly selected by Opinion Polling Companies to produce a representative sample based on conventional socio-economic, age, gender and geographical parameters. These citizens are selected as individuals and not as representatives of any particular body. A National Citizens’ Panel is derived from these citizens.
    • Four derived Panels are being convened (i) to review the ideas arising from the Platform (ii) to feed in their own ideas. The first took place 18/19 September. The next is due over 25/26 September. The aim is to produce proposals to put forward to the Conference Plenary.
    • Conference Plenary is the stage where Citizens and their proposals meet with elected representatives to build political momentum behind the main ideas. It comprises
      • 20 citizens from each of the EU27 nations
      • Chairs from each of the National Panel committees
      • A number of social organisations proposed by coordinators of same at European level (the European Movement International is represented)
      • Social partners (e.g., Trade Unions, Employers, representatives of economic and social committees)
      • 4 elected representatives from each EU nation and an equivalent number of MEPs
      • 2 ministers from each national EU government
      • Representatives from regional and local authorities.
  • The aim is very ambitious. Will the Conference achieve political consensus? Will this be followed up at EU level? How many of the proposals will require unanimity and which need qualified majorities to achieve outcomes and potentially change treaties?
  • It is suggested that UK groups, using their Brexit experience, concentrate on how European countries can debate the principles behind the EU project to support each other, on how to defeat misinformation, on how to maintain close associations between neighbouring non-EU nations. Even, propose changing EU Accession from unanimous to majority vote. 
  • The first conclusions will be delivered early next year.

Bylines Network: Mike Galsworthy

  • Eight Bylines Times  (North-East, Sussex, Yorkshire. Central, East Anglia, Kent, West Country, West England ) We have an extensive but not complete coverage of the UK regions.  We are Interested in developing Scotland, Northwest, Wales, and North Ireland
  • On average: 330 articles are published  a month and  third of a million website visits undertaken every month. 
  • Established 1 ½ years ago and started as March for Change  now have transitioned legally to the Bylines Network.  
    • Directors are Louise Houghton, Mike Galsworthy, Peter Jukes and Stephen Colgrave.
    • This brings us closer to Bylines TV, Bylines Times and Bylines Radio coming along.
  • We are a vibrant community we do Brexit Watch and also local journalism (mental health, local planning and green spaces and everything that is important to those areas.) 
  • Little Victories – West Country Bylines brought to light that a Council had avoided action by the Council.  The article prompted action by the Council.   This demonstrates little victories and shows that we are building reporting capacity on local issues. 
  • What can Pro EU activists do?  Help identify the Brexit damage, Put in FOI  requests to councils and Hospitals.  Learn investigative journalism on those local levels.

the3million: Luke Piper

  • British in Europe  – Firstly I need to say how genuinely gutted we are that British in Europe, Jane Golding, and Fiona Godfrey will be stopping doing their vital work which they have been doing for so many years. It is important to acknowledge the amazing work they have done for the past few years on their own and with us. We achieved a lot together with the Withdrawal Agreement and on the Implementation which wouldn’t have been achieved without them.  Their loss will be a grave loss for the British in the European continent .
  • Based on recent meetings with UK Govt officials – They are looking forward (not backward).  It is with a very clear vision regarding  Immigration, data rights on the direction of travel they want to go on. From the migration and data perspective it is very scary.
  • Moving forward – it is important (as Mike Galsworthy mentioned) people need to take control of their information, their particular issues, the impacts and expose the truth.  There is a shared feeling that we need to be evidence building and shape the agenda and it is really important to pursue change as a method.
  • EU citizens in the UK – Whilst the government wants to move on from the Settled Statement scheme with the narrative “6 million have chosen to live here – it is done”. The reality is very different in this hostile environment.   Many are struggling to navigate their new rights in ways of accessing bank accounts, jobs, NHS, housing, work, and benefits.
  • Digital Status  – Now have a myriad of problems emerging.  We still feel that it is important that civil society does have a voice and have produced a report with solutions – link to the Executive Summary   https://www.the3million.org.uk/ima-report
  • Report it! When you encounter any EU Citizens with issues and problems these need to be reported to: the3million, their MP’s and the independent monitoring authority.  It is important that issues are reported to all three.  Reporting  is critical.  Link to the reporting tool https://www.the3million.org.uk/report-it  

Party Conferences Updates:  The Pro EU Perspective

Labour:  Mike Buckley, Labour for a European Future

The Labour Party Conference takes place next week in Brighton. There are three fringe events being organised to discuss Europe and Party policy. Labour for a European Future have been lobbying MPs to promote a pro-European policy.

  • A pro-European rally with Seb Dance, former MEP
  • A debate with other Labour and social democratic parties in Europe
  • A debate on future Labour Party Europe policy for the next General Election

All are welcome to join these events. Please join us. Details to sign up below:

Conservatives:  Richard Wilson

Brexit isn’t Working Protest –  Manchester for Europe, in association with Grassroots for Europe, are starting this fightback with a protest timed to coincide with the start of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Saturday, 2 October 2021. It doesn’t matter how you voted in 2016, 2017 or 2019 – if you think that Brexit isn’t working then make your voice heard. Join to protest the Brexit disaster at St. Peter’s Square, Manchester from 2pm on 2 October. 

Register in advance for the protest  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/protest-brexit-isnt-working-tickets-170437960528

Greens:  Richard Wilson

A European Policy Working Group has been set up with a view to rewriting the Green Party policy towards Europe.  First, an enabling motion needs to be passed to authorise the working group to commence work on the new policy development.  It is being headed up by former MEP Catherine Rowett.

Lib Dems: Tony McCobb

Pro-European and Electoral matters.

  • LD Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Layla Moran pulls together Brexit-related issues Lib Dem MPs report to her.
  • ‘Progressive alliance’ was a topic which seemed to come up naturally in other debates or discussions about Brexit and government incompetence.
  • Lib Dems European Group (LDEG) is arranging a ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’ which will consult members by Zoom in each of the Regions over the next six weeks. It will feed into the EU-wide exercise on this topic.
  • The party’s Policy Committee intends to make a proposal re: membership of the Single Market and Customs Union at the next Spring Conference.
  • LDEG fringe meeting, very well attended: ‘The UK’s relationship with the EU and our vision for its future.’ Links with the EU parliamentarians and sister parties should be maintained, Lib Dems must keep devising ways to rejoin. (Chair of LDEG said the LDs are committed to working with those sister parties.) Layla Moran stressed that the party and its message are clearly pro-Europe and rejoin. This fringe meeting was by far the best attended over the Saturday lunch break.
  • Electoral Reform Society, Fringe meeting, very well attended: ‘Can a ‘Progressive Alliance’ deliver PR after the next general election? Chaired by Darren Hughes, ERS Chef Executive, with contributions from Wendy Chamberlain MP, Neal Lawson (Labour) from Compass. Lucy Nethsinga, LD Leader of Cambridgeshire Council, emphasised the party’s commitment to rejoining when she summated the debate.
  • Lib Dems Abroad, fringe meeting: ‘Lib Dems Abroad and the new Elections Bill,’ Mobilising voters abroad: British parties could learn from US experience and organisation in 2020. Changes needed to the inadequate UK rules on voters abroad. (‘Lib Dems Abroad’ has related but independent sub-groups in some EU countries.)
  • Emergency debate on distribution problems caused by Brexit and government incompetence was carried with only 3 votes against.
  • Policy motion: ‘Rebuilding our Cultural, Artistic and Educational Ties with Europe,’ covered many areas previously discussed in Round Table, Gf Europe, EM, etc. Unusually for a Lib Dem conference, this was passed without a single person voting against!
  • Overall, very pro-European and extremely hostile to the government incompetence and ‘corruption.’

Attendees:

  • Fiona Wishlade – Chair  – Glasgow loves EU
  • Fiona Godfrey – British in Europe
  • Jane Golding – British in Europe
  • Seema Syeda – AEIP
  • Julie Ward – AEIP
  • Alex Gunter –  UKPEN
  • Gareth Steel – UKPEN
  • Sue Wilson – Bremain in Spain
  • Richard Corbett
  • Susie Courtault –  Women4Europe
  • Juliet Lodge – Women4Europe
  • Elsa Kvist – The New Europeans
  • Kate Willoughby – The New Europeans
  • Luke Piper – the3million
  • Maria Milova – the3million
  • Tamsin Shasha – Grassroots for Europe
  • Rosemary Watt – Glasgow loves EU
  • Dr Mike Galsworthy – Byline Times Network
  • Sharon Leclerq-Spooner – Pro Europa
  • Anna Bird – European Movement
  • Yvonne Wancke – European Movement
  • Julius Lajtha – YEM
  • Helen Wales – Wales for Europe
  • Mike Buckley – Labour for a European Future

RT Team: Caroline Kuipers, Colin Gordan, Dr Monica Horten, Jo Pye, Caroline Kuipers. Tony and Lilian McCobb.

Next Meeting : Tuesday 19 October 5pm.

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