“Is rejoining the EU possible and, if so, how and when?” was the question Professor AC Grayling posed to a packed audience in Bath. Known as the ‘Brains of Remain’, the philosopher, author and a ‘thorn in the side’ to Brexiters over the past forty-three months since the 2016 Referendum, was at the Widcombe Social Club to make the optimistic case for rejoining the family of 27 nations sooner rather than later.
“We came so close to stopping Brexit,” he said, blaming the opposition parties for squabbling with each other and not forming an alliance. This led to the Tories sweeping the board with an 87-seat majority, due to support from the Brexit Party standing down in many constituencies. Additionally, the promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’ won votes for the Tories in Labour Leave heartlands. He added this was ironic as a greater share of the vote went to the Remain-supporting parties, but under the current ‘First-past-the-post’ electoral system, all the power was now in the hands of a party voted for by only 29% of the Electorate. Electoral reform was a complete necessity to pave the way for an early return to the EU. “Proper reform, not that botched referendum in 2011.”
Presenting what, he admitted with a smile, was an ideal scenario in which the UK could rejoin in five to six years, Professor Grayling said there was ‘heartening news,’ citing statistics to show more people preferred to be in rather than out of the EU. By the end of the year, the reality of failed negotiations, the threat of a No Deal Brexit and pressure from business sectors could force politicians to re-examine the situation and face the fact the country was in a mess. Opposition parties would need to be unified so that at the next election a coalition, led by Labour, could push for a referendum on rejoining.
“We’re the strongest pro-EU movement in Europe,” he said, speaking of the numerous grassroots organisations, such as Bath for Europe, who would have to redouble their campaign efforts to keep the message alive. Additionally, organisations such as the international Alliance for Europe were appealing to a younger, tech-savvy generation who wanted the EU ideals of peace and openness to flourish. He also spoke of the need for citizens’ assemblies to keep debate alive as issues affecting peoples’ livelihoods would not be contested in this ‘zombie parliament.’
“The EU would welcome us back,’ he said, despite admitting many EU politicians would be glad of a temporary breathing space ─ ‘and the greater degree of alignment, the easier it would be to get back in.”
Bath for Europe will hold its first Euro Café on Sunday, March 1st at the Widcombe Social Club from 2 to 4 pm.