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Hugo Dixon's talk

How to Stop Brexit- The Facts

The event was hosted by Stratford for Europe, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, on 8 November 2017 and was well attended. Hugo Dixon is the editor of the In Facts website, and also runs Common Ground.

Hugo’s talk consisted of two main parts:

1. The Big Picture

a. The government are in disarray. Theresa May has made mistakes and she is not being honest about how hard it would be to achieve Brexit, no matter what type (there is, however, no GOOD Brexit). The PM triggered Article 50 without a plan and without being willing to make concessions- as a result, the UK is getting screwed in negotiations.

b. Labour’s position on Brexit is slowly shifting; a lot of the membership is in favour of EU membership, and Keir Starmer has signalled a desire to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union; whilst Corbyn is getting more enthusiastic, he’s not nearly enough when we need him to be; the direction of travel is more positive, though.

c. In a year’s time, there will be a critical vote. Parliament will demand a vote whether or not there is a deal struck. It is CRITICAL that pro-Europeans win that vote. Hugo thinks that the issue will be returned to the British public IF public opinion has shifted. It is doing so, slowly: confidence is plummeting; working class support for Brexit is still a majority but shrinking; half of the 48% became “Releavers”, those who accepted the result and think Brexit should be delivered- but half of this half have returned to the “Firm Remain” camp. Realistically, we need a consistent polling of 60% against Brexit for things to turn around. Increasingly, people are starting to realise the slow grind of problems and that there is no extra money for the NHS and that for many Leavers, it will not be the “sort of Brexit” they envisaged when voting. Public opinion CAN change though.

d. When the time comes, we need over 60% of Parliamentarians on our side, encompassing all Labour minus the Leavers, the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cmryu, Caroline Lucas for the Greens AND Tories to break ranks.

2. Key Messages to take away

a. The government is making a dog’s dinner of Brexit, including preparations and negotiations. 759 treaties, not just with the EU, have to be re-negotiated on all sorts of topics. A competent government is needed to deal with this complexity. We don’t have one.

b. Theresa May must be honest and tell people straight about the difficulties and realities of Brexit. This message should be delivered this way because people don’t like admitting they’ve been lied to, or made to look foolish. However, a Free Trade Agreement struck in such a short time frame is unrealistic. Regardless of the deal, we will suffer a big step down in access to the Single Market and because 80% of the British economy is in services, a deal won’t play to our strengths.

c. Brexit is already damaging us. People are leaving, inflation is rising. We are at the bottom of the G7. Economic growth is now less than Greece. More is coming down the line.

d. We need to get more young people involved and motivated. Over 200 years, Britons have had amazing opportunities across the world, for 150 years in the Empire (whatever we think of that) and for the last 50 years in the EU. Brexit means, however, that the next generation will lose these and the UK will be in the slow lane as a result.

e. We need to make a positive case for continued EU membership AND make a positive case for change in the UK. There are problems in the UK, e.g. massive geographical inequality, but if the economy is torched, we can’t tackle them, or fund the NHS, education, etc. The Brexited UK will be squeezed between the USA, China and the EU, the 3 biggest economic blocs.

f. Because of their attempts to silence dissenters, Brexiters are the real saboteurs, they are the real enemies of the people! We are free to speak up, to change our minds. We are the true democrats.

g. It’s not too late to change our minds. Although a lot of people think the triggering of Article 50 means it’s over, most lawyers accept that Article 50 allows the UK to change its mind because it’s only an INTENTION. Lord Kerr, the writer of Article 50, made a speech about this fact.

h. The people should have the final say on Brexit if they want it. It’s not helpful to talk about a 2nd referendum- it has to be supported by public opinion.

The Q+A session discussed Hugo’s talk, how we go about promoting these messages, dealing with the media, the likely impact of the Electoral Commission’s investigations, the problems with getting national groups working together, and there was a really good closing observation about the regulatory bodies required after Brexit.