European Movement AGM - London, 25th November 2107
Stephen Dorrell, Chairman of the European Movement, addressing the AGM
Notes taken in order of the proceedings …
Lord (Paddy) Ashdown is re-elected as President of the European Movement
The meeting approved the election of a number of branch chairs to the National Council of the EM and I am pleased to be one of those elected. The next council meeting will be in London on 12th December.
The financial report from the movement’s treasurer, Brendan Donnelly, suggested that whilst not in bad shape, current reserves are only good for the next three months. To effectively carry on the fight against Brexit throughout next year, the EM needs to raise every penny it can. One-off donations and/or standing orders for whatever amount members and supporters can afford are asked for.
Michael Young, EM CEO, announced that a new partnership between the European Movement, Open Britain and Best for Britain is imminent, which will bring all three of these organisations together under one office. It is understood that the separate identity of all three will remain intact and that the ‘soft Brexit’ strategy of Open Britain will not cause an unmanageable conflict with the European Movement’s aim of ‘no Brexit’.
It was stated that the European Movement is the only pro-EU/anti-Brexit organisation with a sizable branch network. There are currently 50 branches of all shapes and sizes with potential for another 40 in 1Q18.
Key message: Many soft leavers and disengaged remainers are driven by their belief that Brexit cannot be stopped or reversed because the people voted leave, article 50 has been triggered and is irrevocable. Every opportunity must be taken to correct this mistaken belief. Article 50 has only started a process. The EU has said that we can change our minds and Lord Kerr has stated that A50 can be revoked. It is also a good reason for making sure that the government does not / cannot enshrine the prospective leave date of 29th March 2019 in law.
Key message: Much pro EU/anti-Brexit publicity so far has been aimed at identifying the negatives about leaving the EU. While this will not stop, campaigning must also balance this by giving greater publicity to the benefits of remaining; a kind of balance sheet that explains in simple bullet form everything we as a country and as a people receive from our membership of the club and the ‘fee’ that we pay.
Key message: The EM will take every step possible in support of Dominic Grieve’s proposed amendment to the Withdrawal Bill that will ensure that MPs are given a meaningful vote on the final deal with the EU and that this can only be ‘final’ as and when approved by statute passed by parliament.
Key message: But Brexit cannot be reversed without the “will of the people”. If public opinion substantially moves against Brexit then MPs will follow. Herein lies a strategy for the European Movement in the coming year; campaign to turn public opinion against Brexit, in particular target the soft leavers and the disengaged remainers. In parallel challenge our MPs such that when that final vote comes many more will do what is in the best interests of the country and not what is in the best interests of party or personal career.
Key message: Much more must be made of the peace dividend that has been obtained from European unity. Western liberal values are coming under threat from the rising super power of China and a resurgent Russia that would delight in the fragmentation of the European union and the political and economic disruption that this would bring.
Opinion: The issue of the Irish border is unsolvable. We either stay in the Customs Union or there will be a hard border.
In summary: The European Movement is now engaged in “the fight of our lives” (Michael Young, CEO) and as Stephen Dorrell said in his opening remarks "We are here to stop Brexit. We are not interested in a soft Brexit. We are here to avert what John Major calls 'an historic mistake'"