Staffs4Europe campaigning for a People's Vote.
The historic defeat of the government on Tuesday night (15th January) when parliament voted 432 to 202 against the EU Withdrawal agreement moves us one step nearer to a People's Vote but it isn't in the bag yet. The vote was a defeat for the government but it was a vote against something, not a vote for anything in particular. In that respect it is no better than the terrible Brexit referendum result we have all been passionately criticising for the last two and a half years. Cliques voted NO for different reasons. There is not yet, at the time of writing, a majority in parliament for any definitive next step. Everyone has their own idea of what it should be. The Article 50 clock is still ticking and the EU Withdrawal Act is still on the statue books. This means we have to redouble our efforts to protect Britain's future in Europe.
If, hopefully when, there is a People's Vote we need to bring people together. We need to win over those who have disagreed with us and who think we are anti democratic. We need a positive, inclusive campaign. We need to mobilise young voters and give a home to those who have felt excluded. This is about retaining our place at the heart of Europe and building better Britain for everyone.
YOU CAN HELP
Withdrawal Agreement - Insights
On 5th December we were pleased to welcome Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law at Liverpool University, who talked us through the key points of the Withdrawal Agreement (the Deal) Mrs May had recently brought back from Brussels. Needless to say there were many contentious points. You'll all know about the "Backstop" but do you know how it deals with EU Citizens in UK or UK citizens in EU or what happens at the end of the so called transition? Despite the death of the Deal it may still be a useful guide to understanding the many complexities of Brexit. If you missed it there is a transcript here.
OFOC event in Stafford
On 24th November a few of our supporters attended a meeting in Stafford organised by OFOC. It provided an opportunity for a chat with Jeremy Lefroy. He was intending to support the Deal but said he was open to options if it were voted down, so if you are in his constituency now is the time to persuade him to support a People's Vote. The attendance at the meeting did remind us we need to do much more to engage with and mobilise young people who were conspicuous by their absence.
Tim Martin in Hanley
Tim was at his Weatherspoons pub in Hanley reeling out the same spiel he has given countless times before, promoting the "benefits" of trading on WTO terms with zero import tariffs. He was a polite host and offered us several opportunities to argue back. On fisheries, when asked who we'd sell the fish to if there were high tariffs on our exports and delays at the ports he said they'd have to stay in the sea. We have to give him a pat on the back for identifying an environmental benefit from Brexit, although I don't think it was what his mainly admiring audience expected. It was a great opportunity to talk to the Australian Broadcaster ABC and BBC radio Stoke explaining why we disagreed with Tim. We went prepared and handed out Jim Cornelius's "Letter in Response" following Tim's appearance on question time.
Theresa May at Portmeirion
Big congratulations here to Mike Ottewell chairman of Staffs4Europe(North) who second guessed the venue and arrived bright and early outside the factory gate complete with flags and the EU canvassing bike. He was reassured he was in the right place when he was challenged by the police! After hob nobbing with the big names of the BBC Mike did his fair share of heckling and for his trouble was invited to discuss the Deal on BBC Radio Stoke the following morning, the day of the Meaningful Vote.
Street stalls, Brexitometers and leafletting
We have continued to raise our profile with high street street stalls. The Staffs(South) team has been out in Stafford most weekends and the Staffs(North) team has been busy in Stoke on Trent, most recently in Tunstall. Brexitometers continue to show support for a People's Vote and significant displeasure with the government. As we move closer to a possible referendum campaign we have been reminded by the People's Vote co-ordinators that it is important to capture the feedback from visitors to the stalls and especially any #RemainerNow visitors who would be willing to let us make a short video of them explaining their change of mind. We all need to keep this in mind.
On 28th November Staffs (South) assisted its Lichfield supporters with their first street stall at the Lichfield Food Festival where they got a positive response, with 69.6% of respondents supporting a People's Vote, and sufficient interest to begin their own group. More below.
Thank you to the many supporters who have put in the time pushing leaflets through letterboxes. We have distributed many thousands of leaflets across the county and are becoming extremely proficient and expert in all manner of letterboxes. Areas we have distributed leaflets since the end of November include Stafford, Penkridge, Norton Canes, Heath Hayes, Johnsons Wharf, Burslem, Middleport, Norton Green, Biddulph and Longton. If you are able to assist in delivering leaflets please get in touch with your nearest group leader.
One of our main aims during November and December had been to put pressure on local MPs to vote down Theresa May's deal with the #NotBuyingIt campaign. We are delighted that all the MPs we hoped would reject the deal did so. It is difficult to know how effective the stalls, leafletting and the November knock and drop campaign were in achieving this aim or whether the Deal simply collapsed under its own weight but we have almost certainly raised awareness that Brexit is not a settled issue and everyone, however they voted needs to check whether what they are offered is what they voted for - and demand a final say. No less important we have also been growing our list of supporters.
12 Days to Stop Brexit
For 12 days running up to the first date for the Meaningful Vote, December 11th, we ran an intense campaign with different actions recommended for each day. Actions were posted daily on the Staffs4Europe website and advertised extensively on social media. You can review them here. They still provides a useful guide for what individuals can do to help secure a People's Vote. Thank you to everyone who took part in the campaign.
Letters to the Press
Our letters to the press have been extremely successful. On several occasions we dominated the letter pages with multiple pro-EU or Stop Brexit letters appearing. It is heartening to see an increasing number of letters supporting the cause, many from people not yet signed up as supporters. If you recognises any of the authors please try to persuade them to sign on - and of course encourage them to continue writing.
What has the EU ever done for Staffordshire
A key message is be positive. Sell the benefits of EU membership. Awareness of EU support for our area is very low, even among pro-EU supporters. This campaign aims to correct that. From combatting domestic violence through funding family businesses to helping save iconic local industry they are projects that make a difference at the local level - direct investment in us. See the website for more details.
Use these as examples when talking to friends. If challenged that they are merely giving us our own money back ask how confident they are that a government closing hospitals and cutting local authority budgets until they can't afford school crossing wardens or adequate police officers would fund such initiatives.
Mike at BBC radio Stoke on Tuesday where he argued with local conservative councillor and no deal hard Brexiter Joe Porter.
One of our younger supporters Louise waving the EU flag in Spain following the defeat of the Deal. Her passion is saving Freedom of Movement.
Special Feature introducing the Lichfield Group
The recently formed group in Lichfield has had a very busy first couple of months making their valuable contribution to the cause and further dispelling the myth that Staffordshire is populated only by Brexiteers. They have certainly hit the ground running and are already contributing significantly not only to the campaign in Staffordshire but across the West Midlands region.
Elizabeth Baker - Staffs4Europe Steering Group