Last Saturday morning I joined a large group of concerned local residents, whose ages ranged from 24 to 75+ – some from Devizes Green, Labour and LibDem parties, as well as others not affiliated to any political party, who had come together under the ‘Open Britain’ banner, in order to host a campaign stall in Marlborough High Street.
Open Britain is a cross-party, grassroots campaign that is leading the fight against a hard, destructive Brexit. Our event was part of the biggest, nation-wide Day of Action by pro-Europeans since the referendum, with over 100 similar events held across the country in both ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ constituencies.
In Marlborough, we asked members of the public to complete a short survey that asked whether they would be happy for the UK to leave the EU with no trade deal in place and what their biggest hopes and concerns about the coming Brexit negotiations were. Thirty-four people completed the survey – only one person thought that it was okay for Britain to crash out of the EU with no other trade deals in place.
Leave voters said that they were looking forward to ‘freedom’ and ‘control of our borders’ and were generally hostile to Europe – including an elderly couple who stressed that they had fought the Germans in the war.
Many Remain voters were worried that the government is not sufficiently competent to negotiate a new trade deal with 27 EU countries, within two years and that this would result in job losses and a failed economy. Others were concerned with the financial cost of brexit, the loss of workers’ rights and environmental protections. Over-dependence on the USA, higher fuel and food prices, as well as chaos in the NHS, were also feared by many.
Young people said they were worried about anti-immigration rhetoric and future restrictions on travel in Europe, also the loss of free European health insurance. A few people mentioned a fear of isolationism and the break-up of the UK.
Several people were angry that their views were being ignored by politicians in the rush for a ‘hard brexit’ and complained about the lack of clear information that had led to the referendum outcome in the first place.
We also collected names of people who want to go on the Unite for Europe March to Parliament on Saturday, 25th March, as there is a possibility of hiring a coach.
We intend to carry on the fight for an Open Britain that allows us to keep our place in the Single Market and the Customs Union, regardless of today’s vote in the Commons. You are very welcome to join us.
Dr Sam L J Page