The recent West Berks Stronger in the EU rally, saw a good cross-party crowd gather and march through in Newbury town centre.
Speakers included Paul Field of the Greens and Jonny Roberts from Labour, and myself representing Liberal Democrats across Newbury and West Berkshire.
Before the rally, I was asked by a couple of people why we were bothering, given the Brexit process is underway now and the Article 50 bill has been passed by parliament. For me the answer is clear and was put perfectly by Andrew Rawnsley in this Sunday’s Observer:
“The hard Brexiters … did not stop campaigning when the referendum result came in. They continued agitating and with a burning ferocity that was amplified by the Brexit press at its most megaphonic. They did so to ensure that they could impose their interpretation of what the referendum meant.”
Meanwhile, the views of area’s like Newbury and West Berkshire and other places and people who voted Remain are being drowned out. Local businesses are being hurt, prospects for employment are worse and EU funding that supports local charities, farmers and work-place training is on the line. None of these are academic worries, they add up to hundreds of jobs, hundreds of lives.
Remain MPs, like our own, Richard Benyon, have caved in and voted to support Article 50 and against the amendment that would have ensured that all EU citizens legally living in the UK on June 23 – the date of the EU referendum – would have their right to stay protected. I have met people on the doorstep who moved to Newbury and Thatcham years ago – some 15 to 20 years ago – to work for great businesses like Vodafone and Stryker, who have married, had families and are happy here, part of the local community. And now, they have no idea whether they will be allowed to stay.
If Remainers do not keep up the pressure, the UK is going to be hit with the hardest of hard Brexits, which was not on any ballot paper I saw on 23rd June.
So join us. We may not be able to change the direction of travel, but we can influence the Brexit destination where this ends.