I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to offer my help to the Open Britain organisation. Made up largely of MPs, other political leaders & consultants as well as volunteers who were behind the Remain campaign of 2016, Open Britain’s mission is basically to prevent a hard Brexit from the EU. The specific objectives of Open Britain are the following:
- Obtain the best deal for Britain during the Brexit negotiations.
- Protect the UK economy by seeking to negotiate a trading arrangement with the EU which minimises the economic cost of our leaving. All evidence shows this means remaining a member of the Single Market and Customs Union.
- Migration & Free Movement: There are three parts to this issue. First, we need an open an honest debate on immigration that makes a positive case looking at the invaluable contribution high and low skilled migrants make to vital sectors. Second, there are immediate and important steps the UK Government should take including the guarantee of the rights of existing EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; committing to fully financing a Migration Impact Fund here at home to tackle any pressures on public services that arise from local influxes of immigration; and banning recruitment agencies from advertising solely overseas. Third, the UK should seek to ‘mend not end’ the system of free movement, calling for an EU-wide examination of free movement and looking at a range of reform options to mitigate negative economic outcomes if they arise.
- National Security: Concurrent with negotiations over trade, the UK will need to agree measures on security co-operation of unprecedented depth. Past precedents show that non-EU countries are able to negotiate involvement in EU security arrangements and agencies but with more limited participation compared to that of EU Member States. This will not be enough for the UK.
- European Investment: All European funding levels planned to 2020 must be preserved, matched with substitute funding by the UK Government if EU funding streams cease. Leaving the EU means the UK will not benefit from the next Multiannual Financial Framework between 2021 and 2027. The funding for sectors and programmes that would otherwise benefit from EU funding in this period has not yet been addressed and the UK Government should therefore guarantee that the same envelope of funding will be delivered over this period, dispelling fears that leaving the EU will lead to a longer-term reduction in investment.
- The Natural Environment and Climate Change: The UK should continue to be a leader in Europe and the world on environmental protection by committing to preserving the protections to which we are currently committed as a member of the EU, which should continue to be applied in UK law.
- Workers’ Rights: Ensuring employment and non-discrimination rights are not downgraded.
- The Integrity of the UK: It’s critical that the Government places the constitutional stability of the UK at the forefront of its negotiating stance. The challenge facing the UK is to negotiate a settlement that minimises the economic cost of leaving for all nations and regions of the UK and to ensure the full involvement of the Scottish Government and other Devolved Administrations in negotiations.
- Democratic Accountability: Parliament should be given the power to send the Government back to the negotiating table if they do not think the final deal with the EU is good enough. The UK should only leave the EU with no deal if Parliament has expressly voted for that to happen, not just as a consequence of the Government’s failure to negotiate a good deal. Accepting the result is not the same as accepting any deal that is brought back, no matter how damaging. Open Britain want the Government to succeed in its aim to secure the ‘exact same benefits’ outside the Single Market and Customs Union as inside, but if they do not and the result brings economic pain, the country should be entitled, in some form, to make a real judgement about the deal on offer.^
On Saturday the 11th of March a small group of dedicated ‘Open Brits’ made the effort to discuss these issues with residents of and visitors to Richmond Riverside. Because it was also one of the six nations matches, I was fortunate to shoot a few kilts as well as a swarm of runners. It turns out that most of the individuals spoken to were amenable to and supportive of the ideas discussed by the Open Britain volunteers.