Britain was sold a fantasy Brexit, so let’s march to restore sanity

  • We are marching not just against Brexit, but because we are proud of the UK

  • Chuka Umunna MP

Britain was sold a fantasy Brexit, so let's march to restore sanity

When we launched the People’s Vote campaign last April, we had a sense something was stirring out in the country.

Since the 2016 referendum, the half of the country who had voted Remain had been described as a liberal, metropolitan elite. Areas like mine in Lambeth, which scored the highest Remain vote but is one of the most deprived in England, were dismissed as “citizens of nowhere” by Theresa May – someone who will surely go down as one of the worst prime ministers of our country.  We were not prepared to put up with it any longer – it was time to speak out.

Significant numbers of Leave voters have come to believe that Brexit in the form it was sold to the British people by Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and co was a fantasy.

Many recoil in horror at the dark and ugly side of politics which the Brexiters have unleashed with the spike in hate crime and race attacks following the 2016 result. The Brexit elite’s attacks on good public servants – from the judiciary to the civil service, from backbench MPs to the Bank of England – who dare to point out the dangers posed to our economy from this dog’s dinner that is Brexit, did not sit easily with many.

If you visit, Remainer Now, a grassroots network of former Leave voters, you can hear their stories.

The People’s Vote movement’s strength is that it has transcended traditional political boundaries and has not been the tool of either of the frontbenches of the main parties. When it has been most successful, party political considerations have been left at the door; when it has struggled to make ground, it is usually because the internal party politics of one or both the main parties has intruded and weakened people’s resolve.

For the most part, it has held together through thick and thin which is no small achievement given it is composed of political activists from the left and the right, unionists and nationalists, and those with no political affiliation at all.

At our Put It To The People march, you will see Brits from every walk of life, from our cities, towns and villages, from every part of the country on the streets of the capital in peaceful protest at the joke politics has become, frustrated at the lack of leadership by the establishment, demanding that the people have the final say on Brexit.

As MPs from different political traditions campaigning against Brexit, we have come to realise that there is more that unites us than the anti-Brexit cause.

What underpins the movement is a set of progressive values that we all have in common. It is what ultimately drove some of us to leave the established parties to set out on the journey of creating a new one – to provide people with an alternative. We will never stop making the case for the UK being at the heart of and leading in the EU.

Our patriotism drives our internationalism. We are proud of our country but recognise we cannot build a good society at home in isolation from the global forces that are buffeting our people around from abroad. Where appropriate, we should pool power and work closely with other nation states which share our values to shape the world we live in and protect the environment and our planet –there is no better alternative platform in our back yard to do this than the EU.

We believe that work is the surest protection against poverty and destitution, and gives us all the means to prosper economically, but it also has a value in and of itself that gives purpose, identity and mission in life. Not only being able to access, but being part of, the world’s biggest trading bloc underpins millions of jobs in the UK.

And, of course, there is more to life than work. Our families, in all their forms, are the building blocks of every community. Both our families and our communities motivate people, connect them to each other and give life meaning. So many of us have family ties to EU countries, in my case France, Ireland, Spain and Denmark. There are over five million EU citizens living and working in the UK, and UK citizens doing the same in other EU countries.

So we are marching not just against Brexit, but we are marching because we are proud of the UK. We think everyone deserves the chance get a good, decent job which our trade and connections with the EU helps create and, fundamentally, we believe the EU is part of our identity and our families’ histories. It is these progressive values which lie behind the wonderful movement we have helped build this last year.

Everyone marching can do so with their heads held high, proud of the positivity embodied in the campaign.