2017-01-11 09:02:39 UTC
"The Brexit resistance: Its getting bigger all the time"
"Many pro-Europeans around Britain believe there is still a chance to
fight the result of the EU referendum. So what do they think they can
"'Im still hoping. I cant really believe its going to happen, but
in the back of my mind its always there. I love this country; I want
to live here. I always dreamed of coming, because it was such an
open-minded, lovely place where foreigners were greeted. I think
thats part of why I was so shellshocked on 24 June: because this
country I thought I knew suddenly turned up a very ugly face.'
"Chris Hoffman is a 44-year-old freelance translator who lives in
south Birmingham. She is originally from Stuttgart and first came to
the UK thanks to the European Unions Erasmus student exchange
programme. Later on, her husband started academic research in
Birmingham, which then turned into a full-time job -- and a little
more than a decade ago, they settled in the city. They have an
eight-year-old son. 'He might not have a British passport,' she tells
me, 'but he was born here, and he feels British.'
"Now, the prospect of Britain leaving the EU seems to have infected
her life with anxiety. Does she think she might have to go back to
Germany? 'Well have to, if they chuck us out,' she says. 'We havent
got EU residency cards; we havent gone for naturalisation.'
"Why not do that? 'If the government starts throwing out EU citizens,
I dont want to live in this country any more,' she says.
"On the first working day after the Christmas break, Hoffman has
arranged to meet me in a cafe in the Kings Heath area of the city,
along with two people who are campaigning alongside her against
Brexit: 55-year-old Margaret Murray, who came to Birmingham 30 years
ago from Ireland; and George Turvey, a native of south Wales who was,
until recently, employed at Birmingham City University, but is now
devoting his working time -- on an unpaid basis -- to trying to keep
Britain in the EU.
"The three of them are among the 15 people behind EU in Brum, an
amazingly active set-up that was founded in the days after last years
referendum. None of them did any formal campaigning prior to the vote;
they fully expected the leave campaign to amount to nothing more
threatening than a sizeable protest vote, and for remain to
convincingly win. Late last year, EU in Brum was also the host for a
'national grassroots remain strategy meeting', organised by the new
national pressure group Britain for Europe, and intended to coordinate
the work of a whole host of campaigns.
"'There were about 40 organisations there,' says Turvey. 'More dialled
in on Skype. We had somebody from Gibraltar. There are a lot of expat
organisations -- people who travel from France and Germany to the
meetings. Its about collaboration, how we can work together, and grow
the movement. Were all linked now, and theres work going on all the
"And what is their main objective?
"'Remaining in the EU,' he says. 'Of course.'
"Some former remain campaigners, I remind him, are now seemingly
resigned to Britain leaving the EU, and set on pushing for what
political cliche calls a soft Brexit. How does he feel about that?
"'Were unequivocal; 100%,' he says. 'Were not going to compromise.'
"The Conservatives are combining a rush towards the European exit door
with the sense that they have no real negotiation plan. As of Tuesday,
when great howls of dismay went up from left-leaning remainers,
Labours position combines Jeremy Corbyns claim that 'the UK can be
better off out of the EU' with a possible watering-down of the
leaderships support for the principle of free movement, suffused with
the increasingly familiar sense of a party that is all at sea. So,
while the SNP remains staunchly pro-European, its not surprising
that, in England and Wales, people who passionately want Britain to
stay in the EU feel they are not represented (apart from by the Lib
Dems and Greens, perhaps -- but with 10 MPs between them, that might
amount to rather cold comfort).
"In response to this growing political gap, initiatives aimed at
fighting Brexit and somehow overturning the referendum result have
been springing up in huge numbers. Besides EU In Brum, there are
plenty of groups rooted in specific places: Aberdeen for Europe,
Hants4EU, The Berkshire 48%, Glostays, Wessex for Europe, and many
more. Online, you can choose from such national networks as Britain
for Europe, Sixteen Million Rising, Vote for Europe and Want2Stay.
"A somewhat secretive set-up called EU Flag Mafia -- whose people do
not answer my enquiries on Twitter -- has been founded with the aim of
making sure the EU stars are seen as often as possible: back in
September, they distributed around 2,500 EU flags at the Last Night of
the Proms. March for Europe organised two anti-Brexit demonstrations
in London last year, and another one, overseen by a network called Im
Still In, is planned for 25 March. On 20 February, people will be
involved in One Day Without Us, an attempt to highlight the
contribution immigrants make to Britain via special events -- or by
simply not turning up for work -- that will have a big anti-Brexit
"As much as anything, this burgeoning resistance highlights what an
insanely divided country the UK has become. Post-referendum
conversations with convinced leave voters usually include unshakable
views that have now hardened into cliche -- chiefly, the idea that
even now, we are only a few establishment manoeuvrings away from some
great stitch-up that will overturn the result. And guess what? In the
eyes of people who want out of Europe as soon as possible, that might
be exactly what the anti-Brexit activists are aiming at.
"The latter, of course, say that a minority of the overall electorate
voted to leave and that there is hardly the thumping mandate for
leaving Europe some politicians talk about -- and that, besides all
that, Brexit will be such an economic and social disaster that it has
to be avoided.
"Whatever, were you to put both camps together, there would be
precious little common ground -- which is perhaps why a lot of people
talk about what George Turvey says is now very common -- 'the
breaking-up of friendships, even rifts within families.'"
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