Brexit: Lewisham resistance is not futile

In February, Lewisham MPs were among those who rebelled against the Labour whip, choosing to vote against triggering Article 50. At the time, I wrote that this was understandable, yet futile, act on their part - and that it was better to focus on trying to influence post-Brexit political settlement than fight a losing battle.

Local Remain campaigner Essi took issue with my argument (as she did so often when we were at school together) and has written this piece, along with her colleague Laura, to set out the case to resist Brexit, rather than capitulate. She says:

"Before the referendum, a group of us campaigned in Lewisham for Britain to stay in the European Union as the Lewisham Stronger In campaign.

"Since the referendum, we have re-grouped as Lewisham Is For Europe, and we are in contact with other groups around Britain with similar concerns.  We still believe that leaving the European Union is the wrong move for Britain.  We think that in terms of our economy and security as a country we would be stronger working with our closest neighbours – as well as the rest of the world. We still wish to retain the rights gained from membership of the EU, to study or work abroad, and to be part of a community which values human rights and the environment enough to put them in trade treaties.

"We recognise that ‘Leave’ won.  We recognise that many citizens in the UK were concerned about immigration, or wanted fewer rules made in cooperation with other countries, and were concerned about inefficiencies in the running of the EU.  These are important political points to debate – and could have been discussed as part of a movement to build a better EU.  We think they still could be.

"What we do not recognise is the right of the Government to make the biggest political change of many of our lifetimes on the basis of nothing more than the word ‘Leave’. There is no mandate for the Brexit that is taking place. For example, the country did not vote to leave the single market – it wasn’t on the ballot paper and various voices from the Leave campaign assured the public there was no question of leaving the single market. This is an example of the type of discussion our local MPs were trying to have when they tabled amendments to article 50, and that we are trying to encourage as a local group.

"Whether people voted Remain or Leave in June is not now the issue – everyone, whatever their vote, has a right to say what should happen next, including to say that Britain should have the opportunity to change its mind.

"Finally, it is not undemocratic to keep campaigning.  British politics is not based on the idea that one group wins and the other group shuts up for ever.  Where we see something we disagree with we are at complete liberty to express our views, and seek to bring others along with us. We are at liberty to use every peaceful and democratic means available to us – marches, leafleting, writing letters to MPs. Britain has not yet left the EU and the democratic process is still ongoing.

"If you would like to be part of our campaign, check us out on Twitter @Lewisham4EU or Facebook at ‘Lewisham is for Europe’."

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