We built the continent’s strongest pro-European movement. We took part in demonstrations both large and small across the country. And we are the majority: more than half of the people of this country are pro-European and would prefer to remain in the EU.
Nonetheless, we lost. We will leave the European Union today, on 31 January. So were all our efforts in vain? And where next for the millions of us who still feel the right place for the UK is at the heart of Europe?
Firstly, we must accept we are all going to have to live through the painful process of Brexit. While we should keep alive the dream that we will again become EU members one day, now is not the time to argue for re-joining. Before we get to that point we have as a movement some vitally important tasks in the months ahead.
Firstly, Brexit is now firmly in the Brexiteers' court. As their false prospectus unravels and the government fails to deliver any tangible benefits from leaving the EU we must be there ready to expose Brexit at every twist and turn for the great act of self-harm that it is. We must also continue to shine the light on those who were responsible for this disaster as well as their real motives. I have exposed this cabal of far-right ideologues, climate change deniers, tax-dodging foreign billionaires, anti-democrats and specialists in voter manipulation in two websites: Bad Boys of Brexit and The Brexit Syndicate.
Secondly, Brexit has exposed as never before how broken our democracy is. Now is a crucial time for all progressives to work cooperatively together to begin transforming our country into a genuinely representative democracy. This will prevent a repeat of a disaster like Brexit in future, driven as it is by a regime that through our archaic first-past-the-post voting system gained a ‘landslide’ on a minority of the votes. We desperately need the new Labour leadership to unequivocally embrace electoral reform so that all votes count.
Thirdly, we need to push for the closest possible relationship with Europe and uphold European values and standards. This means continuing participation in European programmes such as Erasmus, so our young people can continue to take up opportunities the rest of us have enjoyed for the last 40 years.
I believe the best way to ensure maintaining alignment with EU standards is for all those of us who are pro-European to campaign to remain in the Single Market. Brexit isn’t done. We still have an opportunity to help shape our future relationship with the EU.
As well as offering better economic and social prospects and safeguarding jobs staying in the Single Market will also preserve the precious gift of free movement – our right to live, study, travel and fall in love across 27 countries. This close alignment will also mean that in future it will be easier for the UK to re-join the EU.
In parallel to campaigning for a close relationship with our European partners we must resist pressure from the Brextremist ideologues who want us to float off across the Atlantic and become a lapdog of Trump’s USA.
Finally, we must beware the betrayal narrative, where those in charge of this catastrophe will try to shift the blame for the negative consequences of Brexit onto the EU. Resisting this framing will require compassion and solidarity with EU citizens living in the UK who will be on the receiving end of this prejudice. Revitalising the friendship groups and twinning associations that thrived in the decades before we joined the EU will help in this respect.
Brexit represents a huge loss for Greens in the UK. We lose seven senior politicians, representing between them around two thirds of the population of the UK. But it is also painful for Greens in the European Parliament. The Group will lose 11 MEPs altogether, since they will lose Scottish and Welsh nationalists who are also part of the same Green/EFA group. This will mean a loss of influence, just at a time when we face a climate emergency and Green pressure is more important than ever. All the more reason to pave the way for the UK to eventually re-join the EU.