REJOIN – A path back to EU Membership by Robert Braban

Recent days have brought a lot of huffing and puffing on the topic of putting right the Brexit damage and restoring Britain to EU membership.

Exploring theories with multiple options is a valuable exercise, but like many brain-storming sessions, the eventual conclusion ends up being not too far from the status quo. Essentially, politics is very much about marketing and needs to be approached as such.

The single biggest factor impacting on my view and that of others has been the registration of VOLT, a Pan-European political group, as a UK political party.

Although VOLT is a superb organisation, contributing to continued cohesion of the EU 27, it’s latest move is a real threat to the UK securing electoral support for reentry to the EU. To all but the politically naive, it will be immediately obvious that the intervention of an offshoot of a Brussels based political organisation will be a gift from heaven for Brexiteers and marketing disaster for supporters of the core initiative.

There needs to be a very clear separation between the supported Rejoin party and any suggestion of foreign influence, within or without the EU.

Having established the need for a clean UK image, the next marketing imperative has to be rethinking on product labelling. ‘Rejoin’ may be descriptive of the final objective, but it has become too emotive to have the widest achievable appeal. The label needs to more accurately describe the intended process and that will be conditioned as much by the EU as by us.

‘The Road back to Prosperity – Renegotiate-Restore or Repair-Rejoin’ might be a starting point for thought. It describes a natural process to get into the Single Market and Customs Union, restoring supply chains and trade, and eventually regaining membership. It would offend fewer doubters. It needs work, but practical political thinkers will get the drift and have ideas based on the theme.

For the purpose of this exercise I shall continue to use ‘Rejoin’ because it’s familiar to readers.

In the absence of a totally new Party with a Macron-like figure driving it, I see the only really realistic lead option as the Lib Dem’s.

Why?

Simply because they are already very Pro-Europe and have the appropriate national organisation in place. Organisation is of prime importance and it would take many years for a successor party to build up a similar base.

FORGET previous squabbles! This is not about reliving history, it’s about securing a vehicle that can get us to the desired destination. The old personalities are gone. Those hung up on those bye-gone events need a software restoration’.

The problem immediately obvious to many is that the Lib Dem’s still suffer prevarication within the Party. They have a ‘tired’ leader, a nice man, but one unable to enthuse members or the public, and there is no obvious replacement in sight. However, spreading the Party ‘Rejoin’ ambition does not have to be limited to Lib Dem MPs. With a strong Rejoin message, other prominent politicians will step up to promote this issue, if not the entire manifesto. A further factor is that a good showing in the local elections could add customer appeal.

Turning to the manifesto for a moment, the party representing Rejoin will need to have rejoin as core policy, its USP, but it must be supported by strong mainstream policies. New parties have an obvious difficulty in that regard.

Turning to branding ‘ Rejoin the EU’ is certainly too heavy for many fringe supporters to swallow as one dose. Moreover, voters inclined to give support would rightfully doubt the ability to deliver and conversion of that sentiment to criticism would hamper progress.

In order to get the sort of numbers that one would need would involve not only securing the votes of current anti-Brexit voters, but a good number who were once convinced of the value of Brexit, but have since suffered or witnessed events that have impacted on their thinking. They need leading back stage by stage, not driving back up the cliff face.

It’s important to note that planning to move back in increments is not giving anything up time-wise. It’s realistic. It’s the only way it could happen anyway.

Probably the best way to see a path forward in this type of dilemma is to think about what one would do if one was still running a company and was confronted by a similar situation.

A prime consideration is that there are a lot of Brexit voters who are already suffering and recognising betrayal. Lorry drivers face fines of £300 for entering Kent without a permit. Fishermen find that their ‘sunny upland’ comprises the smelly glow from fish rotting because their market has been removed by Brexit. Industrial workers are seeing broken supply chains that will, probably sooner rather than later, cost them their jobs.

It’s a consideration that the first tranche are likely to be educated intelligent people making decisions on evidence rather than emotion. Such people need careful nurturing and under the ‘Poacher turned Gamekeeper’ syndrome, they can become a powerful sales force.

That the Brexit situation will get worse as new problems arise is pretty obvious. The solution for the party with the guts to get off the fence will be to go forward pledging to:

  1. Reopen trade negotiations with the EU to secure a return to the single market and customs Union, thus restoring supply lines and established trade links. That will better secure jobs and slowly stop the rot.
  2. Take action to restore national security by returning to the EU institutions governing: space, medicines, crime, security, Erasmus etc, and
  3. sit down with the EU Commission to start talks on eventual full membership of the EU.

A manifesto package of that nature promptly updates and validates itself every time a Brexit screw up emerges.

Even the first stage a package offers several real benefits:

  1. It removes the NI border problem and recognises the importance of the GFA.
  2. The policy adoption and progress towards implementation could change the balance of the drive for independence in Scotland and thus help secure the Union.
  3. The first element would simply deliver what Vote Leave promised, an important selling point..

Were I not 82 years of age and a walking medical experiment, I would be seeking to promote this from a political platform. As it is I can only furnish ideas and sit back and watch the scrap.

Quite naturally, the whole picture would change if SKS and the many opposing factions within the Labour Party got together and decided to respect the views of the majority of Labour voters.

Put your coat on and go and look at the Lib Dem’s from the other side of the window by Robert Braban

Lib Dem is a very tired brand. Were I still running my marketing company I might well be using Lib Dem as the best available example of ‘brand death’. A massive lift is needed.

I read a comment claiming that the Party should concentrate on selling its current USP: It doesn’t have one. However the Lib Dem message starts off, it comes across as: “We do what the other parties do, but better”.

The party has always, since I first joined in Cambridge in 1960, concentrated more on keeping a few existing members, rather than offending them and recruiting five times as many. That’s not necessarily bad: members don’t win elections. Winning is down to strong and often unique policies, and a charismatic image.

In its present state the party can forget charismatic image. In many areas it’s close to anonymous. Wholehearted commitment rather than luke-warm lip service to Rejoining the EU is probably the most electorally attractive core policy available. For the Lib Dem’s it could be salvation if put at the centre of other policies. It guarantees:

  1. Policy separation from the other parties. Viz. The missing USP!
  2. A refuge for millions of Rejoin supporters who are currently disenfranchised.
  3. Massive publicity focused on the Party bringing it back into the public eye. There would be hatred from the right wing press, but support from others. In this context, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Being reviled by the Sun, the Mail and Farage is all positive. It would mean that once again the Lib Dem’s mattered.
  4. Near endless policy food. As Brexit damage emerge it would supply the party many additional fists to punch with.

It would be a mistake to assume that SKS will sit on the fence on a permanent basis. Labour is a majority Remain party and will become more so as Brexit damage emerges. Red wall MPs are already giving Johnson a hard time and that’s because they are being hassled by their constituents. It may not be too long before the priority becomes the overall membership and not the crumbling red wall.


The Rejoin option may not be the No 1 political bargain for long. There could soon be competition for customers at which point the party might be criticised for jumping on someone else’s bandwagon”.

Should Rejoin back Volt?

Since Kier Starmer’s interview last week, I have seen the subject of a new political party raised frequently, with Volt often being mentioned as an alternative to establishing a new party.


When considering such issues, we need to remember the cross-party nature of support for Rejoining the EU. Our support base is very diverse and comes from right across the political spectrum which is why any new political party needs to be tightly focussed on Rejoin and very closely associated issues.


Having spent some time looking at Volt’s website and researching them, whilst I see much that is welcome, they are not a single-issue party by any stretch of the imagination and are therefore unlikely to attract the widespread cross political spectrum support needed within the Rejoin community let alone the wider electorate.


One particular area of concern relating to the wider electorate is Volt’s federalist stance given the nature of some of the wider debate surrounding the issue of our EU membership over the last few years. Their stance on this issue may well be unpopular with the wider electorate, and furthermore, our opponents would undoubtedly seize upon this to demonstrate their concerns about federalism and the foundation of an EU “superstate” were well founded. When you consider some of the other obstacles that we will have to overcome with the electorate on our route to Rejoining, such as the need to adopt the Euro and join Schengen, this federalist stance would make a difficult job even harder.


There is also the issue of Volt not being a home-grown party. To the vast majority of us, including myself. this is not an issue in any way whatsoever. However, again, this may be an issue of concern for the wider electorate given the nature of much of the debate surrounding our EU membership. We need to look at this issue from the perspective of the wider electorate, not our own perspective, and again, this may give us yet another difficult obstacle to overcome. A home-grown single-issue party putting the case for our EU membership to be in our best interests as a country would be an easier proposition to sell to certain sections of the electorate.


For these reasons Volt does not therefore offer a viable route forward for us as a movement, indeed their federalist stance in particular could actually end up hindering us in achieving our goals. That said as a movement we should encourage Volt’s stance on our EU membership.

Should a Single Issue Rejoin Political Party be Established?

One of the issues I quite often see raised on pro-European Social Media is the issue of setting up our own political party.

There are many arguments in favour such as it will give the Rejoin movement a clear focus and enable us to be the tail that wags the dog which Farage and co were so good at doing in the run up to the December 2019 General Election.

Disadvantages include the prospect of splitting the pro Rejoin vote even further than  it already is and the practicalities of establishing and then running a political party.

When I say practicalities, setting up a political party is not a particularly onerous or expensive task. There are forms to complete as you would expect, you need to nominate a Party Leader, someone who is responsible for the accounts that must be prepared to a certain standard similar to that of a limited company, and you need to nominate someone to provide all of the required returns for elections – and that is where the problems start…

As well as completing all the required steps and checks, you also need to convince the electoral commission that you will stand in elections, which is where the costs start to mount up and you start to need specialist knowledge of electoral law, which of course means employing and paying people – in other words you need money, and lots of it.

So, whilst there may well be many good arguments on both sides of the debate about establishing a single issue Rejoin party, my biggest concern has always been these practical issues. Indeed, as a team we have discussed this on more than one occasion, and each time we have come to the same conclusion; that it would be a better route forward initially to attempt to get Rejoin onto the agenda of the existing political parties, and that is the route we are currently following with our political party sub-groups.

We may or may not succeed in that task, but I believe that there are strong arguments that we should at least try over the 18 months to achieve that objective before taking a decision on establishing a Single Issue Rejoin party.

We are here to set the agenda not follow the agenda of others

We are here to set the agenda

The last week has been hard for us all with perhaps one of the hardest issues to deal with being the news about Starmers decision on supporting a deal and his comments about what will and will not be on the Labour Party agenda in 2024.

Since that news I’ve seen all sorts of comments in the group and on wider social media about how the Labour Party is no longer worth supporting, the Lib Dems are the same, that we should tear up membership cards, set up a new party ext etc etc.

Whilst I empathise with much of that, and even agree, my answer is that we are not here to follow the agenda of anyone, Starmer and Davey included.

We are here to SET the agenda across the political spectrum.

I could write a long article about why we need to do so – but I will save that for another time and simply rely on this old graphic showing where remain and leave support lies within the political parties.

Every single political party has both leave and remain supporters within it, and you can guarantee 100% that leave supporters within each party will be actively trying to keep rejoin off the agenda of their party.

That is why we must work towards setting the agenda on EU membership in ALL political parties – and that will stay the same even if we start our own party as the existing parties will not just go away just because we start our own.

We must establish strong pro European communities within all political parties and push forward our agenda within them which needs to include putting motions forward to party conferences on issues that will help us achieve our goals and indeed to put rejoining the EU itself onto the agenda.