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Jul 4th, 2016

People powered Brexit

By Kathryn Stribley

People-powered Brexit

In the 38 Degrees office, we have a daft name for the moments when people power is most needed. It’s those times when big changes are happening, when we don’t know if things will get better or worse. When there’s a crisis but also an opportunity. We call these moments “crisitunities.”

An awful lot is up in the air at the moment: our relationship with Europe, the effect on our economy, immigration, our rights at work, protections for wildlife, and the public services we depend on. And we’re watching political parties collapse when leadership is most needed.

In short, this is a serious crisitunity. And that means we have a real chance to shape what happens next.

This week, hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees members discussed how 38 Degrees should respond to Brexit and its fallout. We’ve taken surveys and talked together on Facebook. Together, we’ve felt emotions across the spectrum: from fear and sadness to hope and determination. We’ve shared ideas, and ranked priorities. Thank you for your contributions.

So much has happened in the two weeks since Jo Cox MP was murdered. But her passionate appeal to remember that we all “have far more in common with each other than that which divides us” feels more relevant than ever.

Some of us voted Remain and some of us voted Leave. But if we get stuck in our differences we will see only the crisis. It’s by remembering what we have in common that we can see the opportunities – and seize them together.

This page explains the plan for how 38 Degrees members can work together to shape what’s next. There are three parts to it: first, a people-powered Brexit. Second, keeping politicians to their promises. And third, standing together in the face of adversity.

I) People-powered Brexit

In the next few weeks, 38 Degrees members will roll up our sleeves and work together to draw up a people-powered vision for what the best possible version of Brexit would look like. Together, we can shape a people-powered Brexit plan which prioritises fairness, justice, and a healthy environment. Then we’ll campaign as hard as we can to make that vision a reality.

38 Degrees members don’t see things in black and white. Those of us who voted Remain knew the EU wasn’t perfect. And those of us who voted Leave knew that not everything about it was bad.

The best bits of being in the EU included critical protections for our rights at work, funding for poorer areas of the UK, and safeguards for wildlife and the environment. We can fight to make sure that we don’t lose them.

The worst bits of being in the EU included dodgy corporate trade deals like TTIP. The UK will need a more democratic, sustainable and people-friendly way to trade with Europe and the world, and this could be our chance to create it.

So now that the UK has voted to leave, it’s up to us to come up with a plan for Brexit which keeps what was best about the EU, and improves the rest. So far, over 100,000 38 Degrees members have voted and written in to suggest what should be in the plan. Together, we’ll hear from experts and add our voices to draw up a plan – then get it into the media and in front of politicians to push the debate in the right direction.

There are some big questions to answer. The UK will now need to set its own rules for who can come and live here. We know we’ll need to stand up for rules that reject racism, honour our responsibilities to refugees and recognise the positive role that immigrants can play in our society. But there will also be debates about the number of new arrivals, who to prioritise, and how to address the worries about immigration which the EU referendum campaign has laid bare. There will be some difficult conversations ahead. But we can’t let these critical decisions be made without us.

And the question of Scotland’s relationship to the EU is not settled. A majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU, and some experts argue that it may be possible for Scotland to stay in the EU whilst the rest of the UK leaves. So while we fight for the best possible Brexit across the UK, 38 Degrees’ Scottish members will also campaign for the wishes of Scottish people to be heard – whether that’s in Holyrood, Westminster or Brussels.

II) A promise is a promise

During the referendum, huge promises were made by Leave politicians, most famously about giving more cash to the NHS. We need to hold politicians to these promises.

More money for the NHS means better treatment for us and our loved ones. It means more nurses, shorter waiting times, safer hospitals. But holding Leave campaigners to their promises isn’t just about funding the NHS, as critical as that is. It’s also about drawing a line in the sand about the importance of truth in our democracy.

Some politicians have a bad habit of saying outlandish things to earn votes before an election, then hoping everyone forgets once the votes have been cast. Such dishonest practices warp democracy. They make it impossible for voters to make informed decisions, and erode all faith in leadership.

In the run up to the referendum, we were promised that a vote to leave the EU wouldn’t only mean more money for the NHS. We were also promised an end to VAT on gas and electricity bills, safeguarded funding for poorer parts of the UK, and no erosion of our rights at work. We’ll need to battle for these promises to be kept.

III) Standing together

In the last week, there have been more reports of racist and xenophobic harassment and violence. 38 Degrees members will speak up for tolerance and respect, and challenge hate and prejudice. We’ll put pressure on politicians, decision-makers and businesses to do the same.

There may be difficult economic times ahead, and that could mean even more pressure on those of us struggling to make ends meet. Jobs and homes could be at risk. The big banks have already had all the assurances government can throw at them. But at times like these, people have to come first. 38 Degrees members have a proud and successful history of campaigning for policies that help those who need it most, and we’ll be ready to do it again if the economy gets worse.

So that’s the plan as we see it here in the 38 Degrees office. What do you think?

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