Britain for Europe hosted a rally with speeches, a panel debate chaired by Polly Toynbee, comedy and music at the Dome in Brighton.
The main speaker was Anthony Grayling, better known as A C Grayling. He opened by criticising the Labour Party for not singing the right song. Already, he said, Britain was losing funds from the European Union and businesses which were relocating and finding better infrastructure and better working conditions in Europe.
He said: “We must stop Brexit sooner rather than later. Europe cherishes civil liberties, progress and a rational co-operative way. The EU is a wonderful model of co-operation.”
Professor Grayling said that the alternative was less money for public services – “a low-tax, deregulated, offshore economy”.
He said that people who voted leave had very few reasons. They didn’t have reasons so much as feelings. He urged the remain camp to tell their story and win back the Brexiteers, to fill the bins of MPs with letters, to stay determined.
Professor Grayling said: “Brexit is politically illegitimate and constitutionally improper. The franchise excludes 16 to 17-year-olds, expats living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK.
“They should have had a voice. Only 37 per cent of the electorate voted leave. That is not a mandate for a major constitutional change.”
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said that Britain must remain welcoming.
The Green MP said: “We are here to say Britain is better than that.”
She said that the Prime Minister had no mandate, adding: “She went to our electorate and she lost and we must never let her forget that.”
She said that she was furious about the EU Withdrawal Bill because it would sovereignty away from the people and Parliament.
And she had a message for the Labour Party: “You cannot be in favour of leaving the EU and in favour of ending austerity.
“Freedom of movement for young people is a precious gift to travel, live, work, fall in love with people from 27 countries. I am truly sorry for our young people, whom Brexit is betraying.”
She said that it was not migrants who were responsible for austerity. It was the government.
Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee chaired a debate with questions. The panel included Seb Dance, a Labour MEP for London, Johnathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Ian Dunt, an author and editor, and Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West.
Mr Dance said: “We won’t get anywhere by lying to the electorate.” As evidence he cited the depreciation of sterling, EU nationals leaving the NHS and companies relocating.
He said: “A two-year transition gives them time to move. We have to be the ones to tell the truth. Be honest about the problems linked to Brexit. There is no shift in attitude yet.”
Mr Bartley said that we had to change attitudes, particularly around migration. He said: “It’s so desperately sad. The whole agenda around migration has been hijacked. The Green Party is an insurgent party. We shift agendas … Both Labour and the Tories have failed with migration, their hostile environment. I have visited Calais, Dunkirk and UK detention centres where instead of welcoming migrants, people are detained indefinitely. You have to say very clearly: ‘No, no, no!’”
Mr Dunt said that Tony Blair could be useful in helping make the case for remain even if some people disliked some of his policies. He said that up to 50 per cent of the electorate were soft Brexit or soft remain voters and these were the people that the campaign should target.
Ms West said that civic education was critical to counter the negative narratives in the right wing press.
Mr Dance: “How do you change the rules of the club if you leave the club and spent the last six months telling the club it was wrong?”
Reflecting on his roots, Mr Jones said that his constituency included the council estate where he grew up. He said: “Every Friday at surgery it breaks your heart: people stuck in awful housing and nurses going to food banks.
“Labour can’t help them in opposition. We need to be in government.”
He said that economic prosperity was required to fund the NHS. People voted leave out of desperation, he said, adding: “This self-harm will hurt them the most.”
Asked about the need to respect the will of the people who voted leave in the referendum, Mr Dunt said that the message was clear: “People don’t like the way things are so they give the whole system a damn good kicking.”
Later he said: “We need another referendum, another popular vote. Popular votes are not frozen in time. But people who give easy answers to difficult questions cannot be trusted.”
Ms West said that EU families were being split up and she said that their stories should be told to win the arguments.
She also said that she feared a realignment with America and a denial of climate change. She said that we needed to reframe the debate, giving people the facts about the NHS, adding: “It’s about how we educate people who ignore the wonderful history since the Second World War.
“We need to teach our own history again. My uncle is buried at Paschendale. We must reframe the question of fear.”
Mr Jones said: “We must make the emotional, economic case to protect jobs, increase wages and fund public services.”
Partners sponsoring the event on Sunday (24 September) included Brighton and Hove for the European Union, Britain for Europe, the European Movement UK and Scientists for the EU.
For more articles by Roz Scott, visit www.RozScott.com.
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