Fringe Box



Letter: Packed Meeting Shows Concern Remains Over Brexit

Published on: 4 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 4 Feb, 2017

From Dale Miller

I attended a public meeting at the Guildford Institute on January 30 held by two grassroots organisations, Guildford in Europe and Surrey for Europe. The hall was packed with people from Guildford, Godalming and all over Surrey and we were treated to a talk by Hugo Dixon, a distinguished journalist, formerly with the Financial Times, and representatives of the two organisations.

I was relieved to realise there are other people who feel discontent with the way Brexit is shaping up.

The speakers set out the value of a continuing campaign of lobbying against the negative aspects of Brexit, jointly with other organisations that have sprung up all over the country.

The aim would be twofold: 1. to influence discussions with the EU; and 2. to lobby for a public vote on the outcome of negotiations, in case these did not come up to the peoples’ expectations. The aims made a lot of sense, whether one had voted to remain or to leave.

Guildford is a vibrant town, with bustling international businesses and an international centre for education, science, research and development, all of which are absolutely dependent on international cooperation and a fluid workforce for their success. Their presence in Guildford will surely dwindle over time without the openness that Guildford has been able to afford to the outside world, particularly as a result of its EU membership.

I voted with the majority in Guildford to remain in the EU. I was frustrated at the misinformation put out by the pro-Brexit campaign and the largely biased press that I believe, in the end, heavily influenced people in a way that was immoral and wrong.

It feels that our moment of democracy has been seized by those in power to run headlong towards a hard Brexit for which we did not vote at all. They are back in power and we are back in our boxes. I was glad that some people are still engaged with the process and our right to have a continuing say on Brexit is being acted upon.

Sadly, we will be the ones to bear the brunt of the lost jobs, business and tax revenues that will ensue from our door-slamming policy. And the cosying up to distant strong-man régimes such as the USA and Turkey, the first two major approaches made by our Prime Minister in the face of the new desperate isolation we suffer, cannot mathematically make up for what we will lose from our close association to our next-door neighbours and partners in Europe.

The Guildford Institute meeting was a breath of fresh air among the boisterous rhetoric of untruths and ugly jingoism, which has invaded us since the referendum last year. I trust Dragon readers will take heart and that some will support these organisations over the next two years. They should keep their eyes out for future events.


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Responses to Letter: Packed Meeting Shows Concern Remains Over Brexit

  1. John McDonald Reply

    February 4, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    I suspect the two grassroots organisations titles give one a flavour of how the meeting went.

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    February 4, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    “The hall was packed…”

    Very emotive, but hardly informative. Even the largest room for hire at the institute, the Assembly Room, has only a capacity of 70, according to Guildford Institute website.

  3. D Bisdee Reply

    February 4, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    I was at that meeting too, it was standing room only. The vision of a ‘Very Hard Brexit’ that Hugo Dixon put forward as a possible scenario, if talks do not go well, was very scary.

    I’m afraid I am not confident that our Brexit team are really up to the job. The country voted (marginally) for Brexit, but we did not vote to turn our country into an insignificant island offshore of Europe. The EU was never perfect, but the alternative is frightening. ‘Better the devil you know,’ is a saying with some relevance here.

    • John Perkins Reply

      February 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

      David Cameron once suggested that World War III might be a possible scenario. Scary indeed. But hardly credible.

  4. Bernard Parke Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 10:59 am

    The word democracy has been used in the submission above.

    The embryonic Iron and Steel Community founded in 1957 as a safeguard against France and Germany going to war again, which later developed into the Common Market and later still into the European Union, can hardly by described as being democratic.

    We voted to join the Common Market and nothing more in the seventies.

    Do we really now wish to be governed by Brussels or do we want to be masters of our our destiny?

    Our parents and grandparents fought and died in two world wars against domination from Europe.

    Did they make this sacrifice in vain?

  5. Ian Stewart Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Neither Dave Middleton nor John McDonald provides any constructive comment that might reassure those of us from amongst the majority of Guildford voters who voted to remain and are now worried sick about the future.

    The White Paper on Leaving the EU para 8.27-8.35 reveals the dense web of connections in energy, transport and communications that the UK is planning to leave, putting our economy at risk. Paras 10.12-10.14 deal with the great success the UK has had in EU space and science collaboration that it is now leaving (and with specific risks to Surrey University, and space programme research). All of this against the rather pathetic hope expressed that negotiated agreements will allow us to more or less continue as before but outside the EU.

    The plan to leave anything in which the European Court of Justice is involved means ditching decades of co-operation in dozens of EU agencies from Euratom (of which the UK was a founding member) to the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority and many more. All will have to be replicated and their work kept in line with the EU agencies if we are to have any continued relationship with the other 27 countries, thus duplicating effort and removing ourselves from decision making.

    It is now eight months since the vote and I have not seen a single coherent vision of the UK outside the EU that is better than staying in, with all the influence and benefits that brings. The White Paper is full of pious hope that our EU partners will give us all that we want without the cost and I don’t find that convincing.

    So, Leavers, you won. Tell me specifically how Guildford, Surrey and the UK as a whole is going to be better off outside the EU.

    • Dave Middleton Reply

      February 5, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      My comment, second from the top above, had nothing to do with the subject matter of so called “Brexit”.

      It was merely drawing attention to a, possibly unintentional, description of the attendance of the meeting that maybe gave the impression that the meeting had a larger attendance than it actually did.

      “The hall was packed” is obviously rather vague. “The hall was packed with 70 people” or, “The hall was packed with 100 people” would have been more accurate and informative.

  6. Robert Park Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I’m sorry to disagree profoundly with a distinguished local figure, but Bernard Parke’s statements and his view of the EU are profoundly wrong. We didn’t simply join a trading arrangement in the 70s.

    Edward Heath made it very plain that we were joining something well beyond a common market, and the Wilson government also made that very clear in the extensive literature that was supplied at the time of the 1975 referendum.

    We are not “governed by Brussels”. We are a voluntary member of a co-operative federation of independent states who have pooled a little sovereignty for the common good of all.

    Like all the other states, we have a block of democratically elected MEPs and our PM is a member of the European Council. Jointly those two bodies decide who are offered positions as Commissioners.

    The reference to two world wars is, with respect, over-blown nonsense. In no sense whatsoever do we suffer “domination from Europe”.

    How on earth can an intelligent man like Alderman Parke possibly compare the pooled sovereignty in the European confederation with potential subjugation by Hitler? The EU has played a significant role in preventing the horrors of the wars that he talks about.

  7. Paul Bishop Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I’m struggling to see what the point of this meeting was. It reads as though it was simply a couple of like-minded groups being given a talk about the very thing they agree on. I’m not really sure what this shows other than like minded people like to get together.

    If those who attended are so concerned about what this may mean for the borough, well how about they find some proactive ways to prevent their doomsday scenario from happening. Sitting in a room with others of the same view and moaning won’t help anything except allow you all to feel superior.

  8. David Pillinger Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I haven’t met Bernard Parke, but my guess is that he is of a certain generation because he brings up the war.

    Thankfully, the new generation of Britons, who can’t tell Churchill from Roosevelt, have never heard of Dunkirk and don’t have an iota of interest in the war are replacing the attitudes of hate and conflict so espoused by certain members of the older generation.

    To bang on about the war is embarrassing and cringe-worthy.

    • C Stevens Reply

      February 6, 2017 at 11:37 am

      “….the new generation of Britons, who can’t tell Churchill from Roosevelt, have never heard of Dunkirk and don’t have an iota of interest in the war, are replacing the attitudes of hate and conflict so espoused by certain members of the older generation.”

      I think this must translate as the new generation who don’t know anything about anything. But I’m sure that Mr Pillinger will know that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  9. Robert Park Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    I can assure Paul Bishop that there was no “moaning” in that room. We are well past the stage of simply expressing how upset we feel.

    We came up, in outline, with many ways of influencing both public opinion and the actions of decision makers such as our MPs. These included public meetings, street stalls, letters to the press, involvement in broadcasts, information and propaganda on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and particularly communication with our local MPs.

    We also discussed how best to co-operate with other like-minded groups in other parts of the country, and with other organisations like Scientists for EU and the European Movement.

    National and local management committees are being set up and significant funds have been raised. Our principal objective is to ensure that parliament has a vote on the government’s proposed agreements with the EU early enough in the negotiations so that if, as we expect, they have in mind a deal which would be a disaster, it can be thrown out and the government can be sent back to renegotiate.

    We are not moaning – we are fighting to avoid this appalling fate engulfing our country.

  10. Bernard Parke Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    “A distinguished local figure” and intelligent at that!

    I disagree with my name sake for I would say that I am neither.

    I am just an ordinary person who feels strongly for the future of our children and grandchildren.

    May I add that when I and others voted in the seventies referendum we did not vote for a United States of Europe.

  11. Catherine Barrett Reply

    February 6, 2017 at 7:24 am

    As a Remainer I really appreciated seeing this letter.

    It is a relief to see this event went on and those of us who are deeply disappointed with the outcome of the referendum are numerous and taking the results seriously.

  12. John Perkins Reply

    February 6, 2017 at 10:24 am

    I fail to see what possible relevance is the suggestion that Bernard Parke might be “of a certain generation”. Older people have a right to their opinions and they are no less valid for being formed by experience not available to, and by knowledge not considered useful by, those who are younger.

    Nowhere in his correspondence does Mr. Parke espouse “attitudes of hate and conflict”. On the other hand, Robert Park claims to be “fighting”.

  13. H. Trevor Jones Reply

    February 6, 2017 at 11:04 am

    If we wanted the UK to be totally independent of everyone else, that’s a robust view I strongly disagree with as I prefer nations to work together for the common good of humanity, but if we are trying to replace European trade agreements with American and Asian/Australian ones, what is the sense of that swap, given the extra pecuniary and environmental costs of transporting goods across the oceans instead of just across the English Channel?

    • David Pillinger Reply

      February 7, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Superbly put, by Mr Jones.

      Plus let’s not forget the fact that the EU Single Market is not only free of tariffs but also free of non-tariff barriers. The dreaded EU directives, that all countries had to enact to homogenise the quality and standards of all products and services delivered or provided by all EU nations, made that possible.

      “Free trade” agreements with the USA and Burundi will suffer from the more harmful non-tariff barriers e.g. we will not want hormone enhanced beef from the USA, so they will not want our insurance products and so on.

  14. David Pillinger Reply

    February 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    While one admires the Brexiteers’ devotion to their nation, it is unfortunate that this, at some point, becomes incompatible with the very things that have brought us the increasing prosperity and security that our forebears could not provide us.

    My father, for example, had to sleep for part of his youth in a bomb shelter, and later as a family we had to suffer the economic hardships and stresses of unemployment of the 1970s.

    These things are inconceivable today. To go back to those dark days of mistrust of and barriers against our neighbours is not a solution, and no amount of trade deals elsewhere in the world can mathematically replace the loss that will be suffered from pulling up the drawbridge with Europe.

    This is a certainty of which we are already beginning to feel the negative effects.

    • C Stevens Reply

      February 8, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      I don’t understand where this idea of “pulling up the drawbridge with Europe” comes from.

      Everything I’ve heard Theresa May say points towards a determination to be able to buy from and sell to Europe, in addition to buying from and selling to the rest of the world. I don’t think anyone has suggested that markets in Europe and markets in the rest of the world are mutually exclusive. Except perhaps the EU.

      As for security, Mr Pillinger may have noticed visitors to the Louvre being ushered into secure areas the other day and seen the police in London patrolling armed with machine guns. The war we’re fighting now is just different from the one his father went through.

      In financial terms we’re heading into our ninth year of austerity. If “economic hardships….are inconceivable today”, I don’t see why we have food banks in Guildford.

      As each day passes, the implementation of last June’s vote looks more and more certain. I think we’ll survive and do ok, but it won’t be any the easier if people go into the post-Brexit world convinced that doom and gloom awaits.

  15. John Armstrong Reply

    February 9, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Mr Pillinger claims that the EU has brought us increasing prosperity. I don’t know if Mr Pillinger watches the same news and current affairs that I do; but what I see is young families in dire straights, both parents working but still nothing left at months end for savings. Can’t afford a house, can’t afford a car. Reminds me of my Mum and Dad in the fifties; except that we didn’t have to use food banks. That is not what I call increasing prosperity.

    Politicians are only now realising the terrible mistake that was made decades ago. The chickens are coming home to roost for: repealing the apprenticeship act in 1969, selling off our industry, selling off our utilities that are now hiking their prices, allowing investors to buy up acres of housing stock to leave empty while prices rise, dumbing down education because we didn’t need middle income jobs any more, and now we have to import the skills we used to export. Was this far sighted?

    EU membership has crippled this country. We survive now on borrowed money, much of which we either give away, spend on projects that we don’t need or use to pay benefits because we are now a low wage economy and the tax revenues are not meeting expenditure.

    The NHS has suffered too thanks to EU directives on compulsory competitive tendering. We have been forced to introduce the profit motive into our NHS. So now we have to pay for someone’s profit as well as our own treatment.

    There is nothing wrong with Europe. It is the EU that is the problem.

    John Arstrong is the chair of Guildford Ukip.

  16. John Armstrong Reply

    February 12, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    A persistent characteristic, it would appear, of those aggrieved at the referendum result is an irresistible tendency to melodrama. Those who feel hard done by always overdo it.

    I know that it can be alarming for those who are used to things being a certain way but change is coming and you just have to embrace it or be left behind.

    We are often asked to “celebrate” things theses days. I think we should celebrate our democracy and the fact that it is worth voting after all. So rather than panic and clutching at straws with exaggerated prophesies of doom, learn to swim – business will.

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