Let’s face elephant in the room of this General Election

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Brexit dominated the 2019 General Election. So, it’s remarkable how little attention it’s getting in the parties’ current campaigning.

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Brexit’s been the elephant in the room so far of this General Election

So Leeds for Europe’s parent body, European Movement UK, wants to shake things up a bit with its blueprint for the next Parliament - “The Manifesto on Europe”.

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Peter Packham (left) and Leeds for Europe Chair Richard Wilson at Parliament for MPs’ Brexit debate.Peter Packham (left) and Leeds for Europe Chair Richard Wilson at Parliament for MPs’ Brexit debate.
Peter Packham (left) and Leeds for Europe Chair Richard Wilson at Parliament for MPs’ Brexit debate.

The full document is on the European Movement’s website. Its four headings:

  • Commit to an improved, closer relationship with Europe.

  • Commit to cooperation with the EU - including associate membership of European agencies and re-joining programmes such as Erasmus+.

  • Stop Brexit’s erosion of UK rights and standards …at least match those in the EU.

The Erasmus+ meeting was chaired by Jas Olak, with speakers (left) Cameron Thompson and Ray Kirtley.The Erasmus+ meeting was chaired by Jas Olak, with speakers (left) Cameron Thompson and Ray Kirtley.
The Erasmus+ meeting was chaired by Jas Olak, with speakers (left) Cameron Thompson and Ray Kirtley.
  • Commission an independent ‘State of the Nation’ assessment of Brexit’s impact.

Leeds for Europe was especially pleased to see that last one! You may recall we were behind a parliamentary petition that quickly topped the 10,000 signatures needed to guarantee a ministerial response (“Petition for public inquiry into Brexit reaches 30,000 signatures in just two days”, Yorkshire Evening Post website, November 21 2022).

Debate success

It went on to secure more than 200,000 signatures and an April 2023 debate in the House of Commons, which can still be viewed on the Parliament website.

Contributor Peter Packham promoting Brexit impact petition at March 2023 Leeds city centre demo.Contributor Peter Packham promoting Brexit impact petition at March 2023 Leeds city centre demo.
Contributor Peter Packham promoting Brexit impact petition at March 2023 Leeds city centre demo.

“A new Parliament and the next government must be upfront and honest about the realities,” says European Movement.

We need to have an honest conversation about Brexit and how to tackle the disastrous situation we are in - especially with more and more people showing Bregret,” says the NationalWorld website.

Music to our ears

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Leeds for Europe with students and speakers at the February 2024 Erasmus+ meeting.Leeds for Europe with students and speakers at the February 2024 Erasmus+ meeting.
Leeds for Europe with students and speakers at the February 2024 Erasmus+ meeting.

Early success looks likely for one of the European Movement’s ideas - a visa to make it easier for musicians to tour European Union countries. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves - technically no longer MP for Leeds West but the Labour Party’s candidate for the new Leeds West & Pudsey seat - has pledged to “fix the European touring crisis”.

If a new government is looking for another easy win, how about re-joining the Erasmus+ study and work scheme? That’s in the manifesto, too.

Positive about Erasmus+

Leeds for Europe held a public meeting on that topic in February this year, in conjunction with the European Union Society at Leeds University and the UK Global Learning Association for Schools. Highlighted was the damage caused to both the prospects for Britain’s upcoming generations and the UK education sector.

That harm looks even more tragic and unnecessary if you recall that ditching Erasmus+ wasn’t even meant to be a requirement for Brexit “success”. Don’t worry - Leave propaganda promised - we’d still be part of Erasmus+ …even outside the EU. A lie.

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The Manifesto on Europe” is a must-read for all parliamentary candidates …or at least those who think they’ve a serious shot at being part of either a new government or an effective opposition after July 4.

Eventually, those politicians will have to acknowledge and deal with the elephant in the room.

* Peter Packham is Treasurer and Social Media Officer at Leeds for Europe. He runs the group’s Facebook page, which has more than 65,000 followers. He’s member of the European Movement’s National Executive.