By Bev Haigh-Jones
As advertised, on 4 February CfE took part in the National Day of Action called by the European Movement to protest against the REUL Bill. Many of our supporters joined us for at least part of the time and some had travelled from as far afield as Penzance, Torpoint and even Plymouth to do so. We are particularly grateful to Keith, who not only travelled the furthest distance, but also took the majority of the photographs and provided an excellent write up on the day for our group Facebook page.
Prior to the event we did, of course, advertise it widely on social media, via Mailchimp and also via a press release to local publications giving details of the day in the hope of some coverage. Unfortunately, this was not forthcoming. Local media interest in Brexit related issues appears to be minimal, to say the least.
In common with thirty-six other pro-EU groups across the country, we had leaflets available giving additional information, as well as links for signing an online petition and an open letter to the local press. As Cornwall is a somewhat unique area where people travel regularly between constituencies, we also had open letters to each of our six MPs available for signature. Last, but definitely not least, we had a large “Save Our Standards” banner on display as well as the usual “Opionmeter” board, which produced an extremely definitive result.
The main purpose of the day was to ensure that the public were aware of the REUL Bill and the potential consequences if it passes into law unamended. Having already passed its three readings in the House of Commons, it is now with the Lords and only they can stop it in its tracks.
We’ve already seen a weakening of some of these laws, even though they are still on the Statute Book. For example, the latest vote saw water companies being given fifteen more years in which to pollute our rivers and beaches, and yet another temporary lifting of the ban on bee-killing pesticides. These actions are totally unacceptable at a time when it has been globally agreed that climate change is accelerating, and urgent action is needed.
It was a very busy day for us on our stall in Truro, and fortunately, many of the people we spoke to were very aware of what this Bill could mean for standards within the UK, and they were just as opposed to it as we were ourselves. This was borne out by the fact that our open letter to the press, urging the six Cornish MPs to oppose the bill, was signed by sixty people in the space of a few hours. This letter was later sent out to local media by our Press Officer, along with an accompanying statement (as below), though we have not been made aware that any of them have taken it to print.
“For Immediate Release
Cornwall for Europe, the campaigners for the UK to rejoin the EU, are urging MPs to reject the Retained EU Law Bill, currently working its way through Parliament. They have written an open letter, with many members of the public signing an open letter to MPs. The proposed Law would give Ministers the authority to scrap laws which govern the way we trade, workplace rules and environmental rules. There are believed to be over 4000 legally binding rules which are being considered. They could be changed without proper debate in Parliament. (Editors see attachments of letter and signatories)
Chair of Cornwall for Europe, Howard Farmer, said: “All businesses and trade need rules to ensure the rights of people are protected; whether as consumers or employees. Over many years we have agreed amicably with our European neighbours about safety rules for consumer goods, workers’ rights, protection of the environment, food labelling and many other issues. Yet our Government wants to have the power to scrap such Laws overnight. This is neither democratic nor practical as a policy. It means fundamental rights could be ended without proper debate. We hope our MPs will take these concerns seriously.””
It seems that our local media are currently focused on other things, so we can only hope for more support for future events and campaigns.
The open letters addressed to each of the individual MPs also received multiple signatures, and whilst as a result of our location, being in the Truro & Falmouth constituency, that was the one that received the greatest number of signatures, every letter was signed. Sadly, however, when we forwarded these open letters to the six MPs via email, we received only four automated responses. There was no response at all from Sheryll Murray MP, or Scott Mann MP, though we did also receive a second email from Steve Double stating that he was not able to respond to the open letter as the stall had taken place outside his constituency, but added that individual constituents could contact him directly.
We will not be stopping there, however and another stall has been arranged in Falmouth on 24 February, with further ones to follow if the Bill is still in process. We believe that approval of this Bill would set a dangerous precedent, since it would allow Ministers to repeal laws, many of which relate to our rights, without recourse to Parliament. Assurances from MPs that this would not be the case, or that they would only seek to improve standards are not sufficient, we need these rights to be protected by law and democracy. This is particularly important now that the latest rumours suggest that Rishi Sunak is considering removing the UK from the ECHR, taking away our last port of call when our human rights are threatened.
The danger that our laws, the environment, and the UK population face if this REUL Bill succeeds, does not bear thinking about, as highlighted in a recent speech in Parliament by Alyn Smith.
The European Movement still have their online petition active, so if you haven’t signed it yet, you can do so here. They also have a draft letter that can be used to contact your MP directly, should you wish to use it. Write to your MP.
Our REUL Bill follow-up stall, which took place on 24 February in Falmouth, was another successful event.
The weather was cold, but fortunately the welcome from most of those whom we met was much warmer. There were one or two people who believed that repealing laws that protect us is a good idea, since they were foisted on us by the EU in the first place, but by far the vast majority thought that the whole thing is appalling. We did receive fewer stickers on the board than last time, but we were standing for two hours less and nevertheless, during that time fourteen new people signed up as CfE members.
We came across some people who were not aware of the Bill, were aghast to hear the detail and bewildered as to why our media is not shouting this from the rooftops. Of those who were already aware almost all opposed it.
We also spoke to at least two people who admitted to having voted for Brexit, but freely said that they now wished that they hadn’t, but they had believed the lies at the time. One has changed his mind to such a degree that he has signed up as a member of CfE and this is exactly what we need — not just for the dedicated remainers to remain constant, but for the leave community to change sides and be proud to do it. That is the only way that we will return to our place in the EU.
There will be more events in the coming weeks and months, focusing on this and other important issues, so please keep an eye out for Events on our Facebook page: Cornwall for Europe or on our website.