Brexit and the future of the NHS

On Sat 13 January, members of West Berkshire Stronger Together took to Northbrook Street in Newbury to talk to residents about Brexit and the future of the NHS.

The potential impact of Brexit on the NHS is extremely concerning. In a recent Lancet article, ‘How will Brexit affect health and health services in the UK?’, the effects on health were described as ranging “from somewhat negative to very negative, with few opportunities [and] the harder the Brexit, the worse the effects, with no deal being the worst of all.”

It was a good to have this opportunity to talk to local people and listen to their concerns.


Guy Verhofstadt’s letter to West Berkshire Stronger Together

In April, West Berkshire Stronger Together wrote to Guy Verhofstadt expressing our desire to remain EU citizens and engage with him to ensure that we are not stripped of our rights.

Today we received his reply and confirmation of his desire to support those of us who continue to “feel European”, irrespective of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

We are deeply grateful to Mr Verhofstadt for his response and his assurance that our voices are being heard.

Let us know your thoughts on his letter.

Dear all,

First of all, let me apologise for the delay in replying to your email and thank you for your support.  In this difficult negotiating process, it is good to know that citizens are on our side.

I fully understand your concerns. One cannot hide from the fact that the withdrawal of the UK from the EU may have negative consequences for citizens. Safeguarding citizens’ rights is a priority for the EU in its talks with the UK, and the European Parliament has made it very clear from the beginning that it is citizens first.

From the moment this process started, I have been convinced that some sort of special solution needs to be found for individual citizens, like the members of West Berkshire Stronger Together, who want to maintain their ties with the European Union.

However, I have to say that this will be difficult, but what I will promise is that I will do everything I can for people like you who feel European.  You are not alone and your voice is being heard.

Kind regards,

Guy Verhofstadt

WBST attend Britain for Europe Conference

On 24th October 7 members of WBST attended a Pro EU Lobby and conference at the QEII Centre in Westminster organised by the cross-party Britain for Europe organisation.

A series of speakers representing all major parties addressed the conference, along with leading members of Britain for Europe and other pro EU groups.

Speakers at the Conference included David Lammy MP (Labour), Dominic Grieve QC MP (Conservative), Caroline Lucas MP (Green) and Wera Hobhouse MP (Lib Dem).

David Lammy opened the conference and told the audience: “Delivering a Brexit that will satisfy the Conservative Party, let alone the country, will be impossible”.

Dominic Grieve, encouraged attendees to carry on campaigning and to remember Brexit Minister and colleague David Davis’s own words: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.” Mr Grieve has spent a great deal of time studying the legal aspects of preventing Brexit. He believes that it could be stopped if there is a change in public opinion.

Wera Hobhouse reported on her experiences of winning her seat in Bath at the General Election by campaigning with a strongly pro-EU message.

Several speakers put forward suggestions on how to take the pro-EU campaign forward:

  • Talk to soft ‘leavers’ – use local arguments to persuade them to change their minds, such as citing examples of local healthcare workers, teachers and others deciding to return to Europe in the face of an uncertain future in the UK
  • Point out the impact that the fall in the value of the pound has already had on household spending on food
  • Most people have more in common with immigrants than politicians. Many people when challenged will admit that immigration is not a problem in their own area

During the afternoon 6 of the WBST group crossed the street to the Houses of Parliament to meet with Richard Benyon MP. In response to questions from the group, Mr Benyon said that although he had been a strong campaigner for Remain he had accepted the result of the referendum. He said he would do his best to ensure that Britain got the best deal possible. In particular, he is working with Greener UK to ensure that any new environmental legislation matches that of the EU.

Mr Benyon strongly believes that ‘No Deal’ is not an option and he would support ‘stopping the clock’ if this meant there was a chance of a better deal. He is also confident that MPs will be given a vote on the final Deal. However, its clear that currently he will only follow the government line.

Tom Bruffato, Chair of Britain for Europe, stated clearly that Article 50 is revocable – parliament has the power to reverse it.

At the conclusion of the conference we were urged to:

  • Continue campaigning
  • Keep lobbying MP’s and show them that public opinion is shifting to a pro-EU stance
  • Encourage pro-EU MP’s to come forward and work for an ‘Exit from Brexit’
  • Keep saying that we want a vote on the deal.

Ceinwen Lally, WBST Member

29 October 2017

People’s March for Europe: ‘those who voted Leave were lied to’

On Saturday 9 March 2017, thousands of anti-Brexit protesters descended on London to express their anger at the impact leaving the European Union is already having on our country.

Speaking to the Independent, West Berkshire Stronger Together member Tony Vickers said he was not angry with those who voted to Leave the EU:

“They were lied to, and those poor sods are going to get poorer – while the rich politicians who led the Leave campaign, the ones with dosh, are going to be okay.”

What impact is Brexit having for you? Is it helping or hindering you, your family and your business?


Democratic Challenge

Stephen Dorrell, chair of the European Movement UK, has challenged the Brexiteers’ position that to oppose Brexit is to be undemocratic.

In his article in The Independent earlier this week, he discusses how circumstances, reality and opinions are naturally subject to change: “Democracy is the means by which the ministers … are subject to constant challenge, and required to provide day by day explanation and justification for the actions they take in our name.”

So to challenge is democratic … just as those in favour of leaving the EU have been challenging our membership since 1975!

£156, not £350 million!

Treasury figures have confirmed that, in the year to March 2017, our contribution to the EU was £156m a week. This is less than half, 44.5% to be exact, of the £350m figure loudly boasted on the side of Vote Leave’s infamous battle bus in last year’s Referendum campaign.

The facts are that our gross contribution was £325 million a week, but before the money was sent to the EU our rebate was deducted. Once you factor in the EU’s payments to us, something Vote Leave seemed to forget about, we paid £156 million a week.

This is a small percentage of our national GDP: once you consider all the benefits we get in trade, travel, education opportunities, and in working collaborative on issues such as the environment and workers’ rights, it seems to be a very good deal indeed to me.

The Brexit deal we are looking at now seems likely to do only 2 things: cost us more and benefit us less.

I would like to see the full potential cost to our country of that ‘£350m’ lie calculated and billed to Messrs Gove and Johnson: see if they still want to pursue a hard Brexit then.

We stand with Manchester

Our thoughts today are with the victims of the attack in Manchester and anyone affected by this dreadful atrocity.

This is an awful tragedy, but it also inspiring to see the reaction of our emergency services and the people of Manchester #WeStandTogether

Meeting with the General Election Candidates

On Wednesday 24th May, West Berkshire Stronger Together will be meeting with candidates for the Newbury Constituency in the General Election.

The public meeting will take place at 7pm in the Parish Room of St John’s Church Newbury.

The following candidates have confirmed that they will be attending:

  • Alex Skirvin – Labour Party
  • David Yates – Apolitical Group
  • Judith Bunting – Liberal Democrats
  • Paul Field – Green Party

Richard Benyon was invited to the event, but declined the invitation advising that he was only attending events organised by independent organisations. As a cross-party group, containing members of all political parties and none, we are disappointed not to qualify as an ‘independent’ organisation in Mr Benyon’s eyes.

However, those attending will be able to ask questions of the candidate’s present on the issues that matter to local people in the general election.

If you would like to come, please comment below so that we have an idea of numbers.

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