Originally called West Berkshire Stronger Together, West Berkshire for Europe formed as a result of the 2016 EU Referendum campaign.
The local StrongerIN team, which focused on Newbury, Hungerford and Thatcham, comprised of people from all political parties and none. Our local MP, Richard Benyon, was an active member of the original group and together we helped to secure a victory for Remain in West Berkshire, by a margin of 52% to 48% with an 80% turnout.
In the week after the result, a gathering was arranged for our group to share our disappointment in the national result, despite our local victory. Group meetings before the referendum were usually attended by up to 10 people: at this meeting nearly 30 people turned up. It was clear that for us the campaign was not over and we decided to continue to collaborate as West Berkshire Stronger Together.
We wanted to track the impact of the Brexit result locally and share that within our communities. We also wanted to ensure that Vote Leave was held to account for the promises it made, which were already unravelling a week after the referendum.
Finally, the group wanted to remind people that, although the country had voted to leave the EU organisation, we remain Europeans ourselves. We were disturbed to hear of local EU nationals being victims of abuse and wanted to demonstrate that we are proud to be an inclusive, tolerant community, by denouncing this anti-EU behaviour.
On 9th July 2016, we arranged a Stronger Together rally in Newbury, to share with others our response to Brexit: our concerns about the impact on jobs and on our children’s futures, and our abiding sense that we are stronger as a nation when we work together with the EU.
Almost 100 people attended the rally, listening to speakers from the local Liberal Democrat and Green parties as well as from West Berkshire Action for Refugees and West Berkshire Peace & Integration Forum. Many people signed up to join us that day.
We continue to be a cross-party alliance and want to ensure that our national representatives remember that West Berkshire voted to Remain.
In 2019, in recognition that we are no longer an isolated local campaign group, we decided to change our name to West Berkshire for Europe to show our solidarity with other grassroots organisations both within Berkshire and nationally.
We seek to share information with West Berkshire residents about what is happening locally and nationally in response to the referendum. We want to spread the positive messages about our relationship with the EU, which were lost in the negative noise of the referendum campaign, and ensure that local residents understand the impact that Brexit will have on our communities.
We hope to shape the local debate on what the best deal will be for West Berkshire as our national relationship with the EU is re-negotiated.
If you would like to join the group then you can follow us on Twitter, @WBSTEU and @wb4eu, sign up to our Facebook Page ‘West Berkshire for Europe‘ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org