The PM has betrayed us all but, with your help, we’re fighting back and shining a light on the effects of Brexit. This Sunday (11 April 2021) marks 100 days since the formal end of the transition period and the UK’s new status as a “third country” so I’m here to give you the highlights.
Even before the transition period ended on 31 January, it was clear that, although the fish were apparently “better and happier” (according to the Honourable Member for the 18th Century, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP), the UK’s fishing industry was in danger of collapse. Almost 10,000 people signed our petition calling on the Government to urgently remove the barriers to trade that Brexit has placed between the fishing industry and the markets they depend on, and to compensate fishing communities for the economic damage it has caused in the meantime. Just a few days later, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced £23 million to support businesses “adjusting to new export requirements.” The Scottish Fisherman’s Federation summed up the whole debacle; "This, on top of the desperately poor deal on fisheries in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, is not what you promised the fishing industry."
Once the transition period did end on 31 January, and Brexit officially took place, we gave the Prime Minister a chance to put his anti-democratic ways behind him and to join our efforts to revitalise democracy across the UK. More than 6,300 people joined us in urging Boris Johnson to profess his wholehearted and undying love for democracy (SPOILER ALERT: he didn’t).
When the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was found to have acted unlawfully and more than £10 billion had been spent without a competitive tender – in part because MPs’ contacts got priority; with or without any relevant experience – we wrote to members of parliament across the UK and asked them what they were doing to uphold the law. Shortly after, on budget day (3 March), the government attempted to take out the trash while it thought no one was watching with a unilateral extension of grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland ports.
In a move that European Commission Vice-President and co-chair of the EU-UK Joint Committee, Maroš Šefčovič called “a clear departure from the constructive approach,” the government once again signalled its willingness to disregard international law and we felt compelled to write to MPs once again. More than 6,500 letters were sent to 639 MPs and, while some of the responses were disappointing, many others committed to do everything they could to hold their colleagues to account in the House of Commons.
Perhaps the most incredible thing to happen so far in post-Brexit Britain was the government’s attempt to force through the Second Reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the subsequent protest which seriously annoyed the Home Secretary. A permanent constraint on peaceful protest that could land people with up to ten years’ imprisonment for causing “serious annoyance,” almost 30,000 people signed the petition to tell the Home Secretary that government cannot be allowed to bury our democratic rights just because it suits them to do so. Days later the Home Secretary delayed the next stages of the Bill until the Summer but the battle is not yet won and we will be watching developments very closely.
We are [still] seriously annoyed and we will not be silenced.
In happier news, on the first day of Spring we launched PR2028, the campaign for proportional representation in time for the centenary of the Equal Franchise Act of 1928. We believe that this is an essential part of the process to fix the flaws in our democracy and that if the House of Commons genuinely represented voters then we wouldn’t have had the Brexit disaster we now face (in part because in 2019 more than 50% of votes cast were for pro-People’s Vote candidates). So far, 21,605 people have signed the petition calling on the government to establish a national citizens’ assembly to consider how different forms of proportional representation might improve public confidence in, and engagement with, the democratic system, and to make recommendations to Parliament. While we await government action, we’ve already started engaging with fellow campaigners and begun to plan an independent national citizens’ assembly if the government refuse to call one by February 2022.
We also launched the #Plan2Vote initiative. In the lead up to elections on 6 May, we’re encouraging voters to consider who is best placed to protect them, their families and communities. With more than 5,000 vacancies to fill in England, Scotland and Wales, the #Plan2Vote initiative will call on people to vote for the future they want to see.
As the impacts of Brexit become increasingly clear, Open Britain will continue calling them out and forcing the government to mitigate its extremist urges. We want to see a Safer, Healthier, more Open, more Competitive, and Kinder debate in the United Kingdom.
Join us in our efforts to Make Democracy Work...For Everyone.