For over 70 years, the UK’s European Movement has championed political, economic, social and cultural integration across the continent. It primarily exists to promote close ties with our European neighbours and to support the shared values of peace, democracy, human rights and political, economic, social, cultural and educational cooperation. Today, it is the leading voice calling for the UK to rejoin the EU.
Across the UK, the 25th of March has been designated “National Rejoin Day.” Members and supporters of the European Movement in Scotland (EMiS) will gather in Edinburgh to develop a communication plan to make sure rejoining the EU is at the top of the political agenda.
Despite the blow of the 2016 referendum, EMiS members are buoyantly confident that support for rejoining the EU is now increasingly the British public’s preferred direction of travel.
Public opinion swings towards rejoin
Public opinion has swung dramatically away from Brexit. A poll published in late February says 61% of people in the UK now want back in the EU, with just 31% opting for staying out. Scotland, which voted 62% Remain in 2016, has seen support for rejoining climb as high as 69%.
Voters also recognise that the cost-of-living crisis has been worsened by Brexit.
Post-pandemic travel has reminded British people that they have lost the guaranteed, visa-free, legal right to visit EU countries and stay as long as they wish. The right to work anywhere in the EU has been lost. Researchers at Scottish universities despair at the loss of funds from pan-EU collaborative research activities.
Major firms are calling for much closer trading ties with the EU. In essence, they mean a return to, or as close as possible to, the Customs Union and the Single Market
Under the terms of the new Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol, that part of the UK will stay inside the Single Market indefinitely. Now, all the other parts of the UK have a competitor part of the UK that, uniquely, offers access to both the UK market and the EU Single Market. Announcing the revised protocol, Rishi Sunak called Northern Ireland “the world’s most exciting economic zone”.
While the potential of the new Protocol to return Northern Ireland to political stability is very welcome, there are fears in some other parts of the UK that business and investment will be sucked away, tempted by the benefits full access to the Single Market will provide. It is an unsustainable position. Both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are sending signals that closer trade ties with the EU should be high on the political agenda in the coming years, with a possible eye to the next general election. A core element of the case for an independent Scotland is the potential to take the country back into the mainstream of European nations, as an EU member state.
It may take a few years, but it is now almost inevitable that the rest of the UK will enjoy many, perhaps all, of the benefits of the Single Market. Once in the Single Market, the door will be open to re-joining the EU as full members.
David Clarke, the chair of the EMiS says,
“We are keeping alive the flame of European Union membership. While there’s a long road ahead, the wind is now set fair.”
Martin Roche is a member of the EMiS Executive Committee