We are a group of citizens who are about to launch a national campaign seeking to postpone the Brexit date. We will do this by means of a parliamentary petition urging the UK Parliament to request an extension of Article 50.
The undersigned are EU citizens living in the UK; UK citizens living across the EU, and UK citizens who were between 16 and 18 years old at the time of the Brexit referendum. None of us were allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum.
We respect the choice of all those who could vote and we recognize the democratic outcome of the vote. If we had been able to vote, most of us would probably have voted Remain. Some of us may have voted Leave. All of us sympathize with the valid reasons of many of those who voted Remain, and understand and share the motives of many of those who voted Leave. Fundamentally, we believe in democracy.
In six months time, the UK is scheduled to exit the European Union. Article 50 requires that the UK government must sign a deal with the EU about their future relationship before 29th March 2019 , or leave with No Deal. The withdrawal agreement will be one of the most consequential decisions for the present generation and those to come. It will directly affect the lives of millions of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, with unpredictable ramifications for all 28 EU member states and neighbouring countries.
This is why we are worried about the lack of progress in the negotiations between the UK and the EU. And we are equally, if not more, worried about the state of the debate about Brexit in Britain. More than two years after the referendum and one and a half years after the triggering of Article 50, there is still no clarity about what the government, the Parliament, and the country as a whole, want. There is, in fact, utter confusion and division at all levels.
During the summer, the government suffered significant resignations over its Chequers plan which was widely criticised within the parties supporting the government and vehemently opposed by all the opposition parties. There is no convergence at all in Parliament on the terms of the Brexit bill. The right wing of the Tory party seems increasingly more committed to a No Deal Brexit, without any form of compromise with the EU.
Despite the Prime Minister’s insistence that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, it is clear that the inability to reach a deal would be a catastrophe for most of us. From one day to the next about £554 billion in trade between the UK and the EU would suddenly be subject to customs and levies under WTO rules with likely disruptions in many chains of production and distribution. The free movement of people travelling from the UK to the EU (and vice versa) would come to an end with obvious consequences in harbours and airports. All EU grants supporting UK institutions and other EU-funded activities would be suspended simultaneously generating chaos in several institutions. Most worryingly, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would come into force, endangering the Good Friday Agreement which put an end to 40 years of Troubles.
In a joint letter to the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the3Million and the coalition of British in Europe, who together represent almost 3 million EU citizens in the UK and more than 1 million UK citizens in the EU, highlighted the risk that the rights of those citizens might become “collateral damage” in a “dangerous political game” ending up in a No Deal Brexit. We fully share their concerns.
Much of the confusion and the division that we are seeing in the Brexit debate are due to the duress of an arbitrary deadline which has effectively stifled debate. No one really needs to finalise Brexit before the 29 March 2019: let us be reminded that Article 50 was never intended to be executed by a democratic country which has been a member of the union for 45 years and which would crash out in a disorderly fashion in just two years. It was introduced to make it easier to suspend a dictatorial regime. More time and a better democratic process would be required to reach a sensible deal supported by a wide consensus, preventing the risks of a No Deal Brexit and diffusing the tensions accumulated in an increasingly toxic debate.
This is why we think we should collectively Take a Break from Brexit and postpone the Brexit deadline (as allowed by Article 50 if the seceding country requests it and the EU council agrees) and why we have set our minds on running a national campaign to this end. We would like to ask for a significant and sensible extension which will provide sufficient time for a democratic discussion and a true national debate on Brexit.
An extension of Article 50 would have at least three major positive effects. In the short term, it would allow the UK to participate in the May 2019 European elections. This would both allow EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens everywhere to participate in the discussion on the future of the Continent and the decisions shaping its political direction for the next parliamentary term. It would also allow more time for a democratic discussion on the main issues of the negotiations, inside and outside the UK, and to reach a sensible agreement between the UK and the EU. Finally, it would allow sufficient time to make provisions for the people in the UK with the means to have an appropriately informed last word on the results of the negotiations, whether through a referendum or a general election. We have an opportunity to demand all-inclusive democracy, to shape the discussion and create our vision for our future relationship with Europe – but we must act now.
We have set up a Facebook page and a platform to crowdfund our campaign. We will welcome everyone who wants to join us, whether a Leaver or a Remainer, British or European, conservative or progressive. We are determined to be listened to and for our ideas to be discussed by all Citizens as well as in Parliament. Neither the flaws of the EU, nor those of the UK will be tackled by rushing this historical decision.