Voices from the Beehive: Brexit is Personal
Do you feel helpless in the face of Brexit?
How does Brexit affect you and your future?
Do you feel you are alone and your voice isn’t being heard?
You are not alone.
We at The Final Say For All Foundation run Beehive events, where you can meet and chat with others in a friendly setting.
Come join us for a drink and, if you want, tell us why Brexit is personal for you. With your permission, we can record your story and combine it with others from our Beehives across the country. Our aim is to distribute them to MPs, journalists and other powerful figures so that the real voice of the people is heard in the corridors of power.
We are many and we will not be silenced.
On Friday 18th June the Final Say For All Foundation sent the email below out 469 times in an attempt to have it land on the editors desk of every single newspaper in the U.K.
Fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised is a huge part of our work, as is holding the governement to account for it’s promises.
There two huge ways you can support us in this work. One is to contact both your local newspaper, and us, with the story of how you are personally affected because #BrexitIsPersonal
The second is to support our fundraising to carry on our fight both in the U.K. and on the Mainland.
The email cost us nothing except hours of time but so far we have spent £1900 travelling to meet with and lobby MEPS, organise events and attend strategy events for stopping brexit.
We attend events organised by others out of our own pocket as this is our choice.
We desperately want to carry on the work we are doing. We believe this is making a difference but we cannot continue to self fund. Please help us raise the £1000 we need to keep going.
Email to newspapers:
We, Nicola James, John Ling and Michael Moss, are the board of the Final Say For All Foundation. Our foundation is dedicated to highlighting the stories of those most affected by Brexit, but who were not permitted to vote in the EU Referendum.
Our aim is to raise awareness that Brexit is not just about big issues like GDP or foreign policy. It’s also about ordinary people living ordinary lives and those lives being disrupted, lessened or even ruined by it, and by the approach of the UK government towards UK citizens living in the EU27, and EU27 citizens living in the UK, and migrants more generally.
The leave campaigns promised that the rights of EU27 citizens in the UK would not change, and this was reiterated by the Prime Minister after the referendum. Since then, their lives have been held in limbo, often at extraordinary cost to their welfare, as the government has, as they themselves confess, used them as bargaining chips in negotiations. None of these people had a say in what is now happening to them.
UK citizens in the EU27, most of whom are not retired and live ordinary working lives, have been treated no better by the Government. Despite the EU27 vowing to reciprocate all guarantees the Government was willing to make to EU citizens, the Government refused to make such guarantees. As such, over one million UK citizens exercising their legal rights have been left with no certainty about whether they will be able to continue the lives they have built. Most of these UK citizens had no vote in the referendum
While agreements on some aspects of both sets of citizens’ status have been made in principle, there are still outstanding issues. What’s more, the Government has refused to request that issues of citizens’ rights are ring-fenced in negotiations, so continuing rights are entirely dependent on other issues such as the Northern Ireland border being agreed.
We believe that people, whichever way they voted in the referendum, did not intend that this level of harm and uncertainty be imposed on their friends, neighbours, doctors, nurses, teachers, and fellow citizens. If they were aware of it, I am convinced that they would not want it.
We have therefore collated stories from every region of the UK to show the concerns and anxieties the UK governments position is causing to everyday people disenfranchised by that very government. The pain they are causing, not only to those citizens but those effected in a secondary way. The pain caused to the families of disenfranchised UK citizens resident in the EU 27 whose families do live in your region and read your papers.
We would be very grateful if you could have look at the attached personal stories and help us to highlight this wider story of the unintended individual harm caused by Brexit and the Government’s approach to it. We have no doubt that there are many more such stories to be found in your area.
Please stand up for those who have no voice, and hold the government to account for its ill-treatment of ordinary people. We, and our members, are of course available to speak to you as well.
On the campaign trail to London and Brussels: 30th April – 5 May 2018
Sitting on the Ferry from the Hook of Holland back to Harwich I had time to reflect on a very busy and successful week campaigning for FSFA.
On Monday 30 April, which seems like ages ago now, I picked Nicky up from Colchester and drove us to Stratford to catch the tube to London. We were attending the protest in Parliament Square during the Lords’ debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, including giving a meaningful vote in Parliament to include a Remain option, and for Parliament to provide for a referendum on Brexit terms.
The weather was awful – wet, cold and windy – but the protesters were in great spirits and fine voice. One of the best things about these events is meeting and connecting with people you only usually see or interact with on the internet. It comes as a relief to find they are the same wonderful people they are online
The protest had a wonderful rhythm to it. Chants rising up then dying, with random, deafeningly startling shouts of ‘STOP BREXIT!’ emanating from Steve from SODEM, mimicked quite valiantly but never quite so deafeningly by others, myself included. Then sporadic cheering that followed supportive hoots from what seemed, in the main, to be red London bus drivers and white van men. (Yes – white van men! I was happy to see that their responses were contrary to their stereotypical image).
The camaraderie was, as always, a thing to behold: good humour and tolerance valiantly suppressing anger beneath the surface. It was a very civilized demonstration, with people policing their own behaviour and giving consideration to others (city workers, tourists etc.). Perhaps this is why we are so easily ignored, especially by the press.
Peter Cook and Madelena Kay (aka EU Supergirl) entertained the crowds with their music, (Insert video) and a visit from Femi (@Femi_Sorry) brought great excitement and many smiles. We were then paid a visit by Lord Rennard, informing us that the amendment to make a ‘meaningful vote’ by Parliament legally binding had been passed with a large majority. The wind, rain and cold all seemed worth the discomfort.
Of course, this protest alone may have had little effect on that outcome but, as part of the wider effort of the Remain movement, you can bet your bottom dollar, or pound or even euro, that our presence is significant.
After the protest, it was off to the pub for some congratulatory drinks and a chance to chat with members of our own twitter circle, before heading our separate ways. As it turns out, the separate way Nicky and I took was to Harwich, over to Holland, and then onto Brussels where Steve (@GuitarMoog) had offered to put us up. It was a real fillip to spend time with Steve, his wife and their beautiful son. He took no money for our accommodation, tried to pay for our parking, and bought what seemed like the majority of the drinks. We are truly grateful to you and yours, Steve.
Friday night on the 4 May saw us invited to a meeting of a resurgence of the Pro Europa group who were discussing ways to convey the true, harmful consequences of Brexit to those best placed to stop it. It was a lively, informed (well, by everyone bar me) and, at times, somewhat heated discussion that went on for some time. As one of the protagonists stated, we were stopping Brexit one beer at a time! It truly felt like one of those revolutionary meetings in a back bar where the future of nations were planned, except this time, the ‘revolutionaries’ were – a short time ago – the mainstream. Brexit really seems to have turned everything on its head. Perhaps we have been slow to react, perhaps stunned, but we are waking up now and we need to, fast!
The Pro Europa group has the structure, expertise and gravitas to make a real difference where it matters most, and we wish them best in their endeavours. We resolve to support them in any way we can. No foundation money was harmed in any way in the making of this meeting!)
Then it was onto Saturday, and EU Open Day at the official buildings in Brussels.
We donned our t- shirts, carried our post cards and leaflets, and set out to win the hearts and minds of mainland Europe with our stories. Acting like chuggers (charity muggers) and, on rare occasions received like them, we assaulted the good people of Europe attending this day of celebration of the EU. It was a real eye opener for many when we explained the plight of the three million EU citizens in the UK and the Brits abroad who had no vote in the referendum, and therefore no say in their own future. We received nothing but empathy and support, along with a resolve from all those we engaged with, to email their own MEPs asking them to protect the rights of citizens on both sides of the channel.
I know we were in the capitol of Europe, I know we were a beautifully cosmopolitan and tolerant city, so the love and concern shown by our European brothers and sisters towards our plight was heart warming. Many U.K. citizens would benefit greatly by spending some time in Brussels but, more importantly, amongst these supportive people.
We then went into the parliament building for a couple of PR shots and an opportunity for me to ask a direct question of the EU parliament with regard to autonomously protecting citizens’ rights and forcing the U.K. government’s hand. I won’t receive the reply just yet and I’m not holding my breath but hey, you never know!
While there, we also met and spoke to MEP Catherine Bearder. The commitment and support from these often maligned politicians never fails to surprise me (except for the kippers, of course). They really are on our side, but based in mainland Europe, they’re often restricted in how much they can do.
Following this, we moved to the other two locations and continued to pester, harangue and inform the European public. It was a beautiful day, we’d met many wonderful people, and we were treated impeccably by them all. But after seven hours, we were ready to relax with a couple of beers and a game of cubs in the park with Steve and his friends.
For me, this trip was over, but please spare a thought for Nicky, who I left in Holland with a dodgy starter motor, and who had to get home, pack and head off to Berlin on Tuesday for the Women’s March for Europe.
This campaigning can be hard, and it can be tiring, but we only have six months left, so there can be no slacking. Onward and upwards to stopping Brexit, hopefully Nick, one beer at a time!
On the Road with Final Say For All Wednesday 21 – Saturday 24 March
An eventful few days of FSFA events began for me with an overnight ferry to Holland and an early meet-up with Nicky James on Wednesday morning. Together we then drove to Brussels for a reunion with Steve Bullock, who would be joining us at the events for the next couple of days.
A great start to our events timetable on Wednesday was an informal get-together with a group of people from Bath for Europe and Bristol for Europe, looking resplendent in their blue EU berets with gold stars. The meet-up was arranged by Olivia Leydenfrost of Bath for Europe. it was fantastic to meet this great bunch of people so committed to the movement.
Thursday at the EU Commission
The next morning, we three made our way to the Helmut Kohl building for a meeting with MEPs Seb Dance, John Howarth and Theresa Grifﬁn, along with several other MEPs‘ assistants. We were met by one of Seb Dance‘s Assistants, Alastair Ballantyne, and then led to a meeting room in the EU Commission building.
The purpose of the meeting was to introduce ourselves, talk about what we are doing, and discuss where we could support each other. Our ‘Brexit is Personal’ approach was received MUCH better than we expected. The meeting lasted for about an hour and we came away with a clear plan for our next campaign: writing to local papers, MPs, and other MEPs to send the personal stories of those of us affected by loss of rights due to Brexit. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by the frankness and lack of politicking in the meeting, and felt that we had real support in the halls of the EU commission.
Whilst in the room, LBC radio station conducted an intenriew with John Howarth — an interview he concluded with our slogan ‘Brexit is Personal’. Photographs were then taken and promises of advice and support from both sides exchanged. I have never felt so engaged with politicians — for once I actually did feel that ‘we’re all in this together.’
Thursday again – through the Grapevine!
We left on a high and moved on to our next event at the Grapevine in Place de Luxembourg, an informal awareness-raising event that took place between 4.30 and 8.30 pm. We were joined by the assistants to MEPs Richard Corbett and Mary Honeyball, along with journalist Adam Payne from Business Insider. Our purpose was to introduce ourselves, talk about our aims, and give everyone the opportunity to talk about how Brexit is affecting their lives.
I hoped the evening would be a success, but I needn’t have worried. Altogether, about 40 like-minded people turned up for the event. These were British people living and working in Belgium, who were mostly sent to work there by the UK government – all of whom wanted to talk about possible strategies, and some of whom were very keen to get more actively involved.
I would like to extend the thanks of the FSFA foundation, and also my personal thanks, to all the MEPs, assistants, and other attendees who took the time to listen, advise and energise us at both events as we move forward. Our future strategy has been directly inﬂuenced by your input. Let’s hope we can make a difference together.
Saturday In Leeds for The Great Northern March!
From Brussels, we journeyed back to the Hook of Holland and across the North Sea, arriving at eight o clock on Friday evening, followed by a long and tiring drive to Leeds due to major roadworks.
On Saturday morning, Nicky and I met up with more FSFA teammates and supporters at Leeds station to walk to The March meeting point together. It was lovely to finally meet some of our wonderful teammates, who’d travelled from near and far to be there.
We joined more than 5,000 people, who’d turned up in good cheer and voice to pound the streets of Leeds with banners, flags, smiles and humour. We took a short circuitous route along with others before listening to speeches by A C Graylirg, Lord Adonis, Eloise Todd (CEO of Best for Britain), Femi, Richard Corbett (MEP) and Sue Wilson from ‘Bremain in Spain’. For me, perhaps most moving was a speech by Joan Pons Laplana, Britain’s Nurse of the Year — a Spanish National, whose service to the U.K. has been both inspiring and indicative of the benefits to the U.K. from our fellow EU citizens.
The March was a wonderful opportunity to meet many people we’d only interacted with before on Twitter, to join together in our commitment to fight to remain in the EU.
After the march, what better way to get to know each other more than to enjoy an evening drink and chat with a few of the most wonderful friends we could only ever have met under the despicable circumstances of Brexit. We were very sad to say goodbye at the end of the night, though sure that we would be meeting them, along with other teammates and supporters, at further events during the year — and of course— on Twitter!
Impressions of our first organised rally at Place Jean Rey, Brussels 11th December 2017:
Having a bit of time on my hands one day, well every day if I’m honest, I popped into a dm chat group on twitter where they were discussing the protest in London on the 11th December 2017 to coincide with the amendment of the brexit bill being read, which if enacted, would mean parliament would get a final vote on the deal.
Living on the continent, I had failed to make any protests thus far and, as such, was feeling a little impotent amongst this group of dedicated campaigners, however much they told me that campaigning on twitter, retweeting tweets and photos of the marches and generally being encouraging was enough, it never actually felt that way to me.
Before I knew it the words had fallen out of my brain, down my arms and for once straight into the keypad with no mistakes, so I hit send then gasped at my stupidity!
‘Why don’t we organise a sister protest in Brussels as a symbol of solidarity, then people on the continent can show their support too?’
There was a moment, probably a millisecond, where there was no reaction, a momentary reprieve before I saw the dots of someone typing a reply and this wasn’t just anyone, this was Nicky @nickynoo007, arch organiser, herder of butterflies and all round gatherer of people.
‘Yes, lets do it!’ Came the reply..
..As my head rested in my hands with despair, I knew there was no putting that particular genie back in the bottle.
Suddenly I was a member of another DM group, a team was being built around me, Justin @justinbellinger someone I knew as well as you can know anyone you’ve met on Twitter, was there to sort out the PR and the press, to be honest I only really knew him as my partner in crime on a usually smutty light relief twitter thread, I had no knowledge of him outside of that, let alone he could do PR!
Then Michael, or @MintyTeaboy, appeared for design and general pizzazz, now Minty I had met and loved, we live relatively close to each other and had met up for coffee in Saumur, I couldn’t think of anyone better to sprinkle some fairy dust over the proceedings!
But we needed more, I was informed, we needed someone based in Belgium to give us their details as the protest organiser so that we could get the required permit.
‘Let’s put a call out on twitter to see if someone would be willing’ came the suggestion, ‘ok’ I typed whilst thinking, who is going to be daft enough to give me all their personal details so that I can request a permit for a protest? Oh hello Alastair, aren’t you a very nice man! @al_bealby appeared from nowhere, gave me everything I wanted and agreed to negotiate with the local police on our behalf, which actually turned out to be a very involved piece of work as the Palestinians were protesting that day right where we wanted to be, so a change of location was successfully negotiated. As an aside some of the Palestinian protesters actually visited us for a chat and to show support, who knew protesters were such a community?
Then, whilst discussing sound systems, speakers etc. our very own Harry Potter arrived in the form of Charly @ProperCharly, suddenly we had a speaker in Steve Bullock @GuitarMoog, who would supply music and a sound system, a musician and most amazingly of all, a man who would be making and selling Cornish pasties, although it turned out Jason was from Devon, and sausage rolls! Well, as they say in my Home county of Suffolk, ‘I’ll go to the foot of my stairs’ (never did understand why you had to do that when you were surprised but hey!) Pasties and sausages rolls, my two absolutely favourite food sources and, not only that but, I couldn’t get either in France, which has a lot of catching up to do on putting meat successfully and tastefully into pastry.
Well blow me if we didn’t have a team and a protest..
John, a co-organiser of the event, kicked off the speeches on a cold snowy day prior to the arrival of a Mic or electricity with a retro stylie stand and project speech. Welcoming people and passionately pointing out that many people labelled as traitors by the leave campaign and their supporters, are in fact proud patriots who have served the UK throughout their working lives and possibly still are, often prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the protections of its people
The former leader of the Green party and current parliamentary Green Party candidate for Sheffield Central, spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to lose the negativity of the campaign to halt Brexit and to concentrate on the many benefits of continued EU membership. Natalie also drew much needed attention to the fact that the economic fallout of a UK withdrawal from the EU is likely to have the most detrimental effect on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Natalie also reinforced that Freedom of Movement is a wonderful thing for all, not just those already living their lives under its benefits
Steve, a former UK negotiator at the EU representative office now a sound and recording wizard, was instrumental (pun intended) in the whole day providing the sound system and the music, his Brussels Protest playlist was a joy to listen to and helped brighten a dark and very cold day.
Not only that but Steve gave an informative and considered speech on the current state of the UK/EU negotiations before going on to call out everything that most of us agreed was wrong about Brexit.
Steves impassioned and succinct summary of Brexit is impossible to reproduce here but is well worth reading on this twitter thread https://twitter.com/ GuitarMoog/status/ 8986825463543552
Jonathon @jonworthJon, a lecturer at the college of Europe, a European affairs commentator, consultant and blogger, somehow made it from Berlin to join us! Jon also spoke passionately about the benefits of freedom of movement for all not just those UK citizens living on the continent or, in fact, those EU citizens living in the UK. He also gave an informative and helpful input on being cautious of third country rules on citizenship should the UK exit, the talk was Germany centric but should act as a warning for anyone just ‘waiting to see’ what the outcome of Brexit will be
..The morning came and I looked outside to see it was proper snowing, my immediate thought was that it was not a great thing, but then my optimistic character took over and I thought, at least it’s better than rain, as my mind turned to thoughts of a romantic, Christmassy, snowy protest. It wasn’t until I got out onto the roads and saw the carnage occurring before my eyes that I thought we might have a problem.
The tunnels were shut, the roads were gridlocked and Place de Jean Ray was covered in a blanket of snow.
Nicky, Minty and I arrived to find Jason, the pasty man waiting. We waited with him watching unfortunate commuters doing their best impressions of Bambi on the snow, many of them finding themselves on parts of their bodies that were going to be sore all day, if their jobs involved sitting down.
Then came Charly, with his friend Yarek, (Please forgive the spelling I didn’t take notes, but Yarek had made huge efforts to be there to help us that day and deserves a mention, even if it’s spelled wrong!), closely followed by Steve Bullock and a lady called Virginnie who was to stoically run a crepe and beer stall for 8 hours in the freezing cold and snow.
Tents went up, sound systems were installed and the protest happened, speakers came and braved the bloody awful weather, not only to speak, but to stand and chat for most of the day, their support was a huge encouragement and I can’t thank them all enough.
The biggest disappointment of the day was that the wheels on Jason’s Pasty van were too small to negotiate the snow, I was bereft, what’s more Minty had been told not to bother coming home if he didn’t bring pasties so I might even have gained a lodger!..
Nicky, another co-organiser of the event, was denied a vote in the referendum due to having been on the continent for over fifteen years. She spoke beautifully and emotionally on how Brexit and, more specifically, how an end to freedom of movement could very well affect her future. Living in the Netherlands, married to a man with a degenerative illness and having aging parents in the UK means that she may, one day, have to make the agonising choice between caring for her husband or caring for her parents, a choice many of us would find impossible to make.
Nicky’s speech reduced many of the listeners to tears, so impactive and personal was it, but perhaps the most prophetic point of the day was made by Nicky when she asked “How is it that my right to simply continue living my life, as I do now, is something that is part of a negotiation?”
..Numbers were obviously low, it was a weekday, the city was in gridlock due to the snow and it was downright bloody freezing, but people did come! They came, they listened they spoke on our open mic sessions and they supported, but most of all they turned out on the worse day of the year in a freezing Brussels to show their solidarity with each other and that of U.K. citizens with the EU, I wish every one of them a heart felt thank you!
The team that appeared around me like butterflies around a buddleia bush were absolutely amazing, everyone one of them played their part and without any of them it wouldn’t have happened, we did something good, hopefully the first of many, thank you all.
Lastly I have to say thank you to Nicky, without whom it would never have gotten beyond an ill thought out comment in a direct message thread on twitter, it would have remained a dream, you made it a reality, thank you!