Britain’s pro-European voice was dramatically strengthened this week when six groups campaigning to keep Britain’s ties with the European Union moved into offices together in Millbank Tower, a location already associated with some of the most impactful political campaigns of the last quarter century.
The groups – Open Britain, the European Movement, Britain for Europe, Scientists for EU, Healthier IN the EU, and InFacts – have created what staff working there have dubbed ‘Project GCHQ’, which is in reference to the work of the “Grassroots Coordinating Group” (GCG) which brings together these campaign organisations with and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on European Relations. Other campaign groups, like Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), are also using the new offices as a base for some of their operations.
This ‘GCHQ’ is based not in Cheltenham but on the first floor of Millbank Tower – almost exactly at the mid-point between where Labour ran their winning campaigns of 1997 and 2001 and where the Conservatives were based for the campaign that returned them to office in 2010. A few minutes’ walk from Parliament and the TV studios at 4 Millbank, the office brings pro-Europeans right to the heart of the hour-by-hour and day-by-day battles over the Government’s Brexit legislation.
The GCG was created recently to formalise ad hoc meetings of pro-Europeans and is chaired by Chuka Umunna MP. At ‘GCHQ’ each group has its own specialism, but the creation of the common space is helping significantly with co-operation and co-ordination of campaigns.
Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of the Grassroots Co-ordinating Group, said:
“In our democracy, it is vital that the people get their say on Brexit, rather than their elected representatives in Parliament being reduced to some rubber stamp for whatever plan Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove have been putting together behind closed-doors. The creation of ‘Project GCHQ’ is a major step forward in ensuring grassroots campaigning organisations, who represent hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country, are now working together, in cooperation, to ensure the public’s voice is heard in the Brexit debate.”
James McGrory, Executive Director of Open Britain, said:
“The very name Millbank Tower conjures up memories of some of the most effective and revolutionary political campaigning of the last three decades. Our battle is as tough as that faced by parties excluded from office for 18 or 13 years. But we are every bit as determined to succeed in our task. Project GCHQ is not the first step in that journey, but it is the biggest so far.”
James MacCleary, Campaign Director of European Movement UK, said:
“The European Movement is here for the long haul – we were founded nearly 70 years ago with Winston Churchill as our first Honorary President. We have built a national network of local, campaign groups who agree with us that the UK’s place is at the heart of the EU. The Brexit deal must be put to a public vote with the option to reject it and stay in the EU. That is why we are proud to be part of the Grassroots Co-ordinating Group, bringing likeminded pro-EU organisations together.”
Anne Weyman, Vice-Chair of Britain for Europe, said:
“Britain for Europe have never believed the referendum of June 2016 was the end of the debate on Brexit. It was really only the start because before then we only had vague promises. Now we have concrete proposals, the people have every right to object to them and say no to the Government’s Brexit. We are enthusiastic about Project GCHQ and the opportunity it gives us to continue to build on the work we have been doing with others.”
Lara Spirit, co-President of Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), said:
“Too many young people feel like they do not have any voice in the Brexit debate. That has to change as Brexit affects their future more than anyone else. We know we are stronger and our voice louder when we are together, which is why being able to drop in and out of a bustling new campaign headquarters and share information and ideas is so exciting.”
Dr Mike Galsworthy, Co-Founder of Scientists for EU, said:
“The British science community is overwhelmingly pro-European. We've gained so much value from playing leading roles in the fantastic EU space, health, science and innovation programmes. We need people to know that Brexit is hurting all this already. Being part of the Project GCHQ team means we can get clear data on our colleagues’ desks immediately and our arguments on science and innovation are heard by the widest possible audience.”
Dr Rob Davidson, Director of Healthier IN, said:
“The damage to our NHS from Brexit is real and growing daily, as we lose vital staff – and we haven’t even left yet. It is vital that we do anything we can to stop the Brexit rot in the NHS and Healthier IN is very pleased to be part of Project GCHQ where data scientists, researchers and social media experts have come together to form a smarter and more powerful pro-European campaign.”
Hugo Dixon, Chairman of InFacts, said:
“As new facts emerge, it is becoming clear the government is negotiating a miserable Brexit that will be bad for our power and bad for our prosperity. We need a high energy joined up campaign to stop this. Getting all these groups in the same building is a big step to achieving that.”
Britain for Europe is consolidating its presence through formal collaboration with like-minded organisations. We now have an official partnership with Scientists for EU, Healthier IN the EU, and an affiliation agreement with the European Movement UK.
We are at a time when opposition to plans to exit the European Union is becoming more organised. Theresa May lost any mandate she thought she had for a hard Brexit after the General Election and now more and more people are uniting behind the belief that leaving the EU is a disastrous mistake and we need to steer the UK away from the cliff edge.
We have been working on increased collaboration between groups since this motion was passed unanimously at our national meeting in Camden. We are now proud to announce the formal launch of these partnerships to provide a united front against Brexit.
Working together with other pro-European organisations, such as Scientists for EU, Healthier IN the EU and the European Movement, helps us to combine forces and get the message across that we want to defend a bright future side by side with our European partners. As momentum continues to build behind the case for remaining a full member of the EU, we are excited to have a packed programme of big events for this autumn - look out for our crowdfunder, launching soon!
Tom Brufatto, chair, Britain for Europe, said: “It has always been at the heart of pro-European sentiment that there is strength in unity. It is with this spirit that by formalising our relationship with organisations that share our objectives, we will deliver a united front to oppose Brexit.
“We can now look forward to the impact of our organisations being amplified as we launch a new phase of our campaign. Together we look forward to reclaiming the narrative and making the case for continued UK membership of the EU.”
James MacCleary, campaigns director, European Movement UK, said: “We are at a turning point where all the support we can gather from our members and supporters is going to be crucial in our campaign to keep this country inside the EU.
“Likewise, we are in better position to represent the groundswell of opinion against departure from the EU, when we team up with others who have common interests and goals. We are thrilled to have a partnership with Scientists for EU, which includes Healthier IN the EU, and an affiliation with Britain for Europe and we are always keen to cooperate with other groups who can add strength and help build our voice.”
Dr Robert Davidson, CEO, Scientists for EU and Healthier IN the EU, said: “As the Brexit Ministry looks to be falling apart, the Remain campaign is coming together. By forming this partnership, we are beginning the coalescence of a powerful movement that can give a platform to the concerns of Brits and other EU citizens alike, and can shine a light on the baseless bluster and zeal of Brexit leaders. No one voted to be poorer, no one voted for Brexit debt and Austerity for our NHS.”
European Movement UK is a cross-party organisation with national councils across 39 countries. It has been campaigning to keep Britain at the heart of Europe for nearly 70 years and is a leading member of the European Movement International which links an international, pro-European network that is active in more than 40 countries. Find out more here: http://www.europeanmovement.co.uk
Scientists for EU is a campaign by UK scientists to keep the UK in the EU. Science is vital for the UK's economy and quality of life. Science is also at the heart of global, social challenges that face us all. We believe that we can achieve so much more good for the UK and the world from within the EU. Find out more here: http://scientistsforeu.uk
Healthier IN the EU is a grassroots campaign raising the voice of UK health professionals, carers, patients and researchers in the negotiations and policies following the EU referendum. Healthier in the EU still believe that full membership of the EU is best for the UK’s health care and we must fight to work as closely as possible with the EU for effective health policy, data sharing and free movement of health workers and researchers. Find out more here: www.healthierin.eu
Britain for Europe is looking forward to future opportunities to work with fellow pro-Europeans who can support our activities.
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Non-party political campaign group Britain for Europe’s 40 affiliated local groups have staged rallies across the UK to send a message that support for remaining a full member of the EU remains undimmed.
Following the rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit vision and the resurgence of young voters rejecting a chaotic separation from the EU, Britain for Europe groups from Brighton to Manchester and from Whitehall to Perth rallied to show their support for continued EU membership.
After a year that has seen the value of the pound plummet and repeated warnings from business leaders, universities and healthcare officials, the government continues to hold the country to ransom without knowing their own demands.
Speaking on behalf of Britain for Europe's 40 affiliated groups across the country, National Chair Tom Brufatto commented:
"Theresa May presides over a coalition of chaos. Her lack of control risks turning what was always a national act of self harm into a full-blown disaster. In the face of this, Britain for Europe stands resolute in our determination to oppose Brexit in all its forms."
"It is now imperative - if only for the sake of parliamentary democracy, but also for our future peace and prosperity - that when the negotiated deal is put to parliament, MPs are granted a free vote which includes the option of continued EU membership."
"We call on people to join our 30,000 members and supporters and be a part of the change our country deserves. Brexit must be stopped. By working together to hold the government to account, it will be."