How can we return to the heart of Europe?

The Cornwall for Europe event was part of a national day for re-join. The photo shows campaigners in Liverpool

On Saturday 23 March 2024, Cornwall for Europe hosted Molly Scott Cato, a former Member of the European Parliament, at a meeting at Truro School. Over 50 local members of Cornwall for Europe heard Molly Scott Cato’s talk entitled The Journey Home: how can we return to the heart of Europe?

Molly Scott Cato is Vice-Chair of the European Movement and she travelled to Cornwall to support local campaigners as part of a national ‘Day for Rejoin’ with events up and down the country.

Cornish campaigners listened to a detailed talk which included overwhelming evidence that the UK has changed its mind; there is now a clear, sustained belief that a mistake was made in 2016 and a new referendum would vote for a return to the EU. But Molly warned that sadly, it is not the case that we could rejoin tomorrow, as we already have a problem of divergence – trade rules, standards in certain key commercial sectors, and environmental issues now have differences between the EU and the UK. There would have to be detailed negotiations. We left the EU when we had a special relationship established, including a favourable financial deal and various opt-outs from EU rules. Why would they want us back on those terms?

However, she said, a future government should seek to get closer to Europe, with a better trade deal, leading in steps to a return to the Single Market and eventual return to full membership.

As the talk and questions continued, a key issue emerged about the way British people think of themselves and their national identity, including the fact there is a huge generational split. Molly explained that younger voters are much more flexible in their thinking and can see themselves as citizens of something wider than one nation state. The slogan ‘take back control’ was a strong emotive appeal to history and identity that worked for the older generation. The strongest argument to ‘Remain’ was that of national security; you seek peace with those you trade with, but this was not widely debated in 2016. Given what is happening today, the case for a united, strong Europe is overwhelming.

Howard Farmer, Chair of Cornwall for Europe, commented,

“We were greatly encouraged to be supported by Molly and the European Movement. Cornwall’s economy has been badly hit by Brexit; the fishing industry has seen the shellfish trade decimated, farmers are unhappy about the changing rules of agricultural support, and there is a general labour shortage in many sectors. Cornwall’s tourism sector, in particular, finds it very difficult to attract seasonal labour. The government has made matters worse, as the levelling-up agenda means a big reduction in regional support, compared to the EU funding which was so successful.”

Cornwall for Europe is planning a series of meetings and other events. Dominic Grieve, former Conservative cabinet minister and Attorney General, will speak at a meeting in June, and campaigners hold regular street stalls across Cornwall, which attract good support.