“I hate what Brexit’s done to this country!”

Photo by Jackie O’Connell

“I hate what Brexit’s done to this country”, one woman said, “I just hate it.” I looked encouragingly at her and she went on, “Britain’s just going down the pan, isn’t it?”

It seemed that, once started, she couldn’t stop and, knowing she would get a sympathetic hearing, she told me about how her daughter had wanted to study abroad but

“without Erasmus she’s not going to be able to do that – we can’t afford for her to go abroad for a year and the government isn’t helping.”

She said that her daughter felt her life chances had been ruined by Brexit and she was considering emigrating

“because there’s nothing for young people here anymore.”

How very sad.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. As part of the national ‘day of action’ for the movement to rejoin the EU, Devon for Europe (DfE) held a rally and street stall in Exeter on Saturday March 25, when,  besides many stalwart DfE members, there were some new faces and we signed up a satisfying number of new supporters in just an hour. It’s obvious not just to close Brexit-watchers like us that not only is Brexit not working, but it can never work. ‘Making it work’ may be many politicians’ ‘strategy’ but people are even seeing through that as a workable option. Many people said to me that despite the damage done so far, they are beginning to feel hopeful about the prospects of it all gradually being unpicked and the UK eventually becoming part of the EU again.

Clockwise : Alex Pilkingt0n, Devon for Europe; Laurie Taylor, Make Votes Matter; Caspar Hughes, Climate Media Coalition, Caroline Voaden, LibDems; Anthea Simmons, DfE and WCV; Ben Long, South Devon Primary; Julian Andrews, DfE. Photos by Clive Bareham, collage by Anthea Bareham

The rally centred around speeches from Caroline Voaden, former LibDem leader in the European Parliament and prospective parliamentary candidate for Totnes, who spoke about the many threats facing our national democracy and urged everyone to vote in the May elections; from Laurie Taylor, of Make Votes Matter, on the need for proportional representation; from Ben Long from South Devon Primary democracy initiative on next-level tactical voting; Caspar Hughes, Director of the Climate Media Coalition on the destructive power of the mainstream media.

There was encouragement to get active and to read and share West Country Voices from WCV Editor-in-chief and DfE spokesperson Anthea Simmons, while DfE founder and chairman Alex Pilkington reminded us of the importance of dogged patience and determination to right the great wrong.

DfE ‘admin’ and long-standing street stall organiser Julian Andrews summed up the feelings of anger and frustration at the government and emphasised the need to continue to campaign for positive change and our readmission to the EU.

It can be disheartening to think of all the retrograde moves from a succession of failed, disastrous Conservative governments since the Brexit referendum, and all the obstacles which Brexit and creeping fascism continue to put in our path under Rishi Sunak’s ‘leadership’. But it seemed from the response at our rally that many people are so angry and disgusted with the current state of British ‘democracy’ that they will try their damnedest – both in local elections and in the next general election – to begin to undo the damage and rebuild society, the economy and our international reputation as a just and progressive democracy.

That will require more than just fine words about “our friends in the EU”. Positive action will be needed; and I, for one, cannot wait.

Recordings of the speeches will soon be available on the Devon for Europe website.