We launched Stay European in the run up to Britain leaving the EU as we knew the effects of Brexit would be disastrous on both an individual and countrywide level.
Even though Brexit is now unfortunately a reality, we’re still here, and working harder than ever to regain our rights as Europeans. We won’t give up.
Here is a timeline of our most important initiatives and actions so far.
Census 2021: Declare yourself European
The first census after Brexit took place on 21 March 2021 in England and Wales. It was the ideal opportunity to send a clear message that despite everything that’s happened over the past five years we still identify as European – and we always will.
Over the course of a month, more than 50,000 people pledged to declare their nationality as European in the census, the initiative got picked up by both national and regional newspapers through our press releases and trending hashtags on social media on the day of the census meant that the campaign was seen far and wide.
New campaign priorities announced
As the year drew to a close it became clear that, despite the obvious need, the transition period would not be extended. But while December signalled the end of the first stage of our campaign, it was also the beginning of the next stage.
Following on from feedback from supporters via email and during the conference, we decided to refocus our campaign, with three key campaign priorities for the new year and the years to come: regain our rights, resist Brexit’s effects, and rejoin the EU.
Our ‘regain, resist, rejoin’ agenda is designed to combine tackling the short-term problems and losses caused by Brexit with laying the groundwork for a rejoin movement.
Stay European conference 2020
We held our inaugural conference in November 2020. The conference was a success with hundreds of Stay European supporters coming together to discuss a range of issues, including reforming UK democracy, supply chains and shortages, Europe and the environment, and building pro-EU resistance in 2021.
This year, we’ll hold a new and even bigger conference. Sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the conference and other news.
No deal? No way!
In autumn 2020, Boris Johnson started hinting that a no-deal Brexit was coming, and even said that he could violate the EU withdrawal agreement by putting up a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This was incredibly reckless and threatened the delicate peace in Northern Ireland.
Stay European joined forces with other pro-EU groups and digital platform Ripples to mount a big campaign against the prime minister’s dangerous plans. We ran a petition which gathered 50,000 signatures, and encouraged people to write to the House of Lords and their MP to pressure them to vote down Boris Johnson’s bill.
The government was eventually forced to pull back from their plans, and although none of us are remotely happy with the Brexit deal that we now have, a no-deal Brexit would have been even worse.
EU citizenship consultation
When the European Commission launched a public consultation on EU citizenship we took the opportunity to make our voice heard at EU level – against the removal of EU rights from British citizens, and in favour of an opt-in scheme.
We made the argument that the stripping of EU citizenship rights from British citizens – including millions who did not want to give up those rights – violates the EU’s own rules on the issue. Removing citizenship from EU citizens against their will puts all Europeans’ rights in danger.
Just half a year after the campaign was launched, we reached the milestone of 150,000 supporters, even though at that time the coronavirus pandemic had pushed the impending Brexit to the back of the news agenda. We continued preparatory work through the summer for the end of the transition period as the next major flashpoint.
As the UK government and the EU began their talks about the future relationship after Brexit, we thought we’d let the EU know how we, the ordinary people, really feel.
That’s why we launched our Dear Michel initiative, where we asked supporters to send postcards to Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, asking him to take up our proposal for EU associate membership.
London mayor Sadiq Khan used a trip to Brussels to support the call for associate EU citizenship for UK citizens, and met with Guy Verhofstadt who also backs the aim. Sadiq Khan said: “I am heartbroken that we are no longer a member of the European Union, but that doesn’t mean our country’s future can’t be closely linked with the rest of Europe.
“I cannot think of a better way of reconciling the differences between British voters who wanted to leave, and the millions of Londoners and British nationals who still feel and want to be European.”
Stay European is launched
We launched our campaign at the same time as the Brexit transition period started. It was a time just after the Brexiters had won the general election, campaigns for a new referendum were admitting defeat, and resisting Brexit seemed futile to many – after all, the date for the UK leaving the EU had been set.
But despite the challenging circumstances, our campaign gained tens of thousands of supporters in the first few days alone, making it clear that people were far from happy with the future of Brexit Britain – and they were ready to make their opinions loud and clear. Our movement had begun.