Oxford for Europe
 Brexit myth meets harsh reality
​by Peter Burke, Chair, Oxford for Europe.

Swindon is in mourning. I have worked there many times as a GP over the past few months. Many of the patients I looked after told me with pride about how their livelihoods were enmeshed with the Honda plant. Not only that, but so were the livelihoods of their children or parents. Far more people in the town rely on Honda than the 3,500 directly employed. Over the past 30 years Honda has become the lifeblood of Swindon. It is emblematic of how for many multinational companies Britain has become a launchpad to sell their products in the European Union. Britain has the unusual privilege, shared only with Ireland, of being an English-speaking country within the EU. For the people of Swindon, as for the people of Sunderland and Oxford, that has been an unplanned bonus. Now suddenly, without the people of Swindon having made one wrong move, this is being taken away. I wonder how many employees of the Honda car plant who voted leave now feel confused and betrayed.
 
Yes of course the management of Honda told us, as prompted by HMG, that Brexit is not the only reason for deciding to disinvest. Of course they say it is down to the advent of electric cars, to concentration of manufacturing within Japan, to the changing marketplace, to the fact that the car plant has been under-utilised by 50%. However, the evidence is otherwise. The decision comes within a few weeks of the Japanese / EU trade deal, celebrated without a trace of irony by Liam Fox. And Liam Fox knew, as he celebrated, that Britain would never ever, if his plans became reality, have a chance to benefit from that deal. On the contrary. Why would Honda manufacture in Britain, with the likelihood of losing frictionless trade with Europe and the additional risk of having to pay tariffs, when it can import directly from Japan tariff-free?. Suddenly 10% of the UK’s car manufacturing capacity is gone. The question for us in Oxford is this: how long before BMW looks 30 miles down the road and feels the same cold wind? Let us show solidarity with our friends in Swindon For Europe
 
 
Some of the snake oil salesman on the Brexit side of the argument will tell us “good riddance, this will be a chance to re-establish British motor manufacturing”. Yes indeed, that is the world they inhabit: let us go back to manufacturing Hillman Imps and Morris Minors and exporting them to our new best friends, the Faroe Islands. Tell that to the people of Swindon.
 
 
This is only a tiny microcosm of what is going on around us in the UK of 2019. Not Project Fear, but the terrifying reality of an unhinged Brexit. And please bear in mind all this is happening even before the country has slid into the catastrophe of a no Deal. It is made inevitable even by the logic of Mrs May’s much vaunted Withdrawal Agreement, a blind Brexit which provides manufacturing with no long-term security, and the services sector with even less. Theresa May‘s version of Brexit is infinitely worse than what we have now, as even Boris Johnson agrees. However Boris Johnson’s Brexit is 1000 times worse again. Therefore we must fight with every fibre of our being to maintain the best deal there is, the one we have at the moment. We need to come out and demonstrate what we believe in. We have plenty of opportunities between now and Brexit day to tell our MPs what we think. On March 23 we need to come out in force on the streets of London and show that the Will Of The People really does matter and that any government misinterprets it at its peril. Details here.


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We do not know what the coming week will bring. As Robert Peston puts it “At the risk of falling into the trap of hyperbole, the votes in the middle of the week could be when the Tory Party’s 30-year internal dispute over what this country’s future relationship with the EU should be will reach its moment of purest, most extreme and destructive madness, from which the party itself will struggle ever to heal.” Even without the re-tabling of the “new improved” Withdrawal Agreement, it looks likely that the political landscape will have shifted even more in the next week than it did in the last. Wednesday 27th will be a key day. Many of us are going to Westminster to be outside Parliament and make our views known. We will be joining Steve Bray, of SODEM (Stand of Defiance European Movement), who is already there every day of the week. Join us if you can.  
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Our next set piece meeting will be at Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford, on Friday 1st March. We expect a great turnout. Our confirmed speakers are Naomi Smith of Best for Britain and co-host of the podcast, Remainiacs, and Peter Jukes, investigative journalist and director of Byline Media. Both are outstanding. If you want to come you can book here.
 
Oxford for Europe