We wish all our members a Happy New Year! 

The past year has been both encouraging and frustrating for pro-Europeans in the UK, and 2024 may present our movement with both new opportunities and new threats.

Small steps in the right direction in 2023

2023 may well be remembered as the year when public opinion in the UK turned decisively against Brexit, with polls showing that a large majority believe leaving the EU to have failed across the board, and want a closer relationship with the EU.

There have also been some welcome developments indicating that the UK Government has finally realised that ongoing confrontation with the EU is damaging the UK, and that the UK must work with – not against – our friends and neighbours across Europe. The agreement of the Windsor Framework in February and the removal of the deadline in the Retained EU Law Bill were important steps in the right direction after the turmoil of the Johnson and Truss years, and today the UK officially rejoins the Horizon Europe research programme.

Campaigning for freedom and opportunity

Our ultimate aim should be for the UK to rejoin the EU, but there is much that we can accomplish in the meantime. After rejoining Horizon Europe, the next logical step is to rejoin the EU’s excellent Erasmus+ educational travel programme. Leaving Erasmus+ was a big mistake, and the new Turing scheme is not an adequate replacement. The Young European Movement, in partnership with European Movement UK and the British Youth Council, recently launched the Embrace Erasmus campaign and petition to rejoin the programme. We’re planning to hold a stall in Cambridge on Saturday 20th January as part of this campaign.

To build a positive campaign to rejoin the EU we must focus not just on economics but also on the freedom and opportunities that being part of this family of European democracies can give us. Erasmus+ is part of that, but we as part of the European Movement UK must also start make the case for restoring the Freedom of Movement we lost with Brexit. After all, repeated polls have shown that a large majority of people in the UK, and young people in particular already support reciprocal Freedom of Movement.

As a General Election looms, we must be ready for a very different political landscape by the end of 2024, one that will bring opportunities, but also challenges and dangers. Donations to support our campaigns and events are always gratefully received!

Taking a Europe-wide view

It’s natural for pro-EU campaigners to focus on UK politics and how Brexit has affected the UK, but we must not loose sight of the bigger picture. Rather than asking what kind of “deal” we can get if we rejoin, we should be asking what kind of EU we will be rejoining.

2023 saw anti-EU populists making gains in Slovakia and the Netherlands, though in Poland the pro-EU coalition led by Donald Tusk defeated the Euroskeptic and increasingly authoritarian PiS party. This June voters in all 27 EU member states will go to the polls to elect members of the European Parliament, in what will be seen as a test of support for the EU. The outcome may have a substantial impact on the future of the EU, and whether it can evolve and change its rules to meet the great challenges we all now face. 

Stand with Ukraine

More than any other event, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has changed the European political landscape for good. Indeed, the outcome of Ukraine’s fight for freedom matters far more to the future of Europe than Brexit ever did.

The Ukrainian people are not just fighting to liberate their land and defend their young democracy, they are fighting to defend our shared European values and their place in a free and open democracy. There is still a risk that if support from Ukraine’s allies dries up Putin could win, retaining large chunks of occupied Ukraine and blocking Ukraine’s entry into the EU and NATO, and even removing Ukraine’s government and ending its democracy, the stated war aims of Putin’s regime. This would not only lead to other democracies in Eastern Europe being threatened, but would fracture and demoralise the EU and give a huge boost to authoritarians within the EU such as Hungary’s Orban, Slovakia’s Fico or the Netherlands’ Wilders.

We believe that the UK must work with its friends and allies in Europe to ensure that Ukraine gets the all the support – military, financial and political –  it needs to defeat Russia’s aggression.

The EU’s response to the invasion has been unprecedented and hugely important, as has been the aid provided by individual EU member states and the UK, but in 2024 and beyond much more will be needed from the EU.

Next November the US will go to the polls to elect a new President, and there is a real risk that Donald Trump will return for a 2nd term. If that happens US military support for Ukraine will probably end and he may pull some or even all US forces out of Europe. Europe needs to be ready to defend itself and also to provide Ukraine with all the weapons it needs to defeat the Russian invasion. There are many tough decisions coming, but they must be made.

Such a crisis may even have the effect of pushing the UK and EU together, as a Trump led USA becomes a less reliable partner and the UK works ever more closely with its partners in Europe to help defend Ukraine’s freedom. 

So as 2024 begins the most important thing any of us can do to secure our European future is to do all we can to help the people of Ukraine secure theirs, whether by attending events organised by Cambridge4Ukraine, or by contacting our elected representatives.

We hope to see you soon at one of our campaign events, talks or socials.

Happy New year!

Paul Browne


Cambridge for Europe

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