Grassroots groups team up to ensure the people’s voice is heard on Brexit

Grassroots civil society organisations representing over half a million people and MPs have come together to campaign for the people’s voice to be heard on Brexit.

The Grassroots Coordinating Group (GCG) helps co-ordinate the campaign efforts between grassroots civil society organisations and representatives of the people in Parliament, who all want the UK to have the closest possible relationship with the EU.  Its purpose is to help coordinate the scrutiny of the Government on Brexit and to argue for the best outcome for Britain.  It helps the different organisations, in and out of Parliament, to work together more effectively for the wider cause and to avoid duplication.

After meeting informally for a number of months, the GCG has decided to formalise its existence. It includes representatives of the following organisations which, in turn, represent people and groups in every nation and region:

the All‐Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations; Open Britain; the European Movement UK & associated groups; InFacts; Scientists for EU; Healthier IN the EU; Britain for Europe; The New European; and others.

The organisations involved have hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country and successfully worked together to secure a meaningful vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement before Christmas. 

The formal constitution of the GCG, which is chaired by Chuka Umunna MP, is the precursor to organisations stepping up their campaigning efforts in the coming weeks to ensure the people’s voice is heard on the Brexit process.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of the Grassroots Coordinating Group, said:

“It is vital in our democracy that in these Brexit negotiations the people get a say on the outcome, rather than their representatives in Parliament being reduced to some rubber stamp for whatever Ministers decide.

“The 2016 referendum did not determine the form of Brexit so our grassroots network of civic society organisations and Parliamentarians - who represent millions of people across all parts of the country - are now working in a much more co-ordinated way to ensure the people’s voices are heard in this process.” 

Commenting, Anna Soubry MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, said:

“The people are entitled not just to know the facts about Brexit but to have a say. You cannot sideline the people and their representatives in Parliament on this, one of the most important moments in our history.  In and out of Parliament hundreds of thousands of hard working Britons are demanding we have a say – we are campaigning all over the country to ensure their voice is heard.” 

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Cross-party MPs join demand for publication of Brexit analysis and answers to 10 questions

A cross-party group of over 50 MPs have signed an open letter to Brexit Secretary David Davis by the All Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations demanding that the Government publishes, in full, the secret study into the impact of Brexit on the British economy. MPs are continuing to sign the letter and have been invited by the APPG to add their names to it as and when they wish.

The signatories include Conservative, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and Green MPs, including senior Conservatives Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry and Antoinette Sandbach. The letter demands answers from the Brexit Secretary to 10 key questions about the leaked impact analysis, and says:

“It is utterly unacceptable for our constituents to have to rely on leaks and newspaper reports to develop an understanding of how Brexit will affect them and their children’s futures.

“Crucially, Parliament, which will have to vote on the withdrawal agreement that is reached later this year, must have access to the latest taxpayer-funded analysis and research … So, we look forward to your prompt response to our questions. And we request that the analysis is now published in its entirety.”

The text of the letter and the full list of signatories is attached. The letter is hosted on the websites of Open Britain and the APPG on EU Relations.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Co-chair of the APPG on EU Relations and leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said:

“After last night’s revelations, we need answers and clarity from the Government. Instead, the Brextremist minister Steve Baker has just insulted MPs with a series of non-answers, obfuscations and confused pronouncements in the House of Commons.

“As a result of this unacceptable attempt to conceal vital information from Parliament and the public, we are writing to demand an urgent explanation from the Secretary of State.

“The impact of Brexit is a matter of interest to every person in this country. Any taxpayer-funded analysis produced by the Government should therefore be published in full and without delay.”

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APPG on EU Relations statement demanding a "meaningful" vote on the final Brexit deal

It has been said that in the EU referendum last year, the British people voted to ‘take back control’ of our laws. For many, that meant a powerful reassertion of Parliamentary sovereignty. As such, we parliamentarians have a solemn duty to scrutinise the actions of the executive. On no subject is this scrutiny more important and more necessary than Brexit.

Members of all parties have already provided valuable scrutiny to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and we have forced the Government into some concessions. But little of that will matter unless we can have a truly meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement the Government negotiates with the European Union.

Far too often, Ministers have flouted the rights of Parliament in this process, seeking exceptional powers to take the UK out of the EU on a bad deal, or with no agreement at all. This is unacceptable.

Ministers have committed to enshrining the withdrawal agreement in legislation which must be passed through Parliament. But there are no guarantees that this would be in any way meaningful. Were the Government to be defeated, they could still crash the UK out of the Union with no deal. There is no prescription for how much detail must be provided in the Bill. And we could even find ourselves in the absurd position of voting on the exit agreement after the UK has left.

That is why we believe it to be vital that colleagues from across the House vote on Wednesday to give Parliament a properly meaningful say on Brexit by supporting Amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, tabled by the former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP. It helps ensure a meaningful vote comes before exit day and that the terms of our withdrawal should be approved by way of a legally binding Act of Parliament, which should be passed before the Prime Minister signs any agreement.

We understand the pressures colleagues face to vote ‘the right way.’ But this is a matter of the national interest, and that interest must come first. Let us stand up for the sovereignty of Parliament and the people we were sent here to represent.

Chuka Umunna MP, Co-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (Lab)
Anna Soubry MP, Co-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (Con)
Jonathan Edwards MP, Vice-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (Plaid)
Stephen Gethins MP, Vice-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (SNP)
Caroline Lucas MP, Vice-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (Green)
Jo Swinson MP, Vice-Chair, the APPG on EU Relations (Lib)

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APPG Co-Chair Chuka Umunna MP says "The Government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement Bill is totally insufficient"

Commenting on today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for the EU, David Davis, that any Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will be brought before Parliament as a piece of primary legislation, Chuka Umunna MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, said:

“David Davis' announcement just now that there will be an Act of Parliament to approve a final EU deal is totally insufficient: he gave no guarantee of a meaningful vote before 29 March 2019 and this doesn't cover the event of there being no deal.

“Clearly this is an attempt to see off amendments that go much further than David Davis on a 'meaningful vote' - it is vital the EU Withdrawal Bill is amended to provide for a proper, not a fake, meaningful vote before any exit day." 

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APPG Co-Chair Chuka Umunan MP says "withdrawal Bill delay shows Parliament is taking back control"

Commenting on reports that the EU Withdrawal Bill will not return to the House of Commons next week, and may be delayed until after the November recess, Chuka Umunna MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, said:

“I am not at all surprised at this delay on the EU Withdrawal Bill – it is a badly drafted Bill, and badly thought through.

“The number of amendments has given Ministers a lot to think about, which shows Parliament is taking back control and is already doing its job of scrutiny well on this.”

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Cross-party pro-European group announces new vice-chairs to take the fight against a hard Brexit to Ministers in the House of Lords

The main cross-party pro-European group in Parliament has unveiled its new vice-chairs from the House of Lords, including a former Conservative minister and a former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office, who will work together to fight against a hard Brexit in the House of Lords.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations, co-chaired by Labour MP Chuka Umunna and Conservative MP Anna Soubry, has appointed new cross-party vice-chairs in the House of Lords to lead the fight against the Government’s Repeal Bill, and other Brexit legislation, when they reach the upper house.

The new vice-chairs are Baroness Ros Altmann, the former Conservative Pensions Minister; Lord Adonis, head of the National Infrastructure Commission and former Labour Transport Secretary; Lord Kerr, a cross-bencher who was UK Representative to the EU and former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office; Liberal Democrat Baroness Sharon Bowles, former Chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament; and Lord Dafydd Wigley, former leader of Plaid Cymru.

Baroness Altmann has said of the Government’s Brexit strategy that “we are on track for a pretty disastrous outcome, and leaving with no deal will absolutely be a disastrous outcome as far as I am concerned” and has said that “Brexit is like leaping off a cliff without a parachute.” Lord Kerr recently accused Boris Johnson of being “silent” about the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy.

The APPG’s co-chair, Anna Soubry, has dismissed the “macho” and “bullish” Government attitude to parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, said:

“Through their not-so great Withdrawal Bill, the Government are seeking to ram massive legislative change, which will affect the lives of everyone in our country, with little scrutiny by MPs. Our APPG will focus on scrutinising and, if necessary, amending this Bill in both Houses, without fear or favour, as it goes through Parliament.

“That’s why we are delighted to announce our new vice-chairs in the House of Lords, who will bring their political experience and expert knowledge to bear to ensure that Brexit will not be built on a creaking foundation of bad legislation.

“MPs and Peers from across Parliament will not sit by passively and allow the Government to bulldoze their way to a hard, destructive Brexit that puts our prosperity and our relationship with our European allies at risk.” 


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Cross-party MPs call for permanent Customs Union membership, warning of Brexit bureaucracy bombshell for business

MPs from across the political parties are today (Friday) calling on the Government to keep Britain in the EU’s Customs Union permanently after Brexit, as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations releases a report outlining the value of Customs Union membership to Britain, detailing the dangers to our economy and our borders that could be caused if we leave, and criticising the Government’s “irresponsible” and “vague” proposal on customs.

In the report, titled, ‘The Case for Continued Customs Union Membership’, Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna, co-chairs of the APPG, write that the Government is subjecting the UK economy to “a reckless and economically dangerous self-inflicted wound” as they outline the difficulties leaving the Customs Union would cause. They cite figures showing it could cause a £25bn a year hit to the UK economy, with the number of firms forced to make customs declarations increasing by 128%.

The cross-party MPs issue ten challenges to the Government, asking them to reveal how they plan to deliver the “exact same benefits” in trade outside the Customs Union; what analysis the Government has done to support their policy; and how HMG can make a new customs system work in the limited time remaining before Britain leaves the European Union.

The report sets out two main areas of difficulty – the economy, encompassing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade; and borders, encompassing logistical difficulties, Northern Ireland, and security. Overall, it makes clear that British business faces a Brexit bureaucracy bombshell if we do leave the Customs Union.

On the economy, the MPs warn that products exported to and imported from the European Union could face tariffs, which would increase costs for businesses and consumers alike. Although the Government is aiming for tariff-free trade with Europe, there is no trade deal on Earth – except the Customs Union – that eliminates all tariffs on all products. Firms will also face new non-tariff barriers to trade, such as customs declarations and Rules of Origin requirements, which could be extremely expensive for small companies in particular.

On borders, we could face gridlock at ports and airports, as it is unlikely that the Government will be able to set up a properly-functioning customs system in the short time left before Britain exits the European Union. Leaving the Customs Union could also make a hard border on the island of Ireland more likely, and could put our security at risk by breaking down cooperation between customs authorities across Europe.

The MPs also heavily criticise the Government’s position paper on customs, released in August, as being “overly optimistic to the point of being irresponsible” as it failed to provide detail about the Government’s customs policy, or even set out a coherent position.

The APPG on EU Relations is co-chaired by Labour MP Chuka Umunna and Conservative MP Anna Soubry, a former Shadow Business Secretary and former Business Minister respectively. Its vice-chairs are Jo Swinson MP from the Liberal Democrats, Stephen Gethins MP from the SNP, and Jonathan Edwards MP from Plaid Cymru. 

In the foreword to the report, Chuka Umunna MP and Anna Soubry MP, co-chairs of the APPG on EU Relations, say:

“Making an ideological choice to wrench Britain out of the EU’s Customs Union after Brexit would unilaterally surrender the best economic option for our country

“Leaving the Customs Union would be a reckless and economically dangerous self-inflicted wound. It doesn't have to be that way.

“Ministers have shown greater pragmatism on several Brexit issues in recent weeks, which is welcome. But on the issue of customs, rhetoric simply does not match reality.

“Their hasty choice to leave the Customs Union, and their lack of realism and preparation regarding real alternatives, increases the chances that we could face a crash into chaos and confusion in our customs system after Brexit.

“One of the reasons consistently put forward for leaving the EU was to reduce the amount of red tape but the new, more complex, proposals look nothing short of a Brexit bureaucracy bombshell for British businesses.

“In our view, a total commitment to full membership of the Customs Union is what is required in the national interest, not just for a transitional period but for the long-term future.”

You can read the report here. 

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Cross-party parliamentary group demands Parliament has its say on Government Customs Union proposals

Today, the Government has released its position paper on post-Brexit customs arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, said:

“As the Brexit negotiations go forward, it is crucial that Ministers take positions based on realism rather than wishful thinking. Unfortunately, such realism is thin on the ground in this position paper.

"They might promise frictionless trade, but they are offering a red tape bombshell for British business.

“Ministers effectively concede that Britain will need to stay in the Customs Union for transition. But it is a fantasy to believe that we can essentially stay in the Customs Union for a transitional period and yet negotiate trade deals with countries around the world at the same time.

“More worryingly, such a transition only moves the cliff edge for business from 2019 to 2021. If we leave the Customs Union, British firms will still face damaging disruption to their imports, exports and supply chains.

“To truly ensure frictionless trade between Britain and the European Union, the Government should negotiate to keep Britain in the Customs Union after Brexit.  Of course, Parliament must have its say on all of this.”

Commenting further, Anna Soubry MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on EU Relations, added:

“It’s welcome that the Government appear to acknowledge the importance of the benefits of the Customs Union to our economy. A transitional arrangement may involve technically leaving the Customs Union, but in reality it will be the status quo, which is good news for British businesses and at least gives them more time to prepare for life outside the European Union.

“Ministers appear to be moving in the right direction. But they need to go further. They should acknowledge that no new agreement with the EU can fully replace the benefits of Customs Union membership, as the EU and business has made clear.

“With regard to our post-transition EU customs arrangements, it is vital Parliament has its say on which of the options in the position paper the Government chooses to adopt. Businesses of whatever size should use the next few months to lobby their local MP and their trade organisations. MPs must have a say on the final arrangements as laid out in the paper and other alternatives.”

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