In the early hours of Friday 24 June 2016 the two of us, who had four months earlier decided to fight Brexit by setting up the Campaign to Remain Facebook page, went for a walk. The result of the referendum was by that point clear: Leave had won. As we walked along the waterfront near our home we discussed what it meant and what we would do. We resolved that whilst the UK would leave the EU we ourselves would remain steadfastly European. No longer EU citizens perhaps but Europeans nonetheless. We would lead European lives – travel regularly and extensively in Europe and hold dear our European friends.
What happened next changed that. Many who had sat out the referendum campaign because they hadn’t really thought our membership at risk or hadn’t realised how much they appreciated it until it was about to be snatched away got vocal. They breathed new life into a campaign that had stood defeated. Within days an estimated 30,000 marched from Hyde Park to Westminster and the question of whether or not we left at all seemed once again live and not settled.
We restarted the Campaign to Remain Facebook page, and in the 1,300+ days between the referendum on 23 June 2016 and when we left the EU on 31 January 2020 the number of people who liked the page steadily grew, from around 8,000 to over 60,000. The number of people who saw our posts each month peaked at 1.5 million. Not too shabby for two people muddling through in their spare time.
At first it was about keeping us all together whilst the momentum built. Later it became a mobilising tool to help us lobby politicians and eventually a way to encourage tactical voting in December’s general election.
We fought, and we can be proud of that. But ultimately we lost. The UK has now left the EU.
As our minds turned once again to what we do now, those first thoughts we had in the early hours of 24 June 2016 inevitably returned to us. We may now no longer be EU citizens, the words, “European Union,” will be erased from our passports when we next send them for renewal, but we remain two Europeans – and we will live our lives consciously and positively as Europeans.
We will treasure our friendships with people from all over this continent. We will travel together frequently to places elsewhere in Europe, use and continue to learn European languages, consume European films, visit exhibitions and follow European politics, both in Brussels and across the nation states. We will continue to do those things, and this blog will be where we write about them and share them with you.
Don’t get us wrong. We want passionately for the UK to rejoin the European Union. We want our EU citizenship back and the return of the free movement rights taken from us. We will campaign for all those things. But none of that is going to happen tomorrow. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and thinking we can turn this around in short order will end in disappointment. There are groups you should join, the European Movement for example, but there is also something that you can do with us on this blog: to make a deliberate choice to live an avowedly European life. And that’s what this blog is going to be about.
We are turning the page on Campaign to Remain. This does not however mean that it is the end of the story, but rather the start of a new chapter.
This place will be where we can all continue to be Europeans, together.