In Depth

Rejoiners: the new EU campaign after Boris Johnson’s victory

Remainers are rebranding themselves after leavers win the ‘Brexit election’

Boris Johnson’s 80-seat Brexit-supporting Tory majority in the House of Commons all but guarantees that the UK will leave the EU by the end of January.

Remainers who had been hoping for a second referendum or revocation of Article 50 now find themselves without much hope of stalling or stopping the Brexit process.

But a new group is emerging, made up of Remainers who are beginning to think beyond the UK’s EU exit. They are the “Rejoiners”.

Who are they?

The Rejoiners are pro-EU activists who believe that the UK is better off in the European Union.

Rejoiners include the leadership and membership of the Open Britain/People’s Vote group that campaigned for a second referendum, after it announced its dissolution on the back of Johnson’s “stonking” general election victory, says The Telegraph.

Open Britain said: “We will remain a grassroots campaigning group who will act on issues of social inequality,” adding: “We urge the Government to avoid a hard Brexit that will be a disaster for our country and instead work with our European partners to get the fair deal that British people deserve.”

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What do they want?

Rejoiners concede that the battle for Brexit has been lost, “but the war can still be won”, says the Telegraph. They want the UK to rejoin the EU at some point in the near future, and believe they have the popular support to make that happen.

Mike Galsworthy, the founder of Scientists4EU, wrote on Twitter: “The majority of people will have voted for pro-PV [People’s Vote] parties. Brexit may have a parliamentary majority now, but it has a popular minority.

“Poll after poll shows a popular preference for Remain. That’s a huge community to work with. We must focus on building up our communities all over the UK. First thing to do is just know we have huge community of local pro-EU groups on social media.”

Rejoin is now the “most anti-Brexit position” Labour and the Lib Dems will be able to espouse, says The Telegraph. But “rejoining the EU would see the UK go through the same requirements as a new member, namely to sign up to the European programme wholesale - the euro and all.” And that would be a much harder sell than not leaving in the first place.

When do they want it?

With a prominently anti-EU Johnson government in power for at least five years, Rejoiners are unlikely to get what they want in the near future. Instead, they will have to gain popular support in the hope that a future government, more open to EU membership, comes into power and legislates for an EU referendum.

Galsworthy said: “Rejoin may be a long game – but in the short run we need to fight off a crash out & sell-out to Trump. It’ll be a battle.”

Can it work?

In the short term, it is very unlikely. But longer term – after a Johnson government and the difficulties that a hard or no-deal Brexit might bring – popular opinion may swing in favour of rejoining.

“Prediction is a mug’s game, but the odds that British public opinion will shift in favour of remaining in the European Union – if, indeed, it hasn’t already – are extremely high,” says Stephen Bush for the Fabian Society.

But if the UK did rejoin the EU, it would likely be doing so in a subordinate position. The UK currently enjoys many tweaks to the rules that the EU has allowed to keep Eurosceptics in Britain happy, but joining as a new member would mean being subject to all EU rules.

“The UK benefits from a twice-revised budgetary rebate, negotiated in 1974-5 and then again in the early 1980s. It enjoys numerous other opt-outs, on the euro, Schengen, and in the areas of freedom, security and justice. The UK also gained an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and refused to sign the fiscal compact,” says economic think-tank Bruegel. “British diplomacy secured special treatment for the UK that no other EU member state has ever enjoyed.”

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