On Wednesday 20 September, en route to the Bremain in Spain AGM and the National Rejoin March in London, I took a slight diversion via Brussels. I had been invited to speak at the inauguration ceremony of ‘Our Star’ – an event hosted by German MEP and vocal anti-Brexit supporter Terry Reintke – it was an invitation I was delighted to accept.
‘Our Star’ is the creation of German sculptor Jacques Tilly, whose earlier anti-Brexit works have included politically satirical floats such as the infamous ‘Gun’ sculpture, featuring Theresa May holding a gun in her mouth. Tilly’s floats have appeared at carnivals in Dusseldorf, as well as making regular appearances at anti-Brexit marches in London.
The ‘UK’s Star of European Peace’, a two-metre-tall talisman representing peace and unity was being exhibited and inaugurated in the European parliament, ahead of its appearance in London at the National Rejoin March II on Saturday 23 September. Following its appearance at the march, Our Star will then be making its way around the UK, including making appearances at party political conferences.
Reintke, who hosted the inauguration ceremony and exhibition, promised yet again to look after ‘our star’ on the flag of nations until we are ready to claim it back. In her usual passionate, anti-Brexit voice, she spoke of changing public opinion in the UK, and how our MEPs (not all of them, obviously) are missed in Europe. She reassured us, yet again, that the door is still open and that the EU are keeping the lights on for our return.
At the heart of Europe
Other speakers included Richard Corbett (former leader of Labour in the EP), Sandra Khadhouri (director of Keeping Channels Open) and yours truly, speaking on behalf of UK nationals in the EU. Corbett will be appearing with Reintke again on Saturday, as both will be making their cases for the UK to rejoin the EU at the National Rejoin March.
This was my first trip to Brussels since before the pandemic, and it was a great pleasure to be back at the heart of Europe. Not only did it bring home to me the inclusive, collaborative nature of the EU community, but it highlighted the isolation and loneliness of go-it-alone Britain.
As I walked the corridors of the European parliament, listening to a multitude of European languages being spoken, I keenly felt the loss of my EU citizenship, and all the rights, benefits and opportunities that go along with it. Being back in the parliament building really brought it home to me how much we have lost and how much I had missed the warmth and the welcome.
The theme of the exhibition, organised by Peter French and Phil Jeanes, was one of hope. As I left the building, having listened to the speeches, and having met many fellow campaigners both from the UK and Europe, there was plenty of hope to go around. I came away with a strong feeling of belonging, gratitude and optimism.
The lights are on and the door is still open
Whether British politicians accept it or not, we are on a journey back to the EU, and it’s a journey that is increasingly gaining public support. With the rejoining of Horizon, we have taken a first step, and prime minister in waiting, Keir Starmer, has spoken of closer ties with Europe.
While there are significant limits on what can be achieved without rejoining the single market or the customs union – and a certain degree of cakeism and delusion from both main parties – we are on our way back to Europe. It’s the only course of action that makes any sense, and both the UK and the EU, understand that. Even if they won’t admit to it.
When Our Star leaves the European parliament building, it will be replaced by a smaller version, which will be on display until we can reclaim our rightful place at Europe’s side. As I said in my speech, “Our star is in very good hands. But hopefully not for too long. We really would rather like it back!”
And the sooner the better! Enough damage has been done already. Let’s not add to it by delaying our return any longer than is necessary. As Reintke and fellow MEP Guy Verhofstadt never hesitate to remind us, and will do so again on Saturday, the lights are on and the door is open. We just have to walk through it.