Hammersmith & Chiswick parliamentary candidate: Rejoin EU

Images: The Rejoin EU Party logo, Chiswick & Hammersmith Parliamentary candidate Bill Colegrave

“The thing that the major parties need, is they need you and I to give them courage to say ‘okay we made a mistake, let’s start again’.”

The 2024 General Election takes place on Thursday 4 July. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is defending the Conservative Party’s record in government after 14 years in power.

In the run up to polling day, The Chiswick Calendar is interviewing the parliamentary candidates for the newly created Chiswick & Hammersmith constituency, which covers most of Chiswick.

There are eight candidates standing for election. The first on the ballot paper is The Rejoin EU Party’s candidate Bill Colegrave, a property manager and part-time writer.

In essence, Rejoin EU are a protest party. They are hoping to convince mainstream political leaders and MPs of the three main parties to be more comfortable with calling out something which they say is obvious: Brexit is not working.

Among issues touted in their 2024 manifesto, Rejoin EU’s economic policies focus on re-joining the EU single market and customs union, adopting the euro as the UK’s official currency, supporting small businesses affected by Brexit and reducing trade barriers with EU partners.

Their foreign policy objectives include restoring Britain’s influence in Europe, enhancing international co-operation and addressing migration issues through EU membership.

The Chiswick Calendar’s interview with Bill Colegrave – The Rejoin EU Party

What are your top priorities as a parliamentary candidate for The Rejoin EU Party?

“We have one priority and the name Rejoin EU is our manifesto. We know that Brexit has been a failure and we are upset that the three major parties take no notice of that because they are a little frightened of admitting it.

“So really our objective, Matthew, is simply to get one or other of them to wake up and say yes okay let’s go with it, we’ll try and get back into Europe. And once they do that, we can stop existing.”

So you exist solely as a protest vote or protest party?

“Correct, I’d like to persuade the sitting MP to vote for it.”

What specific steps would you take to advocate for the UK’s reentry into the EU?

“As far as we can see, the European Union would be very pleased to have us back. I mean the European Union is stronger with us than without us. Re-entry is much easier than getting out.

“It does go through phases where the barriers are dropped. But the two big problems really in terms of trade are the huge administrative difficulties about selling things into Europe compared to how they were when we were in the Single Market and the tariffs and controls.”

How will rejoining the EU help the UK economy?

“At the moment, the estimate from Bloomberg – the financial reporting organisation – as agreed with the [National Audit Office] is that we are losing £100 billion a year in output, which is £1570 per person in the UK. That’s what it’s cost us annually since we left and it’s increasing every year.”

According to Rejoin EU’s manifesto you would also advocate for the UK to join the euro as well. How would that help the economy and how would you address any concerns people might have with changing the currency?

“I don’t know that we are necessarily determined in joining the euro. Other countries get along without joining the euro… I think that’s a matter for consideration.”

How do you plan rebuild trust and engage with constituents who may not support rejoining the EU?

“I find so far a huge amount of support as we wander round and talk to people. I think there is a fear, constituents do have a fear of rejoining the EU because they think of in terms of competition for jobs and things like that.

“However the EU protection of people in employment is actually much greater than the UK’s protection of people in employment… There are always people, Matthew, who think they are going to suffer that way and we’re not going to satisfy 100%.”

Do you think public opinion has shifted enough for this to be a hot topic – for the UK to rejoin the EU?

“I think it’s now moved from ‘What do the publc think? to ‘Why have people changed their mind so much?’.  I saw something from the Huffington Post this morning and they gave the figure of 80% of the UK being distressed about Brexit and they were simply arguing about why the people who have changed their minds actually have changed their minds.

“The Economist did a survey one referenda around the world and they found out when referenda took place, almost invariably once the decision had been made, public opinion switched towards that majority. The one exception has been Brexit whereas the exact opposite has taken place.”

Onto specific issues such as healthcare and housing, how would rejoining the EU affect those issues?

“… Erm… I am the wrong person to ask on specifics on how that would happen and how that would affect our NHS for example. Historically there was no particular change in that. So I don’t think I have any answer on that I have not been hearing any pluses or minuses in that direction.”

I see, okay. What motivated you personally to stand as a candidate for the Rejoin EU Party? How have you been affected?

“That’s important. I’m philosophically attuned to the idea of nationalism becoming less and less important. Borders don’t help, borders enable people to collect taxes but they also encourage a bit of rivalry and antagonism.

“I see Europe as a whole, Britain doesn’t lose any of its reputation or authority – in fact Britain has lost authority as a result of being out of the European Union.”

After the European elections this week, have you considered how a resurgent far-right might hamper the UK rejoining the EU?

“Well it’s weird isn’t it. The Brexit Party who were so keen on us getting will now be the party that would feel most comfortable in the European Union. The Wilders in Holland, the Vlaams in Belgium, Meloni in Italy, Le Pen in France and what’s going on in Hungary and Slovakia – would make the far-right feel more comfortable they’d fit rather more easily.”

Remain and the majority of campaigns to rejoin the EU since Brexit have largely consisted of liberal, centre-left leaning people. Would that coalition of campaigners want to be readmitted into a European project which is steadily drifting towards the right?

“That’s an interesting question, I think philosophically they still favour it. Arguably this is a short term movement towards the right whereas that sort of grouping feels itself comfortable within a European Union which is longer lasting.

“That isn’t to say I am excited about the European Union as such, I think it causes a lot of problems around the world and there are a lot of things that need to be changed.

“I would myself like to see the Commissioners and the President and the Executive of the European Union voted for by you and I. I think if you and I had to decide between an Irishman, a Portuguese and a Slovakian for president it makes us feel much more part of the whole thing.”

I have only really one more question. Why should people use their vote for you and not for another pro-EU party, such as the Liberal Democrats – especially with their policy of rejoining the Single Market?

“I think that there is only one reason they should go to vote for us. If you really believe that we should be back in Europe, because economically it makes sense,  you can vote for Rejoin EU and there’s only one thing that vote could ever mean.

“But if you vote for Green for example, who do indeed support rejoining the EU, a very big green vote would sound an impact to the environment and nobody would take that as [support for] the EU.

“The thing that the major parties need, is they need you and I to give them courage to say ‘okay we made a mistake, let’s start again’. The only way that’s going to happen is wutg our party which only has one thing to say, Rejoin EU, if that gets big support it will give them a little courage.”