50 groups behind Article 50 – Part II

50 groups behind Article 50 – Part II

Yesterday we published the first half of our list of 50 groups which helped us reach the point at which the Prime Minister is on the verge of triggering Article 50 and taking the UK out of the European Union. – here is the second half of our list!

Historians for Britain
Historians for Britain was a group of prominent academic historians who supported Britain’s exit from the EU. Chaired by David Abulafia, and efficiently run by Oliver Lewis (Research Director for Business for Britain and then Vote Leave), it also included David Starkey, Andrew Roberts, Robert Tombs and Gwythian Prins amongst its members, as well as Dr Sheila Lawlor, Director of the think-tank, Politeia. Historians for Britain comprehensively debunked the myth that the EU had been responsible for peace in Europe since the Second World War and provided an intellectual backdrop for the Brexit campaign.

Institute for Economic Affairs
The long-established free market think-tank did not take a corporate view on Brexit – although its current Director General, Mark Littlewood, was a vociferous advocate for Leave (a long way from his days as press officer for the Pro-Euro Conservative Party). But over the years the IEA has regularly been a vehicle for the publication of a variety of pro-Brexit material, such as the 1996 paper Better Off Out?, arguably culminating in its organisation in 2013 of the €100,000 Brexit Prize, which attracted more than 100 entrants submitting blueprints of how Britain’s future could look outside of the EU.

Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign/Labour Leave
The Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign (LESC) was the original home for Labour supporters campaigning against Common Market membership in the 1970s and opposed to further European integration in the ensuing decades. Chaired for many years by Peter Shore, with John Mills serving as its Secretary, it also had the support of Labour eurosceptic figures like Tony Benn, Nigel Spearing and Denzil Davies (plus a couple of people now running the Labour Party). For the 2016 referendum, a new body, Labour Leave, was founded by John Mills with Brendan Chilton as General Secretary to give voice to the many Labour supporters who backed Brexit at the referendum, who were chronically underrepresented in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Backed by a number of prominent Labour eurosceptics including Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins and Graham Stringer, the campaign was a crucial foundation stone for Leave’s success, with a third of Labour voters voting Leave despite their party officially supporting Remain.

Lawyers for Britain
Lawyers for Britain is a group of lawyers, retired judges and constitutional specialists, chaired by Martin Howe QC, who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union in the run-up to the referendum. They have continued to support the Brexit process since, including making a submission to the Article 50 Supreme Court case against Gina Miller, and have produced a number of reports and opinions on the legalities of negotiating post-Brexit trade deals and the legal aspects of negotiating Brexit itself.

Leave.EU/Grassroots Out
Leave.EU was the Brexit campaign established by UKIP donor Arron Banks and businessman Richard Tice, originally known as The Know (when the referendum question was expected to have a Yes/No answer). Backed by Nigel Farage, they worked with Grassroots Out under the GO Movement umbrella to be a contender for official designation as the official ‘Leave’ campaign. After losing the designation battle, the predominantly UKIP-aligned campaign focused particularly on the issue of immigration and used their significant social media presence to target large numbers of voters across the country.

Leave Means Leave
A cross-party campaign set up after the referendum under the co-chairmanship of businessman Richard Tice, the Leave.EU co-founder, and John Longworth, who chaired Vote Leave’s Business Council. They have been exerting pressure on the Government to deliver what both sides of the referendum argued would happen in the event of a Leave vote: leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and ending the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.

Liberal Leave
Liberal Leave was a pressure group within the Liberal Democrats dedicated to securing a Leave vote in the referendum and making the UK’s exit from the European Union a success, while promoting a Liberal vision for Brexit. Mark Pursey played a leading role in the group and although lacking in high-profile support – its most prominent backer was former MP Paul Keetch – Liberal Leave took their arguments to the Liberal Democrat conference and were met with scorn and bemusement by the party establishment. Liberal Leave argued that to European federalists, British democracy is an inconvenience and that the EU is illiberal, undemocratic and incapable of reform, routinely disadvantaging nations in need.

Metric Martyrs/British Weights and Measures Association
The campaign group known as the Metric Martyrs came about in 2001 after greengrocer Steve Thoburn and others were convicted of selling goods using imperial measurements without also giving the metric equivalents, as required by EU law. They took cases to court which sadly confirmed the supremacy of EU law in this area and campaigned for the freedom to sell goods in whichever unit they chose. A similar position had been taken by Vivian Linacre’s British Weights and Measures Association since its founding in 1995.

Muslims for Britain
Muslims for Britain was set up by a number of leading figures in the British Muslim community, led by Businessmen Aftab Chughtai and Saqib Bhatti, President of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce. Muslims for Britain were very active in the BME media and played a crucial role in reaching out to voters away from the main referendum debate, particularly in the West Midlands where they helped to secure an outright victory for Leave in Birmingham.

New Europe
Founded in 1999 by former Labour Foreign Secretary and later SDP Leader, Lord Owen, while not being anti-EU (it was pro-enlargement), New Europe was explicitly against British membership of the euro, asserting that “compulsory and irrevocable alignment of economic and social policies with continental Europe may turn out to be extremely damaging”. WIth supporters including former Labour Chancellor Lord Healey and ex-Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Owen served as the group’s chairman until 2005, ensuring that there was a politically moderate rallying point for those who were unwilling to go along with every aspect of the agenda of EU integrationists. It allied with Business for Sterling to form the no campaign.

no Campaign
The no campaign was established in 2000 by (generally right-leaning) Business for Sterling and (more centrist) New Europe to be an umbrella campaign against British membership of the euro. Those at the helm of the campaign included future minister George Eustice and Vote Leave’s future campaign director Dominic Cummings. They adopted the slogan “Europe Yes. Euro No” and for a cinema advert in 2002 secured endorsements from celebrities such as Rik Mayall, Harry Enfield and Bob Geldof as well as Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Kate Hoey. The campaign morphed into Vote 2004 under Neil O’Brien, but was wound up once it was clear that Gordon Brown had ensured that his five economic tests had ruled out British membership of the single currency for the foreseeable future (generating Open Europe as an offshoot in the process).

Open Europe
Open Europe was founded in 2005 by Lord Leach of Fairford and others who had supported Business for Sterling in the wake of the European Constitutional Treaty being rejected in referendums in France and Holland. Its Deputy Chairman was Derek Scott, who had been Tony Blair’s economic adviser. Their aim was to resist the further centralisation of power that would come down the track when the Constitution was repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty. While the think-tank did not champion withdrawal from the EU, it promoted reform of the bloc, and under Lorraine Mullally undertook important pre-emptive spadework against EU propaganda funding. After the 2010 general election, it worked closely with Tory MPs Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris and George Eustice through their Fresh Start Project. Open Europe provided key staff and support to assist with David Cameron’s renegotiation, much of which was based on their comparatively (in eurosceptic terms) circumspect reform proposals. It took a neutral position in the referendum campaign itself. Former Co-Director Raoul Ruparel is now advising David Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union..

Out & Proud
Out & Proud challenged the idea that the EU is a bastion of liberal values and progressive politics in appealing to the LGBT community to vote Leave at the referendum. It countered the claims of the Remain campaign that EU membership was responsible for the UK having strong LGBT rights by highlighting, for example, the 16 EU member states which don’t allow same-sex marriage, the 14 which don’t give full adoption rights to same-sex couples and the four members which have no legal measures in existence to change gender.

People’s Pledge
The People’s Pledge was a campaign launched in 2011 to pressurise MPs into indicating that they would support a referendum on British membership of the EU. Run by left-wing journalist and activist Mark Seddon, and supported by the Democracy Movement, it built up a head of steam as parliamentarians of all parties signed up to pledge their support. Significantly, they were able to persuade pro-EU figures like Keith Vaz and Caroline Lucas to back the idea of a referendum on the basis of it having been nearly four decades since the previous public vote.

The campaign coincided with parliamentary efforts spearheaded by Tory backbenchers David Nuttall and John Baron, among others, to force the issue of a referendum and it was considered a particular coup when then London Mayor Boris Johnson declared his support. It held a one-day Congress for an EU Referendum in London in late 2011 (not dissimilar to the ERG’s Congress for Democracy) and also arranged private mini-referendums in the marginal constituencies of Thurrock, Cheadle and Hazel Grove in 2012 to demonstrate public support for a real referendum on EU membership and to pressurise local MPs and candidates on the issue. There would have been more, but for the fact that its goal was achieved in early 2013 when David Cameron committed to holding an EU referendum.

Referendum Party
Of all the single-issue parties ever to have existed, a strong case can be made for the Referendum Party having had the greatest impact, despite a lifespan of less than three years. It was founded by multi-millionaire Sir James Goldsmith in late 1994, exasperated at the federalist direction of the European Union after the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty. He had one aim: to put the issue of the UK’s relationship with Europe to a referendum and “let the people decide”, as the party’s slogan ran.

It fielded 547 candidates at the 1997 general election, winning more than 800,000 votes, but not a single seat – indeed, only 42 candidates even saved their deposit. But the most important achievement of the Referendum Party and therefore the legacy of Goldsmith (who died three months after the 1997 general election) was that both Labour and the Conservatives were forced to commit to a referendum on joining the euro, helping prevent Tony Blair from pushing through the scrapping of the pound when he was at the height of his powers.

Save Britain’s Fish/Fishing for Leave
Save Britain’s Fish is a pressure group that was founded in 1990 and dedicated to highlighting the disastrous consequences of the European Common Fisheries Policy for the UK fishing industry. Run by John Ashworth and in the past by the likes of Eric Clements and Tom Hay, it has always enjoyed the support, amongst others, of Austin Mitchell and Christopher Gill. Celebrated for its popular Fish and Chip lunches and tub-thumping platform speeches, its fringe events became highly popular at the party conferences. Specifically to campaign on these issues during the referendum, March 2016 saw the establishment of Fishing for Leave. It organised what turned into the famous ‘Battle of the Thames’ when Brexit-backing fishermen sailed a 60-strong flotilla through London in protest at the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy, where they were met by Remain campaign boats along with the singer Bob Geldof, who was was snapped raising two fingers up to working fishermen. SBF is now conducting an important campaign about fisheries management and future access rights.

Students for Britain
Students for Britain was the student wing of Vote Leave, chaired by Tom Harwood. Active in over 50 universities around the country, it brought together thousands of student activists and provided a vital platform challenging the notion that young people all supported Remain. It succeeded in grabbing the headlines with its “Voice of Brussels” protest at the 2015 CBI conference and a witty campaign distributing condoms with pro-Leave slogans to students.

TaxPayers’ Alliance
Founded in 2004 by Andrew Allum and Matthew Elliott, the TPA set out to hold politicians to account for how they spend taxpayers’ money and swiftly gained a reputation for exposing wasteful spending through its Bumper Book of Government Waste series. Under the leadership of Elliott, Matthew Sinclair, Jonathan Isaby and latterly John O’Connell, it has regularly turned its attention to highlighting wasteful spending by the institutions of the European Union, publishing a good deal of research conducted by the ever meticulous Lee Rotherham. Its output included the popular Ten Years On, looking at life post-Brexit, which was accompanied by cinema advertising and the ‘Great EU debate’. While not taking a formal position during the referendum, the TPA did make vociferous interventions when it emerged that the Government was spending more than £9 million of taxpayers’ money on literature and websites recommending that people voted Remain.

The European Anti-Maastricht Alliance, to give its original name, was founded at a counter-summit in Edinburgh in 1992. It is unique in being an association of international eurosceptic groups from across the EU and beyond. By interacting, members have been able to provide mutual support, rebutting claims that individual campaigns are isolated and anti-European. Liaison with TEAM during the UK referendum, for example, generated commentaries rebutting the idea of ‘Norwegian Fax Democracy’, and warnings from other referendum campaigns about the tradition of economic scare stories being put out as fake news. Its importance is sure to increase in the coming years as Brexit ripples spread out. An organ that also did sterling work acting as a hub for eurosceptic groups across the continent (particularly those in Eastern Europe pre-accession) was David Wilkinson’s These Tides, supplied the international Eurosceptic fraternity with what was in effect their communal in-house magazine.

Trade Policy Research Centre
Under the directorship of Ronald Stewart-Brown until his untimely death in late 2015, the TPRC focused its activity on issues relating to international trade. Its research presciently addressed the widely varying sectoral implications of the UK ceasing to be a full member of the European Union, drawn from his experience attending trade meetings nobody else in euroscepticism was even aware were happening.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
While the eurosceptic movement in the UK has mainly been dominated by political figures on the right of politics, there has always been an honourable thread of opposition to the EU on the left as well. Back in the early 1990s the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) was founded as a grassroots group, oriented towards the trade union movement, that opposed British membership of the EU. By 2010 another group, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, had been registered as a political party, formed out of the anti-EU alliance, NO2EU, which contested the 2009 European Parliament election. With former RMT boss Bob Crow as a leading backer, TUSC brought together a clutch of small socialist parties campaigning for a far-left agenda that included opposition to UK membership of the EU. By the time of the 2016 referendum and by then led by Dave Nellist, the ex-MP who was expelled from Labour because of his support for Militant, TUSC made an unlikely and unsurprisingly unsuccessful application to be designated as the official Leave campaign. However, along with fellow travellers in Trade Unionists Against the EU, they helped ensure that the positive reasons for leaving the EU reached parts that the official campaign might have struggled to reach.

The United Kingdom Independence Party was founded in 1993 by members of the Anti-Federalist League with the principle aim of securing UK withdrawal from the EU, although in its earliest years it failed to make much of an electoral impact, being eclipsed in particular at the 1997 general election by the Referendum Party. However, by 1999 it was in a position to win 7% of the vote at the European Parliament election, when the newly-introduced regional list system of PR delivered the party its first three MEPs, including a former City trader by the name of Nigel Farage. The party’s support and influence has grown over the following 18 years, with the charismatic and sometimes controversial Farage taking the reins as leader in 2006, and retaining that role on-and-off for most of the ensuing decade.

By 2009 UKIP had evolved to a point where it would come second at that year’s European election and it won nearly one million votes at the 2010 general election. Many of its supporters were disgruntled ex-Conservatives who were unimpressed at that party’s failure to take a sufficiently robust line in opposition to the EU. UKIP unquestionably succeeded in getting concerns about the EU higher up the political agenda and arguably their biggest impact was to pressurise the Conservatives – and David Cameron in particular – into pledging an In/Out referendum on Britain’s membership in 2013. Even then, UKIP’s support continued to grow, causing a profound political shock by topping the poll at the 2014 European election and winning the votes of nearly four million people at the 2015 general election, virtually all of whom will have been persuaded to vote Leave at the referendum.

Veterans for Britain
Veterans for Britain is a group of former military personnel, chaired by Major General Julian Thompson, which campaigned for the UK to Leave the European Union, successfully challenging the Remainer narrative that Brexit would be bad for Britain’s security. Its supporters combine top brass with other ranks. Now run by David Banks, Will Carver and Lee Rotherham, it includes Major General Tim Cross, Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott and Colonel Richard Kemp amongst its supporters.

Vote Leave
Vote Leave was the official Leave campaign at the EU referendum. Set up by Business for Britain in 2015, it was led by Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings, with other key staff including Georgiana Bristol, Oliver Lewis, Stephen Parkinson, Paul Stephenson and Victoria Woodcock. It was chaired by Gisela Stuart and secured backing from leading politicians including Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Lord Lawson and Lord Owen, while building an activist base of tens of thousands of supporters who delivered millions of leaflets and spoke to millions of voters across the country. Taking on the might of the Government, the Bank of England, the IMF and the entire weight of establishment groupthink, Vote Leave secured the victory that eurosceptics had dreamed of for decades, but many doubted would ever be achieved.

Women for Britain
Women for Britain was the group representing women, their families and their futures in the campaign for a Leave vote at the EU referendum, founded by Julie Moody and Anna Firth. Women for Britain predicated on the notion that many people saw women as an easy target to frighten about the supposed risks of voting to leave the EU, the campaign argued that to Remain was the truly risky – and gloomy – option. Women for Britain had genuine cross-party support, with the likes of UKIP’s Suzanne Evans and the Conservatives’ Anne-Marie Trevelyan playing a leading part in the campaign.