Brexit has (sort of) made me an internationally exhibited artist. Cool, huh?

OK, let me explain.

I blogged recently about the anti-Brexit / pro-European Facebook page I run that had reached 1.4 million people in a month (it’s has since ticked up to 1.5 million). Well, a month or two ago a message came in via the page from a curator at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, in Copenhagen, asking for any anti-Brexit placards we had from the London marches. It was for an exhibition, Europa Endlos, that is now open here in the Danish capital.

Thankfully, in my brief Marie Kondo-inspired brush with decluttering I had spared the various placards that my partner and I had created and accumulated over the course of attending something like half-a-dozen anti-Brexit marches. So, these placards were packed off to Denmark and on Friday,  I visited them in the exhibition! How cool is that? And what better way to mark 29 March 2019 – the day on which we *aren’t* leaving the EU – than to visit one’s own anti-Brexit placards on display as part of an exhibition about European identity?

Seeing them there – smudged, stained and scuffed by being carried for hours – reminded me how fantastic it had been to march with so many other committed pro-Europeans. It made all the efforts to bring together friends, family and work colleagues on the marches so worthwhile. I was touched, actually, that the effort we are all making to fight Brexit is being seen and appreciated by our fellow Europeans.

And what I found refreshing about the exhibition, which marks not only Brexit but May’s elections to the European Parliament, is the way in which it takes those European elections and the issues at stake in them seriously. The exhibition deals with themes like identity, labour, borders, community and migration. When has a European election in the UK ever had this kind of treatment?

And it’s not just this exhibition. Scanning the Danish newspapers yesterday there are reports about how the environment is set to be a big issue in the European elections here in Denmark. What a grown-up approach to the EU and to the elections. It makes me think how little the EU debate in the UK has ever moved on from whether or not we should be in, even after 45 years of membership. Actual policy questions never get out of the starting blocks.

But seeing the placards in the exhibition also reminded me of how far we, as pro-Europeans, have come since 2016. We have built the biggest, most organised and committed pro-European movement anywhere on our continent. There are local groups from Cornwall for Europe in the South West to Perth for Europe in Scotland. And last weekend we put a million people onto the streets.

If we were complacent before 2016, we are not now. If we turned a blind eye to lazy anti-Europeanism in our press and our politics before 2016, we do not now. We need to be able to project our messages, and by organising ourselves locally across the country and through Facebook pages like the one I run (Campaign to Remain – Keep Britain in Europe) we are now doing that.

Let’s just hope that the messages on the placards that so many of us created for those marches don’t just become curious artefacts in exhibitions (as cool as that is, to be honest), but that the slogans and ideas on them help drive us to defeat Brexit and build a new, stronger relationship with the EU that moves beyond the shallow in / out debates on the past.

* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.

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  • Simon Banks 1st Apr '19 - 11:52am

    Oh dear. Pity about the rude child. Now here’s a serious point. This article proves the Brexiteers were right! A vote to leave the EU has brought benefits!!

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