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Superb letter from outraged East Devon resident to Sir Hugo Swire on Brexit

Monday, 28 January 2019 11 Comments by Claire

This East Devon resident is so furious over how this government is handling Brexit that he sent a copy of his letter to Sir Hugo to me for anonymous publication.

I think it is probably the most well informed, well written and eloquent letter on Brexit I have read yet!

I am writing on behalf of myself, my wife and our two young sons, aged 3 and 8. We are constituents of yours. To that end, you represent us in Parliament, and on that basis alone I respectfully request a response to this email.

My wife and I look on in horror daily at what is happening to our country courtesy of the Brexit to whose mast you’ve tied your colours. Every day, every headline, every radio news bulletin brings more appalling updates. Our eldest son asks what’s going on and we do our best to explain while avoiding any apparent apportionment of blame, but even he’s bewildered, after all, we’ve brought him up to be comfortable and confident travelling in Europe, be it a road trip to Germany or one of our many trips every month or so to visit our family living in Dublin; try telling him that the Europeans are our friends but we don’t want to be close to them any more.

I understood the initial response from Remain-voting MPs like yourself that “we’re all Leavers now” (even though I will never be), or, “The will of The People must be respected”, but as time has gone on, and more and more facts come to light, be it the negotiations with Brussels, or the proven illegal activity by the Leave campaign in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, it has become absolutely clear that this line has subtly morphed into “we’re all doing our best to hold the Conservative Party together now.”

What we are now seeing is a world away from the politicians’ claims made in 2016. The easiest deals in history? Where? We’ll have exactly the same benefits as before? I don’t think so - see EHIC, etc. £350m for the NHS? Perhaps, but only by political and accounting sleight of hand. Cake and eat it? I see no cake. Not even crumbs.

Instead I see the Home Secretary preparing for martial law. The Health Secretary wildly buying fridges to keep what medicines are still available at the temperature they require. The military preparing a range of contingencies. The Prime Minister preparing for another vote that she’s unlikely to win, based on a promise of getting rid of a backstop that Europe will not relinquish. THIS IS NOT IN ANY WAY NORMAL. In fact it’s a complete calamity. A calamity of finance. A calamity of trade. A calamity of world reputation. But above all, a calamity of common sense.

We elect our politicians to be the grown ups in the room, to make our difficult decisions for us, to put the Union’s interests first, even when unpopular. What you are doing, explicitly, is putting the hopes of saving the Tory party first. You are actively ignoring the facts that clearly show our position as one of the 28 countries in Europe make us stronger in terms of trade and influence. And you are hiding behind the most pathetic excuse of all: that to change our minds would risk enraging the far right. You, a military man, bowing to Tommy Robinson and his ilk; stand back and ask yourself how that looks, then perhaps you’ll ask yourself if you truly are doing the right thing by allowing this madness to continue.

And then there is Northern Ireland. I visited Counties Down, Antrim and Armagh this Christmas with my family before heading down into the Republic. We stayed not 500m across the water from Warrenpoint and most of our shopping was done by crossing the border to Newry, often daily. I grew up listening to the bleak news reports from Ulster but the border country I saw a month ago was a world away from this horror. I cannot even countenance any scenario where one would wish to jeopardise this peace, but it seems that Mrs May, and therefore by association you, are prepared to do so. For what? Yes, the Conservative Party. In the past couple of weeks, a man was shot dead in Warrenpoint, not a kilometre from where we were staying; the thought that this could again become the new normal makes me weep.

I understand that there is still considerable (though almost certainly no longer majority) public support for Brexit, even though it is clear that this is self harm on a massive scale. So this is what I respectfully suggest you have to do: First, you have a duty to vote Mrs May’s re-presentation of her original deal down; it is no better than it ever way, and the backstop - a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation if you see it from the Republic of Ireland and Europe’s point of view - will not be renegotiated (to even suggest that they would is naive, but you already know that).

Second, you have to make sure that Mr Rees-Mogg and his ERG colleagues are put firmly back in their box by supporting any amendment which puts no-deal off the table - they represent a tiny proportion of the Electorate so do not deserve to bully their way forward on this one. Sure, that could weaken our negotiating position, but in truth I don’t think so; they don’t need us as much as we need them and they have shown that effortlessly by simply being the better and stronger negotiators. If I were a German car maker (and I live in a house where we drive exclusively German cars), I know that sheer vanity would keep the Brits buying Audis and BMWs, irrespective of the tariffs, so why bother bowing to our little toddler tantrums?

Third, you need to actively back an extension of Article 50. If you wanted to demonstrate true backbone then you would seek to revoke it altogether and embark on a solid campaign of proving why remaining in the EU is in the interests of trading future and our younger generations. Sadly I doubt you will, for fear of upsetting the Party.

Finally, you must support the call for a People’s Vote. Any suggestions that it’s undemocratic are ridiculous once you consider the illegal activity associated with the first one, and the lack of definition of Brexit in the 2016 binary vote. Putting this back to the public is truly democratic as everyone will have an opportunity to cast their vote based on the facts as we now know them, not the fairytale fantasies peddled by Messrs Johnson, Gove, Farage et al.

If a strong mandate for Remain is declared then it’ll be the eleventh-hour saving of our country. The right wing lunatics may take to the street, but they probably won’t, and certainly not for very long. If Leave wins again, based on the knowledge we now have, then so be it. We Leave. At least we’ve all been asked rather than standing here ignored hopelessly as sacrifices on Mrs May’s intractable altar.

We stand at the greatest crossroads of our lives politically and internationally. Your constituency is heavily biased towards an older demographic, but this can’t be solely about them. It has to be about those who will live with the consequences of this for many, many years to come (after all, Mr Rees-Mogg has conceded that it may be many decades before we truly benefit from any of this debacle). If you really wanted to demonstrate your respect for the younger generations then you’d seek for all 16+ year olds to vote in a second referendum (it would never be supported by the House as a whole, but you could still claim the kudos that went with proposing it to the youth of East Devon).

You, Sir Hugo, have to do what is right for our country right now. If you allow us to slip into this abyss of your Party’s making then you have not done so in my name, nor that of my family.

I appreciate that you must be a busy man at the moment, but I’d welcome a telephone call to allow you to justify (or simply clarify) your position.

In the meantime, I trust that you’ll give my thoughts some serious consideration.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Pic: Campaigning with Devon for Europe on Saturday (26 January). Many anxious and angry residents worried about where Brexit is heading and how this government is handling it.


1. At 02:30 pm on 28th Jan Lisa Simpson wrote:

Very good. I am not for one moment suggesting that the author should not be anonymous but am simply curious why they feel it is necessary. Is it fear of retaliation? How many others are afraid to speak out? We live in a completely divided country and we have our PM and her intransigence and “red lines” to thank for much of that.

2. At 03:11 pm on 28th Jan Annabel Shaw wrote:

You are quite right Claire about this being one of the best and most eloquently written letters on the chaos that Brexit has become. I hope very much that Hugo Swire will pay it the respect it deserves.

3. At 04:58 pm on 28th Jan Tom wrote:

I am the author of the letter, and I requested anonymity a) because of my family, and b) because of my business. Our country is so divided now that I no longer would put it past people to seek retribution, especially if A50 is delayed or a Peoples Vote is called; neither myself nor my family need that.

But above all, this letter could have come from anybody. We should all be writing to our MPs asking for some sort of rational explanation as to not only how we’ve found ourselves here, but also how we can get ourselves back out again with minimal harm. Much of the country is drunk on the ideology of Brexit - the re-establishment of the Empire days - our MPs must be the ones taking the bottle away from the alcoholics. Having worked in local government for some years, I’ve had my fair share of people saying that they pay my wages; well, in this case, we do pay the MPs wages, and they’re on short-term contracts, so they need to deliver (notwithstanding David Davies of course, for whom his MP salary is a small drop in the ocean compared to his other jobs - see the £60,000/p.a. for 20 hours work for JCB).

Please feel free to copy and paste some/all of my letter and send it on to Sir Hugo demanding your own explanations.

I thank you all for your kind words of appreciation.

4. At 05:05 pm on 28th Jan Alan Jones wrote:

Very well said. The reasons for Remaining are stronger day by day.

5. At 06:10 pm on 28th Jan Annabel shaw wrote:

Tom - thank you. You manage to say so well what so many of us feel. Thank you for letting us use your letter to send on to our MP’s to express our protest.
Claire and Tom - I have an issue with using the title ‘Sir’ for Hugo Swire. Here’s why:
My father in law was awarded that title for his lifetimes work for the community. He was born into poverty in 1918 the son of a steel worker and spent his life working for a decent education for all. He was a founding member of the Open University and rose to become head of the Arts Council where he continued the fight for an arts education for all - and not just the privileged few. I am hugely proud of him and the work he did.
Hugo Swire did not earn his title - rather it was given to him for being a very junior minister and loyal supporter of David Cameron. I will not call him Sir..

6. At 07:24 pm on 28th Jan Sophie Gabriella Angevi wrote:

I whole heartedly agree with this letter and all of its content. I am equally horror stricken. Thank you to the author for the clear interpretation and for speaking out.

7. At 09:26 pm on 28th Jan Pam Squire wrote:

A heartfelt and erudite letter, I agree and applaud the content. Unfortunately it is unlikely it will be read., except the first three lines by some minion monitoring the e.mail. Never e mail . If you want to give one of them a bad day. Snail mail only, the envelope to be marked ,Private and Confidential. That messes up the minions. Secondly, Swire is not only selfserving, but apart from self interest fundamentally thick. Anything over three paragraphs is going to be of no interest. Possibly three lines might be a stretch. The only way to grab the attention of these people is not through rational arguments but fear, can we get rid of the useless little parasite, there are many intelligent people follow this site, is it time we started to get our heads together, just a thought.

8. At 04:44 pm on 02th Feb Joan Kelly wrote:

Another Remoaner who won’t accept democracy. The Country voted Leave and tha’s what it will be despite all the scaremongering.

9. At 09:32 am on 06th Feb Chris wrote:

The democratic vote was to leave.  Had people accepted that when it was voted for and started immediately negotiating a trade deal instead of messing about on a ‘divorce’ deal for two years we would not be having the arguments we are today and the country would have known what to expect.  We need to stop moaning and get on with it.

10. At 08:16 pm on 07th Feb Tom wrote:

Chris, you (not unreasonably) say “they” should just get on with it, but nobody has any idea what “it” is. Is it a soft Corbyn Brexit? Is it a May deal Brexit? Is it a hard, WTO Brexit? Not a single one of these massively different options has the degree of support that our present status, otherwise known as Remain, has.

And as for how they should have kicked off with negotiating a trade deal? You know that this was simply not an option until after we left.

It’s time for us as a country to take a long hard look at the charlatans and zealots who sold Brexit in 2016 and ask what their motivations may have been. In the main, it was for personal or corporate gain (see Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davies for starters), and not for the good of us “ordinary folk”.

I would like to see Remain ++, an option where we require EU immigrants to secure employment (and thus contribute to the Exchquer) within a fixed period, where we can use state aid appropriately to aid our railways, etc (just as Germany and France do), and where we can have blue passports if we wish (the EU have never forced the present colour on us, even though I like it). We’d continue to sit at the top table, making and shaping the future EU, we’d still get our rebate, and we’d retain our veto for joining the Euro or the imaginary EU army.

We’ve never been better off than we are now, and sadly, from the 30th March, we’re about to learn that in the hardest possible way. It’s not a risk I’m prepared to allow my MP to take on behalf of me or my young family.

11. At 12:10 pm on 09th Apr Peter O'Shea wrote:

I voted remain before becoming a post referendum brexit convert.
As the chaos developed, the truth emerged & the humiliation worsened I’m back where I began. A eurosceptic remainer.
The self harm is undeniable. We have to pull back from the brink. Parliament has failed us. We need a people’s vote, there’s simply to much at stake now.

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