Brighton and Hove for Europe organised a vigil yesterday, Friday 31 January, next to the Peace Statue on Hove Lawns. It was a simple moment to remember Britain’s contribution to the European Union and a solemn moment where we came together to say goodbye.
We sang Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and held hands to sing Auld Lang Syne as they did in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
In a statement from Caroline Lucas, she said: “This is a historic day, whether you voted to leave the EU or to remain.
“And our future will be judged by how we respond now to this moment. I want to be honest. My heart is breaking.
“Of course, like all institutions, the EU has its flaws – but for me it has always stood for ambition, courage and vision.
“This is what helped us emerge from the rubble and destruction of the second world war into a country that’s been at peace with its neighbours ever since. A miracle few would have dreamed possible when the bombs were raining down.
“And ambition, courage and vision are what we still have in common.
“We will need them all to rise to the greatest challenge we face today – the climate emergency.
“Only by working cooperatively with our closest neighbours – as well as with those further afield – will we be able to take the urgent and ambitious action the science demands to prevent the worst of the climate crisis. And we need the vision to completely transform our economic system.
“To work in harmony with nature. To leave behind a world where weapons and money can go anywhere, but refugees are vilified and compassion chased out of town. And we need climate justice to go hand in hand with social justice.
“The Leave vote was a howl of rage at a status quo in this country that is intolerable for huge numbers of people. The social contract is broken and the power game is rigged. We need the vision to build a democratic consensus about changing that, together, for good.
“The potential power of our collective action demands that we reach out, with courage, to those from whom we have become so dangerously divided. Bravely build bridges in our communities and around the world, not burn them.
“We live in turbulent times. The political tides are unpredictable. The real tides are rising. Far right populism is once more stoking fear, division and despair.
“The future has never felt so uncertain.
“Yet if Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that what we previously imagined unthinkable is in fact possible.
“We may have lost the battle to keep Britain in the EU but what kind of endings do we believe in?
“I believe in those that are also beginnings.
“And the struggle for a compassionate, fair, green, peaceful, future begins anew right now.
“In the love and sadness so many of us are feeling right now, we affirm, rather than deny our fellowship with Europe and the world.
“We begin again knowing hope is always more powerful than hate, that our common humanity matters more than what divides us.
“That ambition, vision and courage call.”
Hove MP Peter Kyle was unable to attend the Peace Vigil in Brighton said: “All of us are united in sadness just as we were united in our fight to remain in the EU.
“Thanks to you all I remain an optimist. Together we’ve seen too much of the good in humanity in our campaigning to emerge from this battle as pessimists!
“The political landscape hasn’t stopped evolving because we’ve now left the EU. Quite the opposite. The months ahead will give us so many opportunities to set out our vision for a better Britain. Better than the one Brexiteers could ever imagine!
“Please stay united. Please stay positive. And please let’s continue our campaign in new and exciting ways.”
Labour’s Tracey Hill, Councillor for Hollingdean and Stanmer ward said two flags were raised at the Town Hall buildings of Brighton and Hove City Council today – one British and the other European.
She said: “I am proud of being part of ‘the barmiest council’ in Britain. I can be British and I am European. I don’t think being British is the only thing about me.”
Ms Hill said she was pleased we gathered near the peace statue because it reminded her of the statue of liberty in New York which should have been a symbol of opportunity.
She said: “You give something and you get something back.” People often tell her that migrants only take something away. To Ms Hill, nationalism and populism has never made sense.
“You have to celebrate our differences instead of being afraid of them. We have to live those values and never shy away from having a difficult conversation. We should have talked about Europe, we should have challenged populism. If you do not fight for the things we love, you will lose them.”
Councillor Leo Litman spoke on behalf of the Green Party. He said: “So, it’s Brexit day. Britain has ‘taken back control.’ An easy slogan to shout but what does it mean?
“Even Brexit Party MEPs belatedly realised that without a voice in the European Parliament we are now simply rule-takers, no longer rule-makers. In other words, we’ve given up control we once had. But surely, now we can now control our own destiny? Hardly.
“The whole world knows the UK is negotiating from a point of desperate weakness. We literally cannot survive without trading with the rest of the world but the world can get along just fine without trading with us.
“Britain is almost certainly the first country in history to impose sanctions on itself…
“Britain alone cannot hope to stand against the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises. We need to work together.
“Britain alone cannot uphold worker’s rights, consumers’ rights, the right to free movement, the rights of refugees to reunite with their families, animal rights or the rights of the natural world. We need to work together.
“Britain alone cannot create a fairer world where resources are shared equally between people, nations and across generations, including those not yet born. We need to work together.
“Fundamentally, we need to take back control from those who have temporarily grabbed it and share it with each other, with our European cousins, with the rest of humanity and the rest of the natural world.
“Only that way can we be genuinely free and look to a safe future we can all share.
“The first step towards that is maintaining as strong a relationship with the EU as possible.
“The next step is, of course, re-joining and re-taking our rightful place at the heart of Europe.”
Susie Cortault is one of the organisers for Brighton and Hove for Europe. She said:
“So, yes, today we are desperately sad that we are being wrenched out of our European family against our will. Brexit has always been an ideological political project but it has had costs and for us it has been personal.
“Families are divided, friends have been lost. But coming together as a movement and sharing our upset and pooling our resources, has been incredibly healing and supportive.
“I would like to thank all those members of the committee of Brighton and Hove for EU who have helped these last three years – we have lost members – and we have gained members. Last week we had several new members. We know we are stronger and more effective if we are unified, rather than divided.
“Let’s shine a light tonight as a symbol of hope. Let’s be proud of those progressive values that underpin the European project.
“So most of us agree that now is not the time to campaign to rejoin, don’t worry, but our work is not done.
“And when the time is right, we will return to be at the heart of Europe where We belong.
“Until then, let’s celebrate our ‘Europeanness,’ let’s get into our schools and try and influence the learning of foreign languages, exchange trips, pen friends, protecting and campaigning for Erasmus, and potentially twinning with a European city.
“Brexit is a political ideology but we are the people, and we can change things on the ground – in our schools, in our council, in all the places where we have a voice. Let’s reinvigorate our democracy…
“Before we sing our final song, Auld Lang Syne may I remind you to stay close to your loved ones, allow yourself to cry, hug each other. Feel what you feel.
“We are a vibrant progressive city, let’s light a candle and put it in our window at 11, turn off the lights, and if you use twitter use the hashtag #still European.
“Or #Forever European. When the 50 coin comes out, just remove it from circulation. Put it in a jar and get Brexit gone!
“Auld Lang Syne
“Thank you for coming”
Wish Councillor Robert Nemeth who was the Conservative candidate at the last general election was approached and declined to comment. He was interviewed about his views on Brexit on Latest TV.