Press Release: Auf Wiedersehen but not Goodbye!

Brussels/London, January 31, 2020.

“It feels unreal for many of us to say it but today is the last day of the United Kingdom (UK) being a member of the EU, at least for now,” says Leonie MARTIN, President of Young European Federalists (JEF). She continues: “Brexit is not over, the seeds will now unfold: how will the nationalists turn their rhetoric into reality? What will be the citizens’ rights? And also: will we be able to offer Erasmus+ projects for citizens based in the UK? Today, our hearts go out to our Federalists in the UK and those with a UK passport, past and present. Tomorrow, however, we will channel our energies to organise activities, together, for everything that Brexit stands against: an open and democratic Europe”.


Martin reflects: “The Brexit process has already affected our generation and our organisation: ever since 2015, when JEFers organised the first “EU loves UK” actions, ahead of the UK General elections. Many JEFers in the UK and across Europe have joined our organisation because they were shocked about the results of the Brexit referendum. We Europeans have to wake up and demand a say: Brexit shatters the myth that European integration is irreversible. We can no longer take Europe as we know it for granted, and so we Federalists need to redouble our commitment”.


“Saying that federalists should be happy to lose a member state is to ignore the human side of federalism. On the contrary, we as Federalists must not 'other' the UK”, Martin warns. It is easy now to look at the UK as a source of problems, but it was the UK's Federal Union that inspired Spinelli's Federalist thinking: British thinkers and activists have initiated and contributed so much to our movement - from the founders of Federal Union in 1938 through Edward Heath, Tony Blair, and yes, even Margaret Thatcher - and they will continue to do so. The UK also gave the EU more of a global perspective, a foreign policy dimension, supported Enlargement, and was key to bringing about the Single Market. 


We must also remember that Brexiters are not the majority in the UK and that all major surveys are suggesting that young people are still overwhelmingly pro-European. The UK is also home to the biggest pro-European demonstrations in any country at any time. Over 100 JEFers from across Europe joined the People’s Vote March which took place in London in March 2019 to add a federalist touch to the ocean of yellow-starred flags. 

JEFers with UK passports have been, are, and will continue to be active members, also in our leadership: we think of the likes of Richard Corbett MEP who coined the term “democratic deficit” in our political platform, or - David Grace, who published on how the environment is the perfect issue around which to campaign for federalism (a generation before it was popular), or Jon Worth who made his passion for broadening the federalist message a professional call about communication; all of whom have been Presidents of JEF Europe. 


The Young European Movement UK was founded by JEF Europe and the European Movement in 1972 to campaign for the accession of the United Kingdom. In times where internal political crisis dominated JEF, it was this popular wish across 'the six' that brought JEF back together. “The second founding of JEF Europe and the UK section predate British membership of the EU. - If we pushed for it once, we can push for it again!”, pledges Christopher POWERS, Treasurer of JEF Europe and UK citizen. Powers stresses: “Throughout the years, JEFers in the UK have argued for EU membership, and for the development of the Union. I am confident that we British JEFers, wherever we are, have so much still to give, irrespective of the colour of our passports.


JEF Europe and YEM UK decided in 2018 to bring the human aspect back to the story of the UK’s place in Europe by twinning each and every local section in the UK with a local section somewhere in Europe. These twinnings remain active, as long as JEFers are there.


“Brexit is not over as the future relationship will now have to be discussed. We must not lose hope: the environment in which European Federalists have been operating has deteriorated in the last few years, for a whole variety of reasons, but our aim remains the same: a united Europe - whole and free. Join Young European Movement UK now. Brexit has exposed the problems in the UK democratic system, as well as our country's understanding of and relationship to the rest of Europe. Federalism, both for Britain and for Europe as a whole, has never been more obviously the answer, and we must roll up our sleeves to bring it about,” calls Alex MOLYNEUX, President of the Young European Movement UK.


The last day of UK membership in the European Union - for now - is Friday, January 31, 2020 (thus ending 11pm GMT / midnight in CET / Feb 1, 1am in EET). 



More information about JEF Europe

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 13.000  members active in more than 35 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

Similar to the concept of sister city programs, the programme pairs up two or three different local sections of the JEF Europe network with each other. The implementation of the twinning programme varies from online debates over to trips. Inspired by the twinning connections initiated on a grassroots level, the Twinning Programme by JEF Europe was formally established in 2013. 



More information about Young European Movement UK

Young European Movement UK (YEM UK) is the British national section of JEF Europe. Established in 1972, it promotes European unity in the United Kingdom. In the context of Brexit, it has become known for not only combatting Brexit, but for also making a positive case for the UK’s membership of the EU. The organisation provides a platform for discussions on the future of Europe beyond the question of Brexit, international exchanges, as well as Brexit-related activism.


Recent statements about Brexit

25.03.2019 “No way, Theresa May! Let the people have their say!” - JEF Europe takes the streets in London to support a People’s Vote 

22.03.2019 Federal Committee meeting of the Young European Federalists (JEF Europe), March 22 - 24, 2019 in London 

16.01.2019 Edging closer to the abyss - JEF Europe regrets yesterday’s vote and now calls on British legislators to avoid no-deal outcome

23.06.2018 “People first, Brexit later - or better yet, never” - JEF Europe and YEM UK announce intensified twinning programme