Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Mrs May's is not the only letter to Donald Tusk this week

Mrs May is not the only person who is writing this week to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. Here is the letter I have sent. I don't have a personal courier to deliver it by hand, as she does. Nevertheless I hope he will have received it by email and will be interested, even glad, to hear a different voice coming out of the United Kingdom as the Prime Minister triggers Article 50.


Dear Mr Tusk

You will be receiving a long-awaited letter from the UK Prime Minister this week. In it she will be giving formal notice that our nation intends to leave the European Union.

I did not want to let this week pass without writing to you myself. This is a purely personal letter of course. But I know that millions of British citizens will be feeling the same way as we head inexorably towards the door marked Brexit.

It will not be news to you that those of us who voted Remain in last year's Referendum are very sad that events have come to this point. That is putting it mildly. We believe as firm Europeans that the UK's proper place in the world is to be a committed EU member state. We think that the EU has been all the better for Britain's belonging to its family of nations. The UK has had so much to bring to the Union, and so much to gain from it in return. We have seen relationships across the EU grow and flourish during the years we have been a member. The world's safety and wellbeing surely lies in nations collaborating together for the sake of all our peoples and of all humanity. "Ever-closer union" is a noble aspiration.

So like the many who make up "the 48%" (perhaps more now than when the vote took place?), I am utterly dismayed at the prospect of walking away from the European Union in two year's time. There is no point in rehearsing the arguments now that the decision is made. But I don't think I am alone in wanting to place on record my profound sense of disappointment as the die is cast this week. There is room to debate whether or not action under Article 50 is reversible. But I don't expect a way back to the EU be opened in my lifetime.

I also want you to know that I have deplored the self-interest that has dominated the UK's rhetoric about the European Union since David Cameron announced the Referendum. All we seemed to hear as he tried to negotiate "a reformed EU" was the endlessly-repeated phrase "what's best for Britain". There was never any question about what might be best for Europe as a whole, or how this nation could benefit the EU. When we should have been celebrating the remarkable achievements of the past sixty years and helping to build a consensus about the future not just in this continent but worldwide, the only themes that seemed to matter were the economy, trade and migrants. I could not believe that this once outward-looking nation of ours had become so insular.

It's easy to come out with a long list of "if onlys" this week. It doesn't serve much purpose to say, if only the UK had been truly committed to the European Project in the first place. If only we had thrown ourselves into the EU with enthusiasm! But maybe sharing hopes, dreams and aspirations for a kinder and better world order just isn't the British way. Perhaps the European Union will be better off without this country's historic grudging, foot-dragging attitude to its membership.

We have just celebrated the EU's 60th birthday. Our founding parents (yes, I can still say "our" for the time being) believed that only economic, social, cultural and political cooperation between nations could reconstruct our continent free of the warfare and division that plagued it for so many centuries. As a Christian, I share their belief that the quest for peace and justice comes down to loving your neighbour as yourself. This is why supra-national organisations like the European Union are so essential. There is no future for the world unless we can all commit to looking beyond our national boundaries, not just with fine words but with actions that make a difference.

The EU faces many threats at present. Brexit is just one of them. I hope that the United Kingdom will always be a good neighbour and friend to the European Union, whatever the future holds. I hope that the Brexit negotiations will be amicable and free of bitterness and rancour. I am especially thinking of citizens from EU countries outside Britain who are resident in the UK, and of British citizens living and working in EU countries abroad. You know how anxious they are in the face of an uncertain future.

You can count on us who are "the 48%" to go on trying to be good Europeans. That includes a majority of British young people. They have only ever known a Britain that is part of the EU. Many of them are very angry that their future has been stolen from them by my silver-haired generation. But I am heartened when I hear them talk about politics and the kind of society they want to belong to. They are more articulate than I was at that age. They are all for grasping hold of our destinies as peoples and nations and making a difference. I think we can trust them, one day, to look again at this monumental folly we have bequeathed them, and undo it. When that day comes, I hope the European Union can be generous enough to welcome us back.

With my best wishes and prayers,
Michael Sadgrove


  1. Thank you Michael for writing such sense and with so much humility and sensitivity at this very sad time. Like you I hope the negotiations are conducted with sensitivity. I hope very much that you are wrong and that we are again in the EU in our life times or, just maybe, sufficient of our fellow citizens will realise as the negotiations continue that they are being forced to become poorer and less secure.

    1. Nice to see a familiar name! You won't recognise my alias, but I came to Bath Abbey for a job interview, some years ago now. Like both of you, I am appalled by the tone of much that has been said before and since the vote. And I'm afraid we voted to leave based on lies and false promises. But personally, I really can't second guess how things will pan out. More trivially, Michael, I really can't convince myself that an email is a letter!

  2. Tremendous letter by Michael which certainly reflects all that I and many, many others feel at this juncture.
    Thank you!
    Lindsay Gray

  3. Thank you Michael. I believe this reflects the views of many, and certainly my own.

  4. And who might be Michael Sadgrove????? I am absolutely sick and tired of people like him who refuse to accept the will of the people when it conflicts with his own "far more important" views. I like everyone else with any sense of responsibility must accept the will of the people - throwing toys out of the pram is childish and I for one won't play that game. Let's pull together and stop destroying democracy.

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  6. It is good to debate points of principle and be passionate about them if need be. Bracing argument helps us to "face the truth", as you say, and clarify issues. But please don't personalise differences, especially when you have the advantage of your anonymity to hide behind.

  7. You mean the reference to your French Property (indicating a strong bias to the E.U.)and left-wing politics??!!

  8. If you read through previous blogs, you'll see how family history has influenced and shaped my beliefs about Britain in the EU. But that aside, I have thought ever since 1973 that our EU membership is a principled matter of good politics, good social ethics and good theology. This too I have tried to argue in numerous blogs in recent years.

  9. Thank you for expressing what many of us feel Michael. I accept the feelings of Anonymous too. I have recently returned to UK after a couple of decades in mainland Europe. I am saddened to find that England, in particular, now has a majority of mean and selfish citizens that genuinely do not want to be part of something greater. The success of the Brexit referendum has given these individuals license to air their bigoted views in public and behave in a manner that is contemptuous of their European neighbors. They were the majority. Were we asleep or hiding when they were on the rise? Too late to reverse this situation now. We need to wake up and put our heads above the parapet. The way forward is to assist our young people in coping with, and hopefully reversing, the insular hatred of "others" that is abroad in our land. Keep up the good work, just try to give it a wider airing.
    Kind Regards
    Chris Sames.

  10. The determination of remainers to paint all leavers as morally inferior or stupid - simply entrenches the divisions. It removes any possibility of dialogue. Until you respect the alternative view as legitimate, even if in your view, wrong why should they respect your views?

    Mrs May's opening paragraphs reflect my views very well - leavers are not all narrow minded bigots they just don't share your rose tinted view of the EU. The EU is not Europe - that is an insideous lie, a much bigger lie than any issues around what we might do with any financial gains from ceasing to be net contributors to EU funds.

    "On 23 June last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states.

    On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent."

  11. This is from anonymous(1) Totally agree with the above intelligent comment. The voice of reason and a welcome change from all the bad-tempered views from those who can't/won't accept the democratic will of the people.

  12. The problem is, so many people, not you, but in newspapers and so on have expressed views that are simply prejudice against foreigners. Even the nice Polish lass in the bank, who has been here for nine years, has been asked when she is leaving. So many people seem to think we have already left. And many people seem to think that there will be £350m to spend on the NHS. If people voted to leave based either on prejudice, or on erroneous facts, lies in fact, then once they find out how things are really, they may feel differently. I'm troubled by the way there have been threats to make things difficult for others to leave. This suggests they don't have a good enough product! But, you know, Michael is entitled to his opinion. And this is his blog, so whose views did you expect to find?