Here is my Interview in the Christmas edition of Paris Match, from my last trip to Brussels for the Letters2Europe Project.
Sadly my experience talking to Europeans whilst I was there is that they don’t think Brexit is reversible and they feel that Britain has rejected them… I hope this article goes some way to countering those views.
So, this is my attempt at a translation…
“The Rebel who wants to prevent Brexit.
At 23 years old, the British Madeleina Kay has only one idea in her head: To stop Brexit. The referendum on 23rd June 2016 in favour of Britain leaving the European Union has turned her life upside-down. Then studying Landscape Architecture, the young woman from Sheffield ditched it all to become a militant pro-European. Persuaded by the benefits of membership of the European “club”, she attempts to convince even the most sceptical that the future is to remain fully one of the 28.
Spokes-woman for all who think they have been lied to by British politicans, Madeleina Kay is causing a sensation.” Madeleina Kay and her dog Alba in the Parc Cinquintenaire in Brussels: “I came to distribute letters from British people explaining their love for the European Union and why they want to Remain.”
“Why would it not be possible to be British and European?” By Celine Schoen.
Paris Match: A majority of British people voted in favour of Brexit. Shouldn’t the will of the people be respected and implemented?
Madeleina Kay: The Campaign before the referendum was based on nothing but lies. The electorate have been conned. They were made to think that the EU was responsible for inequalities in the UK, but it’s false. All the arguments in favour of Brexit, can be swept aside, compared to the economic, political social and environmental reasons to Remain. For the UK, leaving the European Union is national suicide. Seen as self-destruction. The irony is that areas of the UK, such as Wales and the North-East, who voted massively in favour of Brexit, are those very regions who received the most funding from the EU and will therefore be the most negatively impacted by the exit. But they believed that by turning against the EU they would be helping themselves…
Don’t all the debates about Brexit centre around the question of identity?
It is effectively central. I am often told that I must hate my country. But that is not the case, since we have voted to leave a Union that seemed to me so beneficial. What is important to understand is that the EU does not destroy national identities. The nationalists present the EU like it is a predatory, external institution, that takes away our rights. The language used by the media in the UK to report on Brexit is a huge part of the problem. It is presented as a battle between the UK and the EU, but their view is false: Why is it not possible to be both British and European?
What will Britain lose from Brexit?
The benefits of membership of the EU are enormous. Firstly, we often forget, that it is thanks to the EU that the continent is peaceful. I think it is important to remind people. Then there is the Single Market, the Customs Union, the ERASMUS programme, which the UK will no longer be able to access after Brexit. But there is plethora of other reasons to remain in the European Union: the European Arrest Warrant, consumer rights protections, research funding, protected food status, which we do not think of immediately but which aren’t trivial.
If the EU provides so many benefits why does it fail to appeal?
The problem is easy to see: the EU doesn’t talk to its citizens. It’s kept inside these huge, grey institutions, who are inaccessible, and filled with men in miserable suits who never smile. Their communication is pitiful. That’s what I blame, their lack of creativity. The EU must make efforts to show the good work that it does; As a catalyst for energy, a source of inspiration, a motor of dynamism and co-operation.
You use your creativity for the European Union. What are your talents?
Through my books and my songs, I try to change minds. All of my work is not related to Brexit, for example: “Go Back to Where You Came From!” Is a children’s book about the refugee crisis. I wrote it to draw attention to the plight of people forced to flee their country against their will: The intention was to teach compassion and tolerance. My next book was “Theresa Maybe in Brexitland” a satirical short story for adults about British politics after the referendum. This book is a parody of Lewis Carol’s masterpiece “Alice in Wonderland”. The publication of my books has been possible thanks to crowdfunding campaigns. I also sing and play the guitar. Most of my songs are about Brexit. Becoming an activist helped me to find my identity and to gain confidence. You have to be confident to perform pro-EU songs in front of hundreds of people.
In one of your children’s books, your dog Alba is the main character. She visits every country in the EU, why?
“Alba White Wolf Goes To Europe” is a book for European children, which celebrates the diversity of the cultures of the EU member states. I drew my dog Alba in 28 iconic European scenes, at the Parthenon in Athens, at the heart of Budapest, and passing le Mont St.Michel in France. Bringing Alba to Brussels allowed us to show the implications of Brexit on people’s daily lives. For example, Brexit will mean the end of the EU Pet Passport which allows dogs and cats (and ferrets) to travel in the EU if they have been vaccinated. So Alba is also here today to stand up for her rights!
To attract attention you wear two cosutmes: an EU super girl and a Pirate Brexit saboteur. Which do you wear most?
It’s difficult to say. They are both my identities, I like them both. Britain clearly needs a superhero to save it from Brexit. My “EU super girl” costume serves that purpose. As for the pirate, it’s for sabotaging Brexit. These costumes are designed to get attention, to inspire people and to try to change people’s minds. There are lots of anti-Brexit activists but I am “militant pro EU”.
The European Politician Guy Verhofstadt met you at the European Parliament. What did you talk about?
Yes, I was so pleased to meet him. He took two handfuls of letters written by British citizens and promised to reply on Twitter. Guy Verhofstadt is an interesting person. In his office at the parliament he had a brilliant fridge with the union jack print. Unlike Michel Barnier who is involved with all the issues relating to Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt is concentrating on the issue of citizen’s rights. The three elements which have comprised the first phase of the negotiations, seem to me to be the most important. It’s right that we must assure the EU Citizens living in the UK and the UK citizens living in the EU that their rights will be protected after Brexit. The two other issue are the Divorce Bill and the Irish Border.
Do you think the Future of the EU is Safe?
Brexit has shaken the foundations of the EU. It’s the first time a member state has tried to leave the club. This symbolic event is as strong as it is dramatic. But the EU has the intelligence to gather support rather than falling apart. And Justly, the EU has never had more need to be united, in the face of Brexit, but also against Trump, Putin, Erdogan, and the threats they pose.
Theresa May has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which began the process of leaving the EU on your birthday, the 29th March 2017. Can you forgive her for this day?
The Conservative party is unpardonable. My 23rd birthday was not a happy event. But I was already afraid after the vote to Leave, I had no idea there was such a level of Euroscepticism in the UK. It’s important to bear in mind that the result of the vote was incredibly tight: only 51.9% of the electorate who actually voted, chose to leave. It may take 2-3 years to negotiate a deal: And those who were not of voting age on 23rd June 2016 should be allowed to have a say in their future. So I am demanding another referendum on the final deal. Similarly, all those who believed the lies about Brexit will have the chance to vote again. Then the road to Brexit will be barred. If after everything, Brexit still goes ahead, I don’t think I can stay in the UK. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think this will be the case. “