The EESC paid tribute to its British members on 22 January 2020 at the last plenary session they attended before the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January. The 24 members representing the UK received a commemorative medal at a ceremony that showed the EESC's commitment to maintaining strong ties with British civil society after Brexit.
Luca Jahier, president of the EESC, spoke of the crucial contribution made by British members to the EESC's work and made clear the EESC's determination to maintain close contact with British civil society after Brexit. "There is no alternative other than a strong relationship between the EU and the UK, and we at the EESC will do whatever it takes to keep that strong link alive. Ceci n'est qu'un au revoir, mes amis", Jahier said.
Tom Jenkins, president of the EESC between 1996 and 1998, was invited to the ceremony and expressed his sorrow at being about to lose his EU citizenship. The pro-European activist Madeleina Key, also known as "EU Supergirl", announced that she would continue to fight for Europe in the UK and concluded: "We must believe that the future is Europe, so all British citizens know they will be forever Europeans."
Three British members representing each of the three groups of the EESC – David Sears for Group I, Judy McKnight for Group II and Jane Morrice for Group III – took the floor to express their personal feelings and views on Brexit, as did Rose D'Sa, the EESC's longest-serving UK member. The presidents of the three groups also contributed to the debate by acknowledging the work of the British members. Stefano Mallia, chair of the EESC's Brexit Follow-up Group, also spoke, insisting on the need to set up some kind of forum to maintain the dialogue with British civil society: "We must fight to keep our friendship and I will do my best to build a structure that allows for this." (dgf)