Passport to Totnes

Jonathan Cooper has achieved worldwide fame…

for both himself and Totnes in just a few days. And Totnes Pulse can never let an opportunity to stand in the reflected light of glory pass, so we just had to meet up with him, Molly the dog and Kevin Childs.

Before we knew it we were pledging an allegiance written on the back of the new Totnes Passport prior to being issued with ours. The passport includes images of a carrot (organic), fish and Babbage’s difference engine. It’s actually a folded card to be honest and the whole project is conceived and financed by Jonathan and Kevin. Jonathan has become the spokesperson purely because he was there when the BBC and the Independent turned up.

Declare Independence!

The concept has been shamelessly stolen from the Ealing comedy film, Passport to Pimlico, which was shown at the Totnes Cinema at an opening event which Jonathan was unable to attend due to sudden illness. The premise of the film is that Pimlico was gifted to the Duke of Burgundy, making residents Burgundians as opposed to British – it so follows that, because Totnes was discovered and founded by Brutus of Troy, residents of Totnes are, in fact, residents of Troy and can therefore break away from the United Kingdom and remain in the European Union. Jonathan is quite affronted at any suggestion of doubt regarding the connections with Troy, gesturing at the Brutus Stone with considerable emphasis, explaining that it’s a cold, hard fact and there’s even a sign above saying that it is. “What further proof do you need?” He demands angrily.


Jonathan seems to be less sure of the negotiating process and unwittingly mirrors our own government when discussing details such as whether there should be a hard border with Newton Abbott and if there will be freedom of movement for people from Tigley and Harbertonford for example. However he does focus on the positives. “Once Brexit happens, with Totnes remaining uniquely in the EU, banking institutions will set up their UK head offices here, in order to access the UK markets and the importing opportunities speak for themselves.” He waves in the general direction of the River Dart explaining that Steamer Quay might need extending in order to handle the inevitable arrival of the container ships.

The Totnes effect…

Jonathan appears to be slightly taken aback at the media attention which has prompted TV and media locally, nationally as well as from France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere. He appears to be genuinely pleased that it has pushed the town sharply into focus once again and generates more publicity for Totnes as a honey-pot for tourism.

But he is also pleased that his comedic message carries with it the potentially life-changing and serious implications involved with breaking from the EU. To be fair, Jonathan Cooper (very quiet about the OBE he was awarded) has particular expertise in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, human rights and equality rights in the EU because he is, in fact, a human rights specialist with Doughty Street Chambers in London. He has very serious concerns about the future for the UK after Brexit: putting aside the terms of trade, he points out that in terms of UK law, the EU pushed our parliament to pass more inclusive and fairer rules which could not have happened otherwise. “It has been brilliant on social justice. Women’s equality laws came from the European Union, LGBT rights came from the EU too. The best example is the protection of pregnant women.

The UK refused to treat pregnant women any differently from other workers and the EU forced us to change womens’ rights by declaring that not treating pregnant women appropriately is a case of sex discrimination. That wouldn’t have happened without the European project”

Jonathan cites several specifics involving British businesses benefiting from close ties with Europe but is especially fired up about the advantages from freedom of movement. Kevin joins in at this point: “My rights for movement that I’ve known all my life are being taken away and I’m not even being told what it will be replaced with. I work a lot in Europe, so what does this mean for me next year? Will I have to apply for a work permit? Health insurance – What happens there?” Jonathan points out that without the E111 Health Insurance card, costs of overseas insurance will significantly increase and people with a pre-existing condition may not be able to insure themselves at all.

Our rights are threatened?

All EU law has been transferred now as UK law except for the fundamental Charter of Human Rights. “This government are taking away the most progressive human rights treaty ever signed up to. The right to human dignity, protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, academic freedom. All of that will no longer be part of UK law post-Brexit.”

He is also concerned about laws for UK businesses. “It might sound odd, but businesses love regulation. They know where they are and can act accordingly.” He suggests that without regulation, standards become fluid and more complicated. “Businesses lose the one thing they want, which is certainty.”

Memory lane

“I’m old enough to remember what it was like in the 1970’s and it’s important to point out that nothing has happened to British institutions as a result of membership of the EU. This impression that ‘Britishness’ has somehow been affected is a nonsense, everything is exactly the same as before – we still have our parliament, our court systems, our laws, our monarchy is still the same as it was. This talk of ‘independence’ actually offends me because of this idea of self determination, being in or out of the EU doesn’t change any of that at all.”

What happens next for this campaign?

Whilst his campaign is based on a satirical, lighthearted joke, Jonathan is delighted to see the implications being taken so seriously by many places outside of Totnes. “I would like to see this campaign taken up by Exeter, Plymouth and further afield, people in Brighton have suggested they would like to do it. It’s about allowing people to stand up and say ‘Do you know, we don’t want this’. Look at the actual referendum. 37% voted to leave The remaining 63% either voted remain or didn’t vote at all. That is not a majority.”

Handing out passports.

Jonathan has yet to been turned down by anyone he’s offered a passport to. So we challenge him, trekking up and down the high street in search of citizens where we hand over a passport to anyone prepared to swear allegiance to the cause. To Jonathans’ dismay he is very politely turned down by one tourist couple: “We’re Brexiteers!” (who also refused to appear on camera), however the other 12 people we approach are clearly delighted to receive theirs.

  6 comments for “Passport to Totnes

  1. Sally Sampson
    8th August 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Poem leaving the EU !

    Britain is leaving the euro nest cause half the country thinks its best.

    But I was disappointed with the Euro result , although, really not my fault

    that doors will lock shut
    and we will be cut

    off from
    a path, we might like to take if we should, want to make

    a trip to another destination

    to live in another nation.

    I always liked the thought ,that if I bought
    a ticket
    for Italy or Spain

    No one would complain, to come and go
    around each state
    with a good euro rate.

    Health care provision
    with no division
    loads of obvious benefits, I could see, like real Camembert, feta and Brie!

    But our nation was spilt in two
    by the flag of stars and blue
    no longer desired on this British land, some wanting only a one man band, to go it all alone,
    But hey , the rich could roam!

    Cause if you were posh
    you had the dosh
    to buy a European life
    away from trouble and strife, money gets you a citizenship and the best champagne to sip

    With your dual nationality or
    there’s your ancestry.

    Look up your family tree
    and perhaps there, you could locate
    a friendly state
    A place, that held roots past
    but you’d have to act fast
    to find a German or Irish connection.

    Swiss, Dutch or France
    you might be in, with a chance.

    But not Scandinavia
    even if one parent made yer! Denmark might be a happy nation, but not on my bloody occasion.

    Countries might want you
    go back a generation or two
    get that coveted dual nationality
    to put an end to your British banality

    planting seeds of fertilisation of being from another nation.

    not concerned with past fights
    but the need now to keep people’s rights , to be here or be there
    Cause it fills me with fear

    to be stuck on a rock
    with a grumpy flock
    of people who want it all back to white , not black
    to folk
    who can not joke
    with a polish bloke
    or offer a Syrian refugee
    a warm smile with a cup of tea.

    Could I find a dual nationality,

    for me to make a reality ?

    I began my search through my grandmothers line, I felt her adoption might be a fine
    to take

    as it might make
    For a lost great grand father who did not hail from this shore and I needed to know more.

    And yes there was some truth from Aunty Ruth
    Although a bitter pill for Aunty Jill, Someone from another land, although not grand

    ‘spoke another language ‘ That was an advantage

    ‘And the British, he hated’ ‘the English, he slated ‘
    This surely is it , my way out I had no doubt

    that he , was the key to my foreign ancestry.

    And just as I hoist my sails

    I learnt he came from Wales
    A slate miner from Abergavenny wasn’t worth a penny
    to me
    in my search
    I needed a church
    for those that were married across seas carried that eventually could lead back to me

    a person of dual heritage with the right parentage

    of past genetic code that was bestowed

    so I had a choice still had a voice

    Cause without my continental kin was I destined for the bin
    of only mediocrity
    seeing only aristocracy

    Lord over me.

    I actually liked euro democracy,
    even with all its beurocracy
    So hopes were on grandmas maternal line, perhaps here I’d find a sign

    If I follow the family tree and any marriage decree, when finally done would have spun

    a new web that led……

    but my inquiry
    I wrote in my diary
    was only as far as the land of Robin Hood

    and Nottingham was of no bleedin good.

    So I follow my grandfathers branches to see if there were any chances

    And oh by gum
    up goes my thumb!

    Yes there’s jubilation
    a blood relative from another nation

    had boarded the Amsterdam station

    Leaving Holland land of bicycles , apples slices , Windmills

    and tulips
    But I had been utterly clueless

    forgot in my triumph and glee
    It means absolutely nothing if its in …… 1753!

    I look around at all my friends and family
    and I am happy , in all its familiarity
    I can’t live in Venice ,Paris or Rome
    but I wanted the choice , the freedom too roam.

    ,But now I stare out across the shore

    Wondering if future generations might explore

    without controls or borders

    customs or warders.

    And now perhaps for the worlds sanity and hope for every nationality

    I would just like to state the case for the whole human race.

    That weapons are dismantled , and discarded

    Nations states unguarded .

    Cause really at the end of the day, what in the feck does it really matter

    the language we chatter

    the different clothes we wear
    if we just care

    enough about one another to see beyond the place or nation of our birth

    and think perhaps here is someone of worth
    to value our diversity
    as skin is really very thin

    and it is only ever what lays within the essence of each human being

    and seeing
    it’s not the Camembert, Feta or Brie or crossing the North or Irish Sea but United in Equality , Caring for all of humanity!

    Yes Britain is leaving the euro nest

    cause half the country thinks it’s best.

    Sally Sampson TQ9 7AQ

  2. Robert Fritz
    8th August 2018 at 10:13 pm


    i am from germany and my english ist not so good (sorry). the idea is great. can i have a totnes-passport?

    Please, ich wäre sehr stolz.

    • Peter Shearn
      9th August 2018 at 11:15 am

      I don’t know what Jonathon Cooper’s rules are for non-domicile Totnesian’s but you can ask via the Twitter account @PassportTotnes or via the facebook page: @citystatetotnes

  3. Mike Williams
    9th August 2018 at 7:37 am

    As a Son of Devon in Exile in Lancashire, I’ve applied for my City State of Totnes Passport!
    (I would also like to suggest ‘Twinning’ with Buckley-Wells, a small and historically almost forgotten former village ‘swallowed’ by the Metropolitan Borough of Bury.)

  4. Schröer Daniel
    15th August 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Ich will auch einen Pass!

  5. Dr.Klaus Gieck
    15th August 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Great idea, would like to be part of it and support asking for a passport…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.