It may have lost the battle to stop Brexit, but The New European, the pop-up newspaper created for the 48 per cent of Remain voters in the wake of the EU referendum, will carry on publishing.
In fact the weekly title is looking at how it can grow and become a home to “radical ideas about the future of Britain and Europe”, publisher Matt Kelly told Press Gazette on the day of the UK’s official exit from the EU.
TNE, which launched in 2016 and originally planned to run for just four weeks, now has a “solid subscriber base” of 8,500 people and sells some 10,000 copies a week on the newsstand at £3 a copy.
As such it is now turning a healthy profit, Kelly said, allowing it to invest in the longer term future. Kelly stepped down as editor of the title in October, passing the editorial reins to Jasper Copping.
It mostly relies on contributors, author Bonnie Greer among them, but is recruiting for an online reporter as it looks to grow the digital side of its business.
“The audience is still there and seems very passionate about what we are doing – and it’s in profit as well – so as long as that’s the case we will carry on,” Kelly told Press Gazette.
“There’s been a huge amount of energy in the Remain campaign and Remain is now dead, so what do we with that energy and particular interest?
“Brexit exposed a new constituency of people who weren’t necessarily politically aligned in old ways, but were all joined by a belief in being open to Europe. We think those people are still there and interested in how to help move Britain forward and we can be a platform for that debate.”
He said: “Maybe the future for the New European is being the platform for the radical centre”, an area sitting between the New Statesman and The Spectator politically that he said lacked representation in the UK media.
The former Daily Mirror night editor said it was a “misnomer” that centrists could not be radical.
“I mean people who are interested in ideas about how we can profoundly change institutions, organisations and structures and the way they work in this country,” he explained, pointing to the National Health Service.
“[It’s about] being idealistic but also pragmatic.”
TNE may also find a new market on the continent, where Kelly said he believed there is room for an “English-language, EU-friendly publication”.
“There’s nothing like us over there either,” he said. “I think people in the EU27 [member states] will be just as fascinated about what’s being talked about and fought about in the UK, now more than ever.”
Currently TNE, which is owned by regional news publisher Archant, only sells a few hundred copies in major cities abroad, but could now expand.
Another area of interest for TNE is Scotland, which voted in the majority to stay in the EU and seeks independence from the UK to rejoin. Currently it sells a couple of thousand copies in the region, but faces competition from the likes of pro-independence title The National.
Despite its hurried launch – it printed its first edition two weeks after the Brexit vote – Kelly said people had “bought into what we are trying to do and why we are there.”
“It’s been a surprising success,” he said. “We will keep trying to grab people’s attention, because that’s the whole point. Why would we do anything else?”
But he said he would look again “if we get the recipe wrong”.