Guy Thornton 1947 - 2021


He will be sadly missed by all having become something of a talisman for the branch over more than two and half decades. Guy was one of the most prominent members of the NUJ in Continental Europe and a member of a number of committees within the union.

Tony Sheldon branch chair and NEC job share for Continental Europe.

It was 1994. I’d not been in Holland long before this garrulous and jovial Yorkshireman phoned out of the blue. He’d been in touch with Acorn House then NUJ headquarters trying to reach out to any Dutch NUJers, perhaps start a branch. His enthusiasm and energy then were irresistible, dare I say, overbearing. Within months, he, I, and Belinda Stratton, veteran of the Pergamon dispute, had met in my living room in Utrecht and an embryo NUJ Netherlands was born.

With the help of Bob Norris, then assistant general secretary, whom Guy adored - they shared a love of real ale and cricket - the branch was launched with a good relationship the Dutch union, the NVJ. Soon Mindy Ran joined, working well with Guy, and within a year or two, the Continental European Council (CEC) was set up with Paris and Brussels. NUJ Netherlands, nor I believe, the CEC. would ever happen without Guy Thornton and his internationalist vision.   

Born in Thornton-Le-Dale in North Yorkshire, Guy attended Leeds University writing for the student newspaper alongside a certain Paul Dacre later editor of the Daily Mail. Guy was very active in what were then a very radical Young Liberals. He then moved to Denmark before arriving in Amsterdam and settling down to a life of freelance correspondent writing about the Netherlands, politics, and beer for among others The New Statesman, the Guardian, and the BBC. He was a keen member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and the Dutch Foreign Press Association. A major press event in the Netherlands was not quite complete until Guy’s entrance.

Guy, who was the first branch chair, would call me almost every week for 27 years with a question he wanted to vent about the branch or the NUJ or his beloved Leeds United. He never once missed a branch meeting, even continuing to chair from his rehabilitation center after being knocked off his bike by a tram and seriously injured. Nor did he ever miss a delegate meeting from the branch launch onwards. He would attend in some capacity. We were, in many ways, his life.

When, after nearly 20 years as chair I thought it time to challenge him for the post, I was worried how he’d take it. He asked me if it would be better if he just disappeared into the sunset. I insisted he had a lot more to offer the branch and the NUJ. I’m glad he chose not to sulk. We had eight more years of Guy, his knowledge and experience have been invaluable

It seems strange he will no longer regale me for the nth time about attending the football 1966 World Cup Final, nor the 11.15 am call on the landline which lately would always be Guy. There were times, of course, when he drove me screaming round the bend, but I loved him dearly too and today miss him.

Cailin Mackenzie, Chair of the Continental European Council said of Guy "I met him through the CEC, and the range of his institutional memory of the Council and NUJ was remarkable and useful, especially in my early days as Chair. Outside meetings he enjoyed a beer and a chat and was never without a story, about the NUJ or another of his various interests. He was a memorable and committed activist."

Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, described Guy as “a consistent and committed participant in the democratic structures of the union. He added: “Guy enjoyed the cut and thrust of debates at delegate meetings and was a long-standing branch delegate. His passion for social justice was reflected in his work at council and committee level including the Equality Council, DMC, and 60 plus committee. He was also an institution on the Continental European Council”.

NUJ Netherlands branch member Siobhan Wall: "I was sad to hear about Guy's passing this week. It is hard to imagine the Netherland's branch without him. He was such an engaged, knowledgeable, and politically astute person. Despite his main interests (beer and football) only occasionally overlapping with mine, he was always interesting and engaging to have around. I will miss his extensive, encyclopedic knowledge of both continental and British trade union matters and campaign histories. He was the Wikipedia of European journalism union matters before Wikipedia even existed. I remember Guy coming to many of my book launches and exhibition openings - indefatigable in his support for a fellow NUJ member. The world is a less interesting place without the political insights of our committed, indefatigable friend and comrade, Guy Thornton.

NUJ Netherlands branch member John Coppock: “I’ll always remember an act of kindness from Guy as my sole spectator when I ran the Amsterdam half-marathon in 2014. I had mentioned that I was doing it at an earlier meeting, and he was concerned that I would have no one there to watch. So he turned up to the event – despite being partially immobilized with walking sticks – to cheer me on. He was there when I crossed the line over two hours later, with a cheery “well done”. I was so chuffed that someone I hardly knew had made such an effort that I treated him to dinner at Gaucho’s, where we enjoyed a steak and a few beers before I limped home. He enquired about how well I was integrating into the Netherlands at many further meetings, with lots of helpful tips on how to get cut-price rail travel, to how the health care system worked – an issue which unfortunately he had some expertise. As I was diagnosed with arthritis and later broke my elbow, we had great fun comparing ailments (Guy always won), and debating whether ibuprofen was superior to aspirin. Despite his many health problems, he never missed an NUJ social gathering that I attended – including two at my home in Delft – feeling that he should show solidarity with his comrades even if he had to get there while still in plaster. I will miss him.

Helmut Hetzel, Honorary Member of the FPA/BPV, and President from 1990 till 1998 writes it's with deep regrets, The Foreign Press Association of The Netherlands (FPA/BPV – Buitenlandse Persvereniging in Nederland) has to announce sadly, that our honored member Guy Thornton has passed away. Guy was an outstanding and valued member of the FPA/BPV for about 30 years. He reported freelance from Amsterdam for: The Guardian, BBC Radio, New Scientist, Brewers Guardian, and the European Cultural Digest.

Guy was a journalist with intellect and passion. His enthusiasm and energy were irresistible, his questions at every press meeting were inspiring and profound. Guy also liked to debate. He really was a debater! He was able to link his knowledge and his arguments with humor. The range of his reporting was broad: Politics, human interest, economics, and culture. One subject to report about, he liked most: Beer! He pleased the Brewers Guardian and its readers with lots of interesting and pleasant beer-features. A press conference at the headquarter of the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam would have been unthinkable without Guy.

No surprise that Guy was also a keen member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. After the press conference, having drunk a glass of Heineken beer, what we usually did together, he used to say to me: "Helmut, to be honest, I prefer a British ale.’’ He was really British! Being so British of course, he was a very active member of the National Union of Journalists NUJ in the United Kingdom and Europe. Guy was not only an active member of the NUJ but also of the FPA/BPV in The Netherlands. He even served the FPA/BPV as a board member. As a European and union activist Guy set up the NUJ's continental European council (CEC) with branches in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

Guy was a man of action. It was Guy who phoned me a few years ago. He was angry, very angry. He was upset, even outraged. Why? The reason for his anger was: The then acting FPA/BPV-board had decided to cancel the membership of the International Press Center, Nieuwspoort’’ in The Hague, the very "Nieuwspoort’’ the FPA/BPV is a founding member of. "We can not accept this, Helmut,’’ he said very firmly! We took action, the way Guy wanted it, but regrettably, it was in vain.

Guy, I, we the FPA/BPV will miss you enormously. Rest in peace! The Foreign Press Association of The Netherlands FPA/BPV extends their condolences to Guy's family and friends.

Former NUJ Netherlands branch member Simon Gleave: In my early days in the Netherlands, Guy was a very important figure to me. We had met each other online when I still lived in London but when I moved to the Netherlands he helped me a great deal. I joined the NUJ (and NVJ) because of Guy, my knowledge of craft beer in this country and Germany is because of Guy, all of the great little pubs I know in Amsterdam are because of Guy. We shared a love of football which meant that I found myself at RKC Waalwijk for an Intertoto Cup match against Bradford City, three months after my arrival here back in 2000. Guy had arranged it all and my education in the Dutch craft beer scene began that night at a fascinating pub near Den Bosch station. I watched Leeds matches with him sometimes, England games too. And what an organiser he was. Often when I met him, there was a group of people he had brought together for the event.

In my first decade here, I regularly met up with Guy at "In de Wildeman" in Amsterdam, somewhere so special to me that I have subsequently met other friends there. However, as time went on I gathered other responsibilities in my life and didn't see Guy so often. Whenever I did see him, he was so generous to me - taking me to a Foreign Press Association event at the Heineken museum and introducing me to everyone he knew for example. I'll never forget the way he spoke Dutch (something he also encouraged me in) with his broad Yorkshire accent. That taught me not to worry about having an accent, just learn the language. 

Guy was a one-off. Generous to the last and a fantastic friend to have, particularly as a British ex-pat. Despite living abroad for so long, he was so so British and, in my early days, it was always nice to meet up with him and talk of home. I am sad to hear of his passing. His generosity, knowledge and organisation will be sorely missed by many many people.

General Secretary of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) Thomas Bruning: What a sad message. He was such a familiar face on Tuesday evenings with us. And with so much commitment to the British colleagues in the Netherlands.

Robin Pascoe, on behalf of the team: Guy was a permanent fixture in the world of English language journalism in the Netherlands, and will be missed by a great many people. Our condolences to you all. 

NUJ membership officer Gary Leney: I am really so shocked and sad hearing today about Guy Thornton passing away, he always seemed to keep going whatever the circumstances, health-wise. I would just like to express my own sincere condolences and to his partner and family, which must be awful for them.

In my many years at the NUJ, I got to know Guy really well, on his regular visits to the London Office and the pub and of course at the Great British beer festival in earls court each year. He was in his element here where he volunteered behind the counter, serving the beer and enjoying countless conversations and deliberations about his passion for an ale with fellow punters.

The other passion being Leeds united for his sins!, but football and his knowledge of it in general and our moments touching on past glories of his team and my own Arsenal (Paul 

He was such a lovely bloke and he will be sorely missed by so many people who will not only miss him but will reminiscing and commemorate Guy's life and the pleasure of knowing him.   

John Bailey, a former senior member of the NUJ on a national level, now a life member and still a regular attendee and driver of Sunderland, Shields & Hartlepool branch meetings long into his retirement: Guy was a No 1 nice guy, always ready to chat, to talk about anything that switched you on and was instantly identifiable in pub, restaurant, or on host town seafront as that delegate who shambled up to the rostrum to deliver his contribution to a motion, amendment or point of order with a chuckle or smile. For me, he typified the gentle, social side of the NUJ. I note among the tributes he really loved the late Bob Norris, which fits. I’ll pass your link on to Bob’s wife Pauline, now in Singapore with their family. I’ll remember Guy tonight, sad that his Netherlands-based colleagues will be poorer for picking up the phone never again to hear his Yorkshire tones. 

Cathy Scott, branch Welfare Officer: I was shocked and saddened to hear of Guy’s sudden death recently. A founder member of the Branch, he always seemed to be around at every event and meeting, thereby contributing to a sense that he would somehow continue to be around forever.

His resilience in the face of umpteen medical problems and accidents was unparalleled. Almost as long as I knew Guy, he had been accompanied by an ever-changing succession of hand bandages, wrist supports, knee braces, crutches, mega-plasters and other medical paraphernalia in all the colours of the Dutch health system. If anyone asked him about his ailments, he would happily tell them – at length – usually leading to a certain green tinge appearing in the other person’s complexion. And if Mr Thornton’s blow-by-blow accounts of his bodily ailments ever put you off your lunch, never fear: Guy would happily hoover it up for you.

His clumsiness was legendary: if there was a paving stone to be tripped over or a bike to be fallen off, Guy could be trusted to come up with the goods. But he always reappeared at the next Branch meeting, good-natured as ever, wondering why it had again happened to him. He somehow always bounced back. In fact, his indestructibility was so pronounced that when he had an unfortunate encounter with a tram in Amsterdam a few years ago, the initial reaction of more than one of us was to solicitously enquire as to the health of the tram.

Guy did have other little eccentricities too, such as a surreptitious love affair with the NVJ photocopying machine that he would visit after everyone else had escaped to the pub, not to mention a somewhat hit-and-miss approach to fashion and hairdressing, but his friendliness and commitment to journalistic ideals made him a valued member of the NUJ family. And like so many others in that warm family, I shall miss Guy, his big, open character and all his little foibles.

See the tributes from Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ's equality council and Chris Frost, chair of the ethics council. 

See the obituary on The Guild of Beer Writers website.

Do feel free to send in any personal memories and tributes to add to this page. Please send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Condolences should be sent to: 

Mark Thornton, his brother at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; his sister, Linda Knight, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;  Kaye, Guy's partner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The family has not made any specific requests but agree that a donation to the National Union of Journalists charity NUJ Extra would be an appropriate one for Guy. 

Reporting current news events, involving zwarte Pieten in blackface, poses many challenges.

But NUJ Netherlands and the union nationally can offer support and guidance. Last year, we took a stand on how this issue is reported and our position remains as important and relevant today.

Key is our union’s professional Code of Conduct which states journalists should not produce material “likely to lead to hatred or discrimination” on the grounds of, among other things, “a person’s race, colour, creed”.

NUJ NL member Marvin Hokstam, who is also a member of the NUJ’s Black Members Council, first raised this issue with NUJ Netherlands as part of his long-running campaign for non-discriminatory reporting.

Marvin writes:

When I see national media reporting people in blackface as innocents who were accosted by annoying anti-racism protestors, it makes me think ‘what does it say about your country?' I am in full support of a statement that anti-zwarte Piet movement Kick Out Zwarte Piet will be issuing, which will call on media houses to do better. Because media consumers deserve better.

Marvin has also worked with the Netherlands and other Continental European branches on a motion specifically on this issue which has been adopted by the NUJ’s National Executive Council which states:

  • The NEC notes that the festival of Sinterklaas will soon be celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium.
  • The NEC notes that the character of Zwarte Piet, who accompanies Sinterklaas, is predominantly portrayed by someone in ‘black face’, and this continues to be enjoyed by many who consider it to be an innocent tradition. 
  • Each year there is increased debate and controversy around Zwarte Piet, requiring journalists to cover the topic and arguments. 
  • The NEC reminds all those covering Zwarte Piet of the NUJ Race Reporting Guidelines which state that journalists, “should not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race or colour.
  • The NEC supports journalists in Continental Europe in their efforts to encourage non-discriminatory reporting of Zwarte Piet and those trying to raise a discussion about his role in the Netherlands and Belgium in the 21st Century.

The topic of zwarte Piet incites powerful reactions. Recently there have been arrests among pro-Zwarte Piet demonstrators in Venlo and Eindhoven. Meanwhile, some Dutch libraries have begun removing images of a Piet in blackface from its shelves of children’s books. The NUJ will continue to support its members who are trying to cover this important topic, in accordance with the union’s guidelines and code of conduct. The NUJ Race Reporting Guidelines provide clear guidance on how to ensure such reporting.

Commenting on the wider issues raised by the continuing appearance of a Piet in black face, Marc Wadsworth, Chair of the NUJ’s Black Members Council says:

The BMC believes it is an abomination that the racist “Black face” stereotyping of people of colour still goes on around Sinterklaas in the Netherlands and Belgium. Such things have no place in the 21st century.

He added that the BMC has raised these issues through the Brussels and Netherlands branches and will continue to campaign on them.

For further information:

2019 statement from chair Tony Sheldon.

NUJ guidelines

NUJ Race Reporting guidelines.

Black members.



The EU’s recently published guidelines to the Withdrawal Agreement with the UK say British citizens who live in Europe will no longer be permitted to work across borders. What this means and what can be done about it.

What has happened?

The EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of UK citizens living in Europe following the UK’s departure. During the negotiations before Brexit, Britain and the EU couldn’t agree on the level of freedom of movement allowed to UK citizens resident in the EU. The question was postponed to the current post-exit trade negotiations.

Recently, the EU Commission published its Guidance Notes to the Withdrawal Agreement including Article 2.13.1 Article 25(1) (See below). Though not yet legally binding, this nevertheless states that when the transition period ends on the 1st January 2021 self-employed UK freelancers based in the EU will not count as “frontier” workers able to provide cross-border services to several other EU countries.

Self-employed UK nationals legally resident in the EU, appear only to be allowed to supply cross-border services to one EU27 State providing you don’t also work, a) in the State in which you reside, or b) provide services to any other of the EU26 States.

The EU Commission here mirrors the provisions made for ordinarily employed UK citizens. Working across borders is a right enjoyed by being a member of the Single Market which the UK may have left, but UK nationals living and working in it have not.

What this could mean

Currently, there are around 440 NUJ members based in the EU, most of whom are UK nationals and many of whom are freelancers. It is often standard practice to work across EU borders. Often on a daily basis.

The Guidance Notes suggest UK freelancers based in the Netherlands could not:

  • Cover stories in EU countries outside the Netherlands. A UK photographer could not cross into Belgium, shoot a news picture and then sell it to the Dutch photo agency ANP.
  • Provide any story to titles in EU countries outside the Netherlands, a news picture in Dam Square could not be sold to Le Monde or Der Speigel but could to the New York Times or the Guardian.
  • Provide any Dutch subject matter, via EU based agencies outside the Netherlands, even to Dutch clients. The photographer could not make a portrait of a Dutch businessman in his own Dutch company if his marketing department happened to employ a Belgian photo agency to provide that picture. 

What should we do?

The NUJ is currently looking at the legal position and surveying its EU-based freelancers who may be affected. We are seeking legal clarity on the Guidance Notes, in particular on: Whether it is discriminatory under the Withdrawal Agreement, EU law or the EU27 countries’ national law, and whether there is a distinction between UK nationals per se and UK nationals legally living in the EU who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

We aim to lobby the “Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights between the European Commission and the UK Government”, which is considering these matters. We want self-employed UK nationals, legally resident in the EU prior to Brexit, to be able to continue to work across EU borders. We believe we are a distinct cohort which exercised our previous rights to freedom of movement. These rights are specifically limited by the Withdrawal Agreement, putting us in a worse position than third-country nationals such as US journalists. To deny us our means of earning a living because we chose to live here would be discriminatory.

We aim too to lobby members of the European Parliament. The first point of contact might be EU-UK Friendship Group Co-Chaired by Terry Reintke, Natalie Loiseau, Radek Sikorski and Katarina Barley.


Article 25(1): 

There is a difference between the following categories:  i)  a  person who resides in  State  A  and pursues an activity as a self-employed person in State B; and ii) a person who resides in State A and pursues an activity as a self-employed person in  State  A  while also providing services in  States  B  and  C – either through the occasional provision of services or through the secondary establishment. The first category corresponds to that of a frontier self-employed person while the second category does not.”

Link to the Guidance Notes  

Link to the full text of the Withdrawal Agreement 

In a letter to President von der Leyen NUJ's General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet has asked for clarification on the situation of self-employed members who live and work in the European Union.

The National Union of Journalists is the union for journalists and journalism in the UK and Ireland, and also represents members who live and work in the European Union, most of whom are UK nationals, and many of whom are self-employed in a variety of careers including correspondents, reporters, photographers, editors, public relations and other media professionals. Their work often requires them to operate in different EU countries. It has, until now, been standard practice for such UK nationals to live in one EU Member State but work in or provide services to other EU member states. For example, our members may be commissioned to cover an event in one country, by a media organisation based in a second, while living themselves in a third. In order to flourish as self-employed persons they may then sell an article or photograph to media organisations in a fourth country.

Having read the Guidance Note relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community Part Two – Citizens’ Rights (2020/C 173/01) in conjunction with the relevant sections of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (2019/C 384 I/01), the TFEU and Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union it is unclear to us whether these workers are included in the provisions of Articles 24 and 25 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Could you provide the union with clarification on the situation of self-employed workers engaging in the types of cross-border work outlined above, and whether or not they fall into the definition of a ‘self-employed person’, or a ‘self-employed frontier worker’.

Please could you clarify the following:

  1. Are such workers considered ‘self-employed persons’ or ‘self-employed frontier workers’ under the Withdrawal Agreement
  2. What is the position for these types of workers if the current provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular Articles 24 and 25, remain in force after January 1, 2021
  3. What is the position for these types of workers if there is no Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union on January 1, 2021?

We request this clarification on behalf of members who live and work in the European Union and who would like to continue to do so using experience, expertise and knowledge often built up over decades of Continental European residence, thereby contributing to a healthy and diverse media and cultural landscape – core values of the EU.

Despite the stated purpose of the Withdrawal agreement to “limit to a minimum the disruption to people’s lives which the UK’s departure is likely to cause” we fear that in the current complications surrounding the UK withdrawal from the EU, the voice of this specific cohort of workers could go unheard.


AFTER THE transition period following Brexit ends on 1 January 2021 and the UK leaves the EU's Single Market, UK nationals living in an EU Member State face losing the right to provide "cross border" services to another EU country. 

You can read the article on The Freelance, which is the bulletin of London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists