A voice for the voiceless

I had written a speech for the European motion at conference, and I wanted to share it with you all:

I was going to tell you about how angry I was.

I was going to talk about how the Leave campaign lied, how they cheated, how they preyed on fear, and how fear won.

I was going to demand we take action.

I was going to implore you to stand fast in your support for internationalism and your support for Britain’s membership of the EU.

But then I remembered that it isn’t just about us, that it isn’t just about the 16 million people who voted for an open and tolerant nation.

It is about our friends and neighbours, the 3 million EU nationals who live and work with us in Britain who never had a voice during the referendum.

In true Jeremy Corbyn-style, I have a letter. A letter from the voiceless – who I give my voice to now:

“My name is Claudia and I have been living in the UK since 2003. I arrived here from Germany with my husband and children and we have made a life in Britain. My husband is an electrician and my children have grown up here. This was our home.

That was until the Brexit campaign started. People were telling us that we will be deported if Brexit wins and we were told we had no voice in this. My husband had similar remarks at work from tenants who thought they can now come out with things like: you take our jobs; you are a drain our NHS, you steal our benefits…

The day after the result I went shopping with my youngest daughter at Aldi, and whilst standing on the till, I asked my daughter in German if we need anything else. A couple at the next till turned their heads around, and said “You lot should go back where you came from”

My daughter looked at me, and I could see her eyes were filled with tears. I just told her in a firm manner, in German, that she should swallow the tears for now. I paid, and we both went out with heads held high. We loaded the car, we drove away, and I had to stop at a lay by because we both could not keep back our tears anymore.

The abuse never stops now. People make fun of foreigners and refugees, singing “Rule Britannia” at us as they pass by and talking about Britain belonging only to the British.
Our son has a British partner and their children are both German and British. We fear for them having to go through this abuse as well. Our son is now at the point where he thinks about going to Germany with his partner and his children. My oldest daughter wants to leave as soon as she has finished her studies, and my youngest daughter is already in the process of researching places in Europe where she can live and study.

Brexit is ripping my family apart and we no longer feel welcome here. This is no longer our home.”

We should support our membership of the EU – not just because we believe in an Open, Tolerant and Unites society, not just because we believe that communities should be seen for what they contribute and not from where they’ve come from but because, as other parties turn their backs on Tahoe who need them the most we will not, and we will never will.

* Alex Hegenbarth is the Lib Dem PPC for the Tewkesbury constituency

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18 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 19th Sep '16 - 1:24pm

    The behaviour described is disgusting, and no one deserves such unwarranted and rude interference in their private and public life.

    The fault lies with the individuals, not brexit.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Sep '16 - 1:49pm

    Alex, you do such a terrific job here , yet do not say where you get this story from?!

    Is it word for word a case study known to you ? I am amazed !

    I am the son of a father who was from Italy . My mother is of part Irish decent. My wife of American origin.

    I am no lover of the EU , its bureaucracy , its one size fits all bureaucrats, but the one day ,reformed, European Union I advocate for, got my Remain vote , and would again, just as this astonishing story gets my back up and would all our party !

    It is as much because of my background , rather than despite it , that I am one of the most patriotic people you could find . It is stories like this , make me aware that those who are of the Liberal Democratic tendency need to be the patriots, or else , as we leave the EU , we leave patriotism to the types of people described by the German resident of our country , the lady in the article , who actually calls out people who are a disgrace to Britain, shameful !

  • I can’t recall any leading figure in the Brexit campaign who hasn’t supported the idea that
    “our friends and neighbours, the 3 million EU nationals who live and work with us in Britain” will be allowed to remain in the UK. I’m no fan of Nigel Farage, but he certainly supported this policy. It seems to be what’s left of the remain campaign that keep raising the topic for their own reasons.

  • malc – Theresa May was hardly a “leading figure” for either side, but she is on record as saying that the status of EU nationals already here is not guaranteed, and is an issue for negotiation.

    In other words, they are bargaining chips to be used in Brexit negotiations that might well turn ugly at some point.

  • Richard Warren 19th Sep '16 - 6:07pm

    It’s terrible that Claudia and her family has had to experience this. And sadly if her son goes to Germany it won’t necessarily be any better, because as today’s regional election results in Germany show the Far Right are growing larger and louder across Europe. Early next month, Austria may vote in a Far Right president. The National Front are powerful in many parts of France. And then there’s Trump in America and Putin in Russia. This isn’t just a Brexit problem; it’s an anti-globalisation issue. Brexit is one symptom among many.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Sep '16 - 6:10pm

    Best to keep an eye on Labour’s shifting reaction: http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FABJ4808_Europe_Report_130916_WEB_2.pdf

    Interesting to read Stephen Kinnock’s piece – you may know him, he’s one of Nick Clegg’s fellow Trustees in the new think tank Radix.

  • Nick Baird

    Like I said everyone who led the leave campaign seems to be happy for EU nationals who are already here to stay. It’s the Prime Minister who wants to use them as bargaining chips and other leading remain campaigners – the Lib Dems are the worse – who seem to be scaremongering.

  • It’s the Prime Minister who wants to use them as bargaining chips

    Err no, it is the EU commission who because they have not clarified the position of UK citizens living in the other 27 EU countries who are using them as bargaining chips. I also think that people are being a little dim, politic’s is all about people, so whether you like it or not people, and particular groupings of people such as “the poor”, “the rich” “Nimbies” etc. are always being used as bargaining chips…

  • Roland

    Certainly the EU commission are at least equally to blame. Both sides need to have their heads banged together on this point.

  • @Roland – No, it’s not up to the Commission. Except for some broad principles and in a small number of limited cases (e.g. A Non-EU citizen is married to an EU citizen), the EU & Commission have no legal competence or say in matters relating to non-EU citizens (which is what UK citizens would become should we trigger art 50 and leave). The matter of non-EU citizens largely remains up to each individual member states – which, for instance, has meant we have been free to have easily the highest non-EU immigration rate of all member states.

    EU rules are that non-EU citizens should only be admitted to a member state if there is no EU citizen available who can do the job. Any attempt to grant UK citizens special rights as we leave could well face legal challenges by EU citizens since any EU citizen losing out employment wise to a U.K. citizen would have a legitimate gripe that the UK citizen would not qualify for a visa if the criteria for non-EU citizens were applied to the UK citizen as they should be.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Sep '16 - 12:53am

    Nick Baird – ‘that the status of EU nationals already here is not guaranteed, and is an issue for negotiation.’

    Who ever gave guarantees?

    I don’t want to sound heartless here, but that Treaty specifically envisages countries leaving. Why else would A50 be there? No one promised anyone that the EU was forever, for keeps. Naturalisation rules are there and many people each year use them. My wife included.

    And, in the next year or two I’ll be taking the citizenship test in her country. I’m not doing it for the good of my health, I’m doing it because if I want to live in her country for any period of time in future then citizenship is the only promise I’ll ever have.

    It is far from clear to me why Claudia finds the prospect of taking UK citizenship such an affront.

  • Horrific.

    As with all of these things, it isn’t the racists and xenophobes that are the real problem. They are just a small percentage of the population. It is the people that gave succour to the racists by using racist rhetoric during the brexit campaign and then those who deny that the brexit campaign has anything to do with the rise in these awful incidents. Those are the people I loathe and despise.

  • And for those who went to extreme lengths to portray the man accused of killing Jo Cox as being mentally ill, the following would seem to rather undermine that hypothesis:

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/19/jo-cox-trial-will-not-hear-medical-defence-of-thomas-mair

  • I am concerned that, as time goes on, there will be more and more of such incidents….

    There are a minority who believe that ‘Brexit’ means ‘Britain for the British’ and, when this fails to materialise, will take out their frustration on those who do not conform to that belief….

    What is strange is the belief (re-enforced by May’s latest offering) that we had to “Leave” because the UK wasn’t getting a good deal from the EU but, having left, we will get a better deal….

  • Richard Warren 20th Sep '16 - 4:18pm

    Alex

    This was a powerful piece. I forgot to mention that. Thanks for sharing.

  • @Paul – The status of EU citizens, who have exercised their right to free movement, and thus impacted by an invocation of Article 50 is a matter for the EU Commission. However, if there is a failure to reach an agreement prior to exit then as you point out the UK will be having to commence 27 sets of negotiations with individual member states… But then if the UK does subsequently to Brexit go for an EFTA/EEA arrangement we are back to negotiating with the EU over free movement…

  • This is racism which has existed via the NF, BNP, EDL and elements of UKIP for as long as I’ve been alive and long before that. Certainly before Brexit. And it isn’t confined to the UK. The far right are in the march in many European countries including Germany with abuse being directed at migrants and refugees. In some cases the mistreatment of migrants is officially endorsed.

    The mistreatment of this German family is despicable but I think it is wrong to imply that Brexit is the cause. It is the individual racists to blame, using Brexit as an excuse. The police will prosecute if there is sufficient evidence and I would imagine queues in Aldi, ironically a German firm, are fully covered by CCTV. It was good to see Paul Gascoigne prosecuted and fined for casual racist comments recently so let’s ensure tough action is taken against such people.

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