An open letter to Jacob Rees Mogg – remember the words of Jo Cox’s maiden speech before you criticise the EU

Today you described on Channel 4, freedom of movement as being and I quote “a poison” of the EU.

Let me tell you my own story. A language graduate who studied French at the University of Southampton and has lived twice in France – made easier by free movement. Someone who has spent more time working in Paris or Madrid than Scotland.

I married someone with an Italian passport who wouldn’t be in the UK were it not for free movement. Someone, who despite being a qualified teacher from her home country – came to study and took jobs which she was hugely over qualified for when she first arrived.

She and I wouldn’t be together were it not for free movement. Even our six year old daughter understood that if Mummy hadn’t been able to stay as long as she did (23 years now) she wouldn’t have been born.

Back in 2010, when our other daughter was born, many of the midwives were European nationals.

In 2014, when I had a breakdown I spent a week at private hospital. The psychiatrist who treated me the first day when I was deemed at risk of self harm, was a Hungarian. I won’t ever forget the care and kindness he showed me. He was able to come and work here at weekends and fly home because of freedom of movement.

In previous jobs and my current job I have recruited many EU nationals. I have helped develop their careers and they have gone on to big and better jobs paying taxes every step of the way. Some are now CEOs of companies or running their own businesses.

So to claim that freedom of movement is a poison is to suggest that those aforementioned EU nationals have somehow ruined our county.

Back in 2016 a good friend from France was kicked in the head. He was told to “eff off back to France”.

The type of language you used tonight on Channel 4 simply encourages the facists and the racists in our society.

You may not have ever experienced the joy of living in another country. I want my children to have the same life chances I had. Far from being a poison – freedom of movement has been crucial to every aspect of my life. My family, my work and my health. Freedom of movement has enabled hundreds of thousands of Brits to retire in the sun. They like I have had this freedom ripped away from us and will never forgive those who campaigned for Brexit as a result.


Chris Key
Chair – St Margaret’s and Twickenham Riverside Liberal Democrats

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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  • David Warren 10th Dec '18 - 10:13am

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    I agree with you that free movement can be a very positive thing and as a liberal I support it on a theoretical level.

    However the issue that does need addressing is the fact that free movement into the UK from poorer EU countries has created a pool of cheap labour that is being exploited by employers.

    In the adult social care sector which I know a bit about having been an unpaid carer for ten years this has led to a workforce that is being treated shamefully through low wages and appalling working conditions.

    This in turn means elderly vulnerable people don’t get the good quality care they need and deserve.

    I smile ironically when I hear politicians debate the workers rights that supposedly come from the EU when I think about those ladies who do our care work.

  • Clearly a heartfelt, simple and effective rebuttal to an arrogant fool. But for those of us with short memories, what were the words in Jo Cox’s maiden speech you were referring to?

  • Peter Martin 10th Dec '18 - 11:01am

    It’s always very difficult when personal experiences are involved. I myself lived in Australia for several years and none of my now grown up children has a UK born partner. It’s no big deal, IMO. People move around and form relationships as people do.

    It’s really quite separate issue from our membership of the EU which, of course means free movement. Fascism and racism are a problem everywhere in the EU. And it would still be, even if movement wasn’t quite a free as it currently is. As Jeremy Corbyn rightly says if you apply austerity economics you’ll get fascism. The conventional centre left in the EU have gone walkabout and don’t offer any serious challenge to the European Elite. It’s probably worse than that, in that they are seen as part of that elite. It leaves the far right with a clear run.

    As the 2017 election results showed, the working classes will always initially look to the left when there is a crisis to be resolved. The Labour vote exceeded all expectations. UKIP and the far right crashed. But UKIP is far from finished. If there’s no opposition to the EU from the left they’ll be back.

    It’s really very unfortunate, embarrassing even, to see how useless the European left has become and how inept it has been in challenging the imposition of economic austerity.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Dec '18 - 12:18pm

    During the Slovakian presidency of the Council of Ministers the guest speaker at West Kent European Movement explained that countries which had been imprisoned under communism greatly value freedom of movement and are determined to retain it.
    The current president is Austria, who will be aware that the ending of four=power occupation negotiated in 1955 was followed by an uprising in neighbouring Hungary in 1956, brutal suppression by Moscow, and a consequent flood of refugees transiting Austria to the rest of the world. The populations of the receiving countries were more generous than their elected politicians perceived them to be.
    Before the Berlin Wall was demolished a Hungarian Minister took a number of eastern bloc tourists to the Iron Curtain and proceeded to use his wire cutters on the barbed wire. They transited Austria. West Germany accepted all the Germans. They also accepted all ethnic Germans from Romania and gave them nationality although grants of asylum would have been appropriate for people fleeing the hardline communists who ruled Romania after Caesescu.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Dec '18 - 12:23pm

    Chris, as regularly talks sense, here, from the heart, of his own experience. Admirable in every sense.

    I could say similar, in my case , though years before the EU, my father here, in an age of enthusiasm for immigration, from Italy, had he not been in this country, I wouldn’t have been born.

    It is possible to debate and even criticise levels of immigration, whether that is wrong as a judgement, it needn’t be toxic as a subject. It is because of the usage of the words and worse, that Mogg uttered.

    Dominic Grieve, a fine example of gravitas, described on the Conservative oriented threads in phrases I would not use about anyone in politics, because he has a an Anglo French background, they infer his apparent added treachery!!!

    I despair often at the nature of the politics of now, but do not think this party helps, as much as might, with too extreme a reaction, say on Stephen Lloyd, or in constant denigrating of the, moderate stance and moderation of extremism, so many of us are keen to more than defend, actively propose.

    I went twice , with my wife, to the green in Parliament square, to pay respects, when Jo Cox, that late great lady, was the rightful subject of tributes. Everybody should calmly and moderately engage on these issues. It is the only way forward, yes, it is a middle way…

  • David I was referring to the comment she made about their being more that unites us than divides us. Lorenzo thanks for the kind words.

  • Peter,

    You have opened Pandora’s box, please take responsibility for that and stop bemoaning other peoples inaction., This omnishambles is the result of the actions of the brave Brexiteers, be brave and embrace that which you have wrought.

  • The Tories won the 2010 election with a manifesto commitment to reduce net migration to the “10s of thousands”. Since then Theresa May has been continually in charge of immigration directly as Home Secretary, then indirectly as Prime Minister. How did she do?

    Even leaving aside the nastiness of the Windrush affair, the answer is, ‘Badly – really badly’.

    In every year since then net migration from OUTSIDE the EU has exceeded that from the EU in every single year and in most years by a very large margin. That’s even before including a large but unknown contribution from illegal migration – all of which is, by definition, from outside the EU.

    Now some here might not be happy with the thought, but I would hazard a guess that, possibly excepting South Lincolnshire, most people are more concerned with migration from countries with cultures very different than ours than they are about migration from culturally-close Europe.

    Moreover, the scale of non-EU net migration is comparable with the house building programme so the chance of young people getting on the housing ladder isn’t good. That creates a potential tinderbox.

    Similarly, every time I hear some pundit opine that ‘we need migrant labour to work in the NHS etc.’ I wonder how we survived in earlier eras and ask myself what we taxpayers are getting for the huge investment in education. I saw a Leave voter make that exact point on TV the other day.

    So we are leaving the EU, largely because politically unacceptable levels of uncontrollable migration – except that we could control by-far the biggest segment of it which also happens to be the most contentious part of it but we prefer to pretend it’s all the fault of the EU.

  • David Warren 10th Dec '18 - 6:59pm

    Very good analysis @Peter Martin.

    The European left are in crisis.

    In France and Germany the parties of the Socialist International are shadows of their former selves.

    UK Labour are bucking the trend for now but Corbyn’s party are a fragile coalition just waiting to break apart.

    Their position on Brexit is a good example of the dilemma they face. They are getting away with it because they are in opposition against a divided government.

  • All the evidence I see is that there is a very great concern about immigration amongst many people. They are concerned about housing, jobs and so on. As it happens most of “immigrants” they see were born and brought up in Britain. I recognise that it is easy to criticise people less well off than I am. For many people it is a struggle to live day by day. They listen to anyone who gives a clear message. I also recognise that it is easy to be clear when you just invent things as is being done by the lunatic fringe in Parliament.
    I suppose I have to recognise that I think more and more about the past. I remember the years after 1945 when there was a determination that we would build a land we could be proud of. This led to the Butskelism named after Butler and Gaitskill and two parties with similar policies. It was a question of all being left wing. Now we have a country where everyone is right wing.
    It is all very sad, but there we are.

  • We all of course want and value free movement for ourselves and those we know and love. The issue is the unintended consequences when too many want the same thing. Liberal Democrats believe in freedom as long as it does not interfere with the freedom of others. Free migration has the possibility of doing that and so needs to be regulated.

  • Teresa Wilson 12th Dec '18 - 1:06pm

    Peter Hirst
    Free movement is not, and never has been, the same thing as free migration.

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