Catherine Bearder MEP speaks… Britain after Brexit

Bearder Oxford UnionCatherine delivered the following speech to the Oxford Union, painting a picture of what life would be like after Brexit.

I want to take you to a land, not so far away. Close your eyes and think of Britain after Brexit.

We had the referendum and the unthinkable has happened, the UK voted to leave the EU.

The world’s largest single market, the biggest generator of science and technological innovation, the birthplace of languages and cultures that populate the world.

But we are no longer part of this. Out. Just think about it

Think. I run a small business that used to export small machines to Germany and import components from Spain. It’s no longer as easy as picking up the phone and ordering.

Paperwork needs to be completed for imports, licences for exports, tariffs that apply one day may not the next, taxes on imports and exchange rates, I can’t have a Euro account anymore, I need to do everything via expensive bank transactions.

My workers came from anywhere in the EU, as well as the Brits, they came from France and Sweden, but they need visas now. Will they bother to come, or stay in the EU where they don’t need to bother with visas?

Rubbing their hands are my competitors in France who don’t have to comply with all these extra rules and who have been waiting for this happy day when the competition from the UK has gone.

What a crazy idea it was to think we were better out!

Think. I am a fruit farmer. Not all farmers are big fans of the Common Agricultural Policy and some of its bureaucracy But without it, Im losing the subsidies that kept me in business.

I’m finding it difficult to find workers to pick fruit too, no more European migrants! fruit left rotting.

How am I going to compete with the subsidised farmers of the EU,

I used to send all my apples to Berlin, they’ve got tariffs on now, and the regulations keep coming, but I don’t have anyone to help address my needs when in the decision making processes in Brussels anymore.

Think. I am a pensioner living in Spain, one of thousands of Brits who chose to spend the rest of my life in the sun. I used to have the right to settle anywhere in the EU and receive my UK state pension, I couldn’t be discriminated against or taxed mores than the locals in the shops or local property taxes, I had access to local health services too.

I don’t feel welcome here anymore.

I think I, and the other 2 million of us had better get back home to the UK, the NHS will look after us, won’t it?

I wish I had been able to vote in the referendum, I would have said stay in!

Think. I am a student, setting out on life, looking at my options. I used to have the right to work and study anywhere in the EU, with access to any university at the local fee (still free and taught in English in many countries).

Last year over 14.5k British students took part in Erasmus schemes which gave us the opportunity to study and train anywhere in Europe, that funding is in doubt now as the goodwill has gone – along with EU postgrad funding schemes and research grants.

My professor has just in time relocated to Paris, along with loads of others. They know their funding will be secure there. The university is really struggling to get good tutors now.

Being in the EU gave me access to simply travel and settle elsewhere. That’s gone now.

Wish we could change our mind.

Think, I am a victim of human trafficking. I wish the UK was still in the EU.

I used to have the right to be treated as a victim, but since the UK left the police are finding it hard to prosecute my trafficker, they can’t easily send him back.

Because the European Arrest Warrant no longer applies here, Criminal gangs are flooding to London we are getting the reputation of being Crime Britain, not Great Britain.

Before we left the EU, victims like me were helped back home, but now it’s a long process and I am in limbo. And Europol and its Internal Security Fund helped track down all sorts of criminals. Now the police’s hands are tied.

I wish the UK hadn’t left the EU.

Think. I am a factory worker. I make cars that use parts from all over the EU.

Those cars are designed to fit with the European market regulations, but our government no longer has any say in those regulations, those or any other regulations, from banking to medicines, from tyre safety to air quality.

We just have to comply with whatever Europe says, or not sell there. Such a pity we hate not having a say in design regulations.

My company is also relocating to Italy, as staying here no longer automatically gives access to the single market.

Not only am I facing redundancy, but if I keep my job I can’t be sure of the protection to holiday pay, social rights, maternity pay and other working rights that the EU single market gave me.

Sure my boss will now face more competition outside the single market, but if he stays here the one sure way he can cut costs will be to reduce my working rights

Oh I wish we hadn’t voted to leave the EU!

Well let’s think about that new land,

Think about what the country will be like out of all those benefits and involvement with our neighbours.

Let’s not go to that new land. We don’t actually have to.

If you want to see Britain remain in Europe, working with our neighbours to have a seat at the table of the world’s largest economy, please sign Catherine’s petition here.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Drives home the practical implications of Brexit.

  • Glynn Quelch 7th Jul '15 - 5:36pm

    I’m a small business and now I’m not only paying import duty and excise, but also the handling fee to the couriers who process my customs paperwork.

    We have also lost all of vat money the treasury collects when EEA customers (end user) buy from the UK.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jul '15 - 8:50pm

    The European Economic Area consists of the EU member states pus Norway and Lichenstein. Most of the EEA members chose to be full members of the EU. Norway applied with Denmark, the UK and Ireland and applied again when Sweden, Finland, Austria applied. In both cases there were narrow no votes in referendums. They were previously vetoed twice by President De Gaulle, who also vetoed the UK once.

  • nigel hunter 8th Jul '15 - 12:13am

    This article is so relevant it should find its way to the national press,

  • This is a great speech. Really. I love it. And I hate to criticise any of it. But… “Close your eyes and think of England after Brexit.” England?? Just England???!! Oh Catherine! 8=(( The first two letters of ‘Brexit’ are not E and N!!
    One of the things that Nationalists in Scotland use to stoke up anger is the tendency of some English people to say England when they mean Britain or UK. It’s hugely symbolic up here. It implies a contempt for Scotland (and Wales), as though you don’t think we even exist. Of course I know that that’s not how you feel, but I’m afraid that’s the signal you send here. The party in Scotland is fighting for our very existence at the moment – and for the existence of the Union. Please, colleagues south of the Border, don’t make it any harder for us than it already is!
    It really is a great speech Catherine. But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland need to be in Europe too, for all the reasons you set out. Remember, since we lost George Lyon last year and you became the only LibDem MEP, you are OUR MEP too!

  • Cornelius Logue 8th Jul '15 - 7:46am

    Living in Donegal, five miles from the border with Northern Ireland, means that any Brexit will be right in our faces every day. Do we go back to “approved” crossings and customs checks purely because English voters are being mislead about what the EU is?

  • Marie Shanahan 8th Jul '15 - 7:46am

    Great article. I’m not even from the UK and it made me stop and think. Hope the UK will do what is best for them. The EU does not want to let you go, that much is apparent! Hope PM Cameron fights for the best of amending what he feels is missing and everyone comes out stronger.

    It’s a grand idea, a united Europe. It just oozes ideas, opportunity and prosperity. Maybe it’s just so “young” the “crinkles” haven’t been worked out yet. But, under God, with faith, it could not only work, but work well.

    I always thought, and still do, really, that the UK could and will stand on it’s own if it had to. But staying in the EU seems the only way to go. I’m from America. Yes, I apologize, I know that we are not always appreciated in UK! But don’t forget that the American people actually think quite a bit of UK. We would vote in a second to support our cousins in any way needed to “balance” it out in the form of excellent free trade agreements. Many of us have been asking something be drawn for a time now.

    But all things in their own time. God be with you. Hope all works out as it should and that these “crinkles” will smooth out to God’s own peace and prosperity.

  • Mick Taylor 8th Jul '15 - 9:33am

    What Catherine didn’t mention was the very strong likelihood that Scotland would vote for independence following Brexit and seek to remain in the EU.
    Unthinkably, perhaps, Northern Ireland, which benefits so much from the EU might finally think its future lay with Eire rather than UK.
    So TonyJ it might in effect be England and Wales!

  • Mick, yes I understand what you say. But if Catherine was making that point, then she should have made it clear.
    In any case it’s by no means certain that an independent Scotland would be accepted into the EU. And even if it was, there would be a gap.

  • Why on Earth would Germany impose import tariffs on British apples, given that we would clearly in turn put taxes on German cars — and they get far more from selling us BMWs than we get from selling them apples?

    It’s a mad idea. It wouldn’t happen.

    How am I going to compete with the subsidised farmers of the EU

    By lowering your prices because your taxes are lower, due to the UK no longer paying to subsidise farmers in eastern Europe?

    Because the European Arrest Warrant no longer applies here, Criminal gangs are flooding to London we are getting the reputation of being Crime Britain, not Great Britain.

    Ah, you mean just like in the bad old days in the dim and distant past of 2003, when London looked like Detroit out of Robocopbecause of all the crime gangs who were only stopped when they finally invented the EAW in 2004?

    Those cars are designed to fit with the European market regulations, but our government no longer has any say in those regulations, those or any other regulations, from banking to medicines, from tyre safety to air quality

    I know, it would be terrible. Selling cars to a country with a regulatory regime you have no say in is, in practical terms, completely impossible: that’s why not a single British-made cars has ever been exported to the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, or were ever exported to anywhere in Europe before Britain joined the EEC.

    I’m surprised she didn’t also mention how leaving the EU will cause giant sea monsters to swarm out of the North Sea and destroy our cities.

  • Julian Tisi 8th Jul '15 - 10:46pm

    Absolutely! The reality of life outside the EU (versus the “free to determine our own destiny” fantasy that UKIP and their allies sell us) is possibly our best suit.

    I don’t think we should be defending the wasteful and unjustified CAP subsidies – but otherwise completely agree.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 9:10am

    Those planning the 2020 UK general election should remember that a euro-election will happen in 2019 and ensure vigorous and effective campaigning on the IN?OUT referendum that the Tories will have.

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