My speech to the Nottingham Rally for Europe

This is the speech I gave on Saturday to the Nottingham Rally for Europe.

I’m Mathew Hulbert.

Proud Leicestershire lad.

Proud East Midlander.

Proud Brit.

Proud European.

Proud internationalist.

And, yes, Mrs May, a proud citizen of nowhere.

Also, a proud Liberal Democrat.

Proud that my party-alone of the major parties-has remained resolutely Remain; before, during and after last year’s Referendum.

A Referendum, let’s not forget, that was called by David Cameron not to determine a soaring point of principle, but to get him out of a political tight corner; to appease the europhobic Right-flank of his party and counter the then popularity of UKIP.

So, let’s just consider that for a moment.

People’s lives, their jobs, their homes, our whole economy, were put at risk because of the internal machinations of the Tory party.

Never have so many been likely to lose out because of the actions taken by such a cowardly few.

And now Mrs May, who was supposedly Remain but her rhetoric of late favours a Hard Brexit, wasn’t able to tell a radio interviewer this week how she’d vote if the Referendum was held again today.

Well, she may not have the courage of what remains of her convictions, but I do.

I was Remain on June 23rd last year and I’m still Remain today.

I’m Remain not because the European Union is perfect-no human institution ever is-but because the EU has been the greatest man-made force for peace and for progress in human history.

Twice in the last century Europe was at with itself…and the human cost was unparalleled.

Both of my late grandads fought-one in the FIrst World War, the other in the Second.

They were both survived, but were never the same again.

The European Union has done more than anything else to ensure we’ve had 70+ years of relative peace on this Continent.

How has this been achieved?

By nations working together, in and for the Common Good.

For the good of all of our Continent’s citizens.

For the good-as the leader of a certain political party might put it-of the many, not the few.

And, yes, of course, there’s been bumps along the road, but-overwhelmingly-the EU has championed peace, prosperity, social justice and human rights.

And I, as a gay man, am proud of the significant role the EU and other European institutions have played in progressing LGBT+ Rights and equality.

There’s still much more to do on that agenda-especially for trans and non-binary individuals-but we must remember to reflect and celebrate just how far we have come over the last half-century and, indeed, it’s good to be speaking about LGBT+ equality in the year that we mark fifty years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales.

That important change happened thanks to long-years of activism by committed campaigners for change…and, ultimately, thanks to a radical and reforming Home Secretary and proud pro-European Roy Jenkins, who would later become Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords (another institution long overdue major democratic reform.)

I pay tribute to Roy Jenkins today and thank him for making our nation a more liberal, caring and compassionate place.

So, you may well ask, given all that I’ve said, did more than seventeen million people vote to leave?

I’ve thought about this a lot.

I believe it was a deep dissatisfaction with politics in general…a cry of pain and a demand to be listened to by people who the political establishment have ignored for far too long.

Globalisation has done nothing for them…and the austerity agenda has devastated their communities; they have paid a heavy price for a global economic downturn that wasn’t of their making.

They finally had an opportunity-when every vote was equal-to express their dissatisfaction with that elite and the EU Referendum was that opportunity.

Sadly, it is those very same people whose rights at work will be reduced, whose wages will be hit when our economy declines and who will be left behind by a Tory Government who played on their fears but have never actually cared for them.

The Leave voters will, ironically, lose out most of all if we do leave the EU.

Which is why so many of them are now regretting their vote and now believe we should Remain.

Mainstream parties-including my own-must find a way to address the needs and concerns of this large section of society.

If they do-and people start regaining confidence in domestic politics-we would win a Referendum giving a thumbs down to any proposed deal…because even the best potential deal will not be as good as the one we have now as full members of the European Union.

My party’s policy is the right one-that this journey which started with the voice of the people being heard, must end with the voice of the people being heard…recognising that they were lied to by bumbling Boris, dismal David, lamentable Liam, and numbskull Nigel.

I say, ‘Fromage, not Farage.’

People can and do change their minds and they can and, I believe, will in this case.

Britain’s place is at the heart of the European Union.

Let’s keep up the campaign until we win.

Until we get an Exit From Brexit!


* Mathew Hulbert is a parish Councillor in Leicestershire.

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  • If the LibDems want to address the concerns of ordinary voters then start talking about jobs, education, health again. Practice pavement politics again and actually listen to the people.
    I know it is difficult to swallow but the UK voted for Brexit. If we claim to be a party who listens to the electorate then we must move on and implement Brexit. This is the will of the people.
    Continuation of solely focusing on Brexit will relegate my party to the fringes of British Politics.
    Is this what we want for our Party ?
    Why as a party are we in denial ?

  • It is not the job of a political party to “implement the will of the people.” The job of a political party is to influence and change the will of the people based on what its members believe to be sound principles in policy and politics.

  • @ David-1 – “It is not the job of a political party to “implement the will of the people.”

    In the era of the Information Super Highway, I think you will find it is.

  • Peter Martin 16th Oct '17 - 8:29pm

    “The Leave voters will, ironically, lose out most of all if we do leave the EU.”

    Like he’s bothered about that?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Oct '17 - 9:03pm


    A very good speech, yet the language and tone do more than inmply those who voted to leave were only the so called left out and those who,’ may have lost out to the so called elite. The so called are often more than that and yes, many Brexiters were such for reasons like those.

    But , Mathew, many or most voted leave, who are very comfortable , are much older, have done well out of work and public services they have used, and own homes they have bought, and yet do not , for sensible or silly reasons, either, or, like in any way shape or form, the Eu !!!

    Why can we as a party of a diverse view on many things, understand this.

    Why every time so called such like concerned writers express sympathy , with those who voted Leave, they always speak as if feeling for their pain.

    Mr and Mrs Comfortable of Chipping Norton are not feeling pain, they are expressing a view , for Brexit.

    I am left out, have struggled, known real poverty in relative terms after a car accident and loss of work , and have yet not lost my belief in myself, or others or this country or the potential for it.

    I did not vote for Brexit .

    I voted Remain, but we are not the party of it, we are the party of Liberalism and democracy.

    We need to connect with our voters who expect us to be in touch with them , from all classes , so called !

  • Mathew,

    A major part of the leave vote was indeed the left behind, but as has been pointed out a greater share came from the old. They wanted their country back the way it was when they where young, but time waits for no man and you certainly can’t turn it back. Their desire to return to an age before the EU is sad in so many ways, their time is gone and soon the baby boomers (and I am one) will be gone. The young share not our views and that is the saddest part of Brexit the nation has broken in two and only time will cure that.

  • Top speech Mathew. Couldn’t agree more. Ignore the faint hearted and the nay-sayers.

  • the thing I find funny is the notion of the “left behind” v the opportunities of da yoof. The reality is that young people are burdened with colossal student debts, face a future with lower incomes. lower levels of home ownership, increased job insecurity, a diminishing health service, wealth concentrated in ever fewer hands and their every movement tracked and monitored so that those nice corporations can flog them lots of worthless junk. That is the true nature of internationalism and youngsters are being sold a sugar coated myth.

  • So your solution is throw ourselves off a cliff is it Glen? Well suicide is one way of curing all ills I suppose. Are you still peddling the view not much will change by the way?

  • Peter,

    You’d be surprised more poverty means more rough sleepers, he would have more competition and hard as his life is it would get worse. You may think Brexit can’t make life worse, i fear you are going to find out how wrong you are.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Oct '17 - 12:33am

    Lorenzo is right to remind everyone of the diversity of reasons which caused people to vote Leave, but it follows that there are no easy categories to fit them in. Your Mr and Mrs Comfortable of Chipping Norton, Lorenzo, are well off, so quite likely to have been well educated, and it’s the less well educated who have often been found to have voted Leave. Hang on, Frankie, the well-educated Baby-Boomers can be expected to live a good few years more, which is a good thing, especially since you turn out, surprisingly, to be one of them! The young will surely share our views, too, if and when they realise the Liberal Democrats do aim to help with their many problems which Glenn rightly points out. Anyway, young and old, well-off or poor, everyone will benefit if we can get rid of this monstrous Brexit.

  • Frankie.
    I’m just pointing out the irony of these kinds of youth and internationalist orientated arguments . I don’t see Brexit a cliff edge. I see it more as correction to a political mistake. As I’ve said before I fundamentally disagree with the concept and the structure of the EU in much the same way as I’m also against the monarchy. I think it’s a bad organisation based on a bad idea.

  • Ed Shepherd 17th Oct '17 - 6:46am

    Large numbers of well-off older people were never highly educated. They grew up in period where there were plentiful permanent jobs,, full-time work, pension schemes, early retirement or redundancy deals, strong trade unions, free health care and cheap housing. Plenty of manual workers and admin workers have enjoyed long comfortable retirements because of these advantages. The young now face an exploitative job market expensive housing, expensive education, increasingly costly health care and a race to the bottom in working conditions. The political effects of this might become clear in the next few years as the majority of the young realise how poor their lives will be. At some point they might realise they owe nothing to the elites and those politicians who serve the elites.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Oct '17 - 7:36am

    “The greatest man-made force for peace and progress in human history”?? Matthew, even apart from your non inclusive choice of language, this sort of wildly exaggerated claim is not helpful.
    The EU may have achieved many things, but I can’t help thinking that an institution whose President seems to be calling for an EU army, isn’t exactly a candidate for the Nobel peace prize. Nor is an organisation that raises no objection to the fact that two of its members possess nuclear weapons.

  • Arnold Kiel 17th Oct '17 - 8:41am

    Not only was the referendum a victory of the past over the future, but most of the victorious felt also protected from its consequences through the triple lock on pensions (they are also in for a surprise, but too late).

    It seems those who express most respect for the will of the people have the least regard for their needs.

    This reminds me of the Trump-voter who was promised a better Obamacare-replacement, but will now just get the repeal, i.e. lose his cover. Brexit voters will, likewise, just get a messy EU-exit, but none of the intra- or extra-European trade benefits they were promised. Insisting that this was “their will” is more than cynical. Let us be honest: it will cost livelihoods and lives.

  • Arnold Kiel 17th Oct '17 - 9:00am

    Catherine Jane Crosland,

    being a pacifist and against all weapons is an interesting and legitimate standpoint. Believing in the necessity of a defence-capability is equally legitimate. I personally also find the UK’s and France’s nuclear capability legitimate. I know you hate Juncker from all angles, but here he is not to blame; not everyone can have the Nobel peace price in this bellicose world.

    If you believe that the UK’s strategic interests are at odds with the rest of Europe, you must object to a European army. Just be aware: the European fragmentation of defence-capabilities is very costly. It is estimated that the vast and harmonized US-forces are three times as effective per $ than Europe’s. The question is: which threat scenario is both, distinct from Europe’s and winnable by the UK alone. I do not see one.

  • Yes!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Oct '17 - 9:57am

    Arnold Kiel, I don’t know why you think I “hate Junker from all angles”. I don’t actually hate him at all. I just find some of his attitudes extremely worrying, especially his apparent wish for an EU army. Such an army would suggest that rather than being all about peace, the EU is all about Europe against the rest of the world. I’m not saying that this is actually the case, because Junker is not representative of the EU as a whole.
    I also feel that Junker’s remarks about Brexit are arrogant and tactless. Even if he feels strongly that Britain has made the wrong decision, it still should be his role to try to ensure that Brexit is an amicable “break up”.
    I find it especially upsetting that the political group to which Junker belongs, the largest political group in the EU, has called for an EU wide burka ban. A horrifyingly illiberal threat to freedom of religion. And also of the basic human right of every individual to make their own choices, including the right to wear whatever they like.
    On the issue of nuclear weapons, I was just reacting to the assertion that the EU was the greatest force for peace in human history, which it obviously is not. It could, after all, have made it a condition of membership that a country must not possess nuclear weapons. But it has not done so, which suggests that perhaps peace is not its first priority.

  • Daniel Walker 17th Oct '17 - 10:18am

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “isn’t exactly a candidate for the Nobel peace prize”

    Leaving aside some dodgy winners of the Peace Prize (Kissinger springs to mind), it’s worth noting that the EU doesn’t need to be a candidate for the Prize, because it’s already got one.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Oct '17 - 10:59am

    Daniel Walker, well, I genuinely didn’t know that, or if I did I’d forgotten!
    Still a slightly bizarre choice, but anyway that was before Junker’s recent calls for an EU army.

  • Tristan Ward 17th Oct '17 - 1:28pm

    There are two big things missing from this speech (and from Remainers arguments generally). They are – the patriotic reason to say in the EU , and the historic reason to stay in the EU.

    Historically Britain (and England before it) has fought over and over again to influence European politics – Wars of the Spanish Succession, Napoleonic Wars, Crimean Wars, Dutch Wars in the 17th Century…. I calculate Britain has been at war with a European power in one calendar year out 5 since1600. The idea we should lose our influence is ludicrous.

    The patriotic reason is simple – Britain is becoming a laughing stock among foreigners. Who wants that?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Oct '17 - 2:21pm

    Catherine as usual adds a degree of moderation, in this , of the rather overdone but well meant language of Mathew, and all of a sudden is accused of hating the leadership of the EU ! It merely shows how much we need that moderation, and indeed , inclusive language.

    She is correct. While the EU deserves its reputation for peace, talk of an EU army does not add to that .

    She is correct on the nuclear issue. As she well knows, we differ on this, but even I would consider us as a nation giving up our nuclear weapons if France does, and Europe becomes nuclear free. My very strongly held view is to have one nuclear power in a whole continent, and it to be France, would be an imbalance intolerable.

    I must say a lot of exageration for or against the EU is increasingly the way today.

    For decades it was not the EU but , first , a common market, with few products, quite far from anything else, included.

    It has only existed as the organisation it is , twenty five, not more , years. It is not post war, it is post cold war. It is Pope John Paul, Gorbachev, Willy Brandt , Roy Jenkins, various individuals by their stance, who helped to rebuild a better understanding in our continent.

    Difficult as it is and was for them to face it, it was only Germany , for about half a century , who were the only threat to and destroyer of, peace in our continent. That changed when they faced the shameful truth of their depraved leadership, and their country was basically , cut down to size, split and occupied for the best or worst part of a generation.Modern Germany, starting with Brandt, Genscher, et al, has a great deal to be commended for, but it is not the EU that did all that.

    The EU, as with Nato, the Un, is a very good and flawed organisation. We are citizens of it only in our involvement in it. But the it is not a country , a nation, a people who share everything of common value.

    Nothing wrong with trying to build that. But let us not pretend it is what it is not.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Oct '17 - 3:27pm

    Lorenzo, thank you.
    I would certainly like to think that the reason there has not been war in Europe for more than seventy years, is that there is a strong desire for peace, which does not necessarily have much to do with the EU.
    The EU may have helped, but it could have been a much stronger force for peace had it so chosen. Talk of an EU army raises fears that the EU’s attitude to the rest of the world is not necessarily peaceful.

  • @ Lorenzo “Modern Germany, starting with Brandt, Genscher, et al, has a great deal to be commended for, but it is not the EU that did all that.”

    Don’t forget Konrad Adenauer who pre-dated Willi Brandt. Der Alte (the old man) was Chancellor from 1949 to 1963 (aged 87) and was responsible for “Wirtschaftswunder”, the “economic miracle” and for establishing democracy in West Germany. He was helped by the Marshall Plan – a Keynesian initiative – the impact of which such as George Osborne and his Austerity Pals Laws and Alexander would have done well to learn from.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Oct '17 - 11:02pm

    Tristan Ward – ‘Britain is becoming a laughing stock among foreigners. Who wants that?’

    Some years ago in the 1980s there was a painfully bad sit-com called Duty Free about two couples on holiday in Spain. The painfully middle-class character insisted, ‘not in front of the Germans!’ on a regular basis. I just get a feeling that more and more the EU to some is some sort of strange face-saving exercise and that why people have a problem with the EU really doesn’t matter one jot. We can’t possibly talk about that in front of anyone.

    Norway seems to manage fine outside the EU.

  • Norway, along with Costa Rica, Vanuatu, New Zealand and many others, manage fine outside the EU. That’s because they have always been otside the EU, and they have developed over the years the complex array of trading agreements, standards by which imported and exported goods are to be approved, customs tariffs, etc, which any independent nation needs if it is to trade. 43 years ago we had those too, but we have irretrievably lost them, having adopted what we need from the EU. We have lots of trade partnerships all around the world, but those will all vanish in March 2019 because they were negotiated by the EU. We have nothing ready to put in their place. Alert Brexiteers are gradually waking up to these facts, and advocating that our farmers should dig for victory and grow more food on an emergancy basis. Because if they don’t, we may see starvation after Brexit Day.

    Never mind internationalism, the European spirit, friendship, scientific cooperation, youth and student interchanges, etcetera. All those are nice to have but could at need be dispensed with. What matters is survival, because if the bureaucracy is not right, which it is not, we cannot trade, and we will hugely suffer. That’s why Brexit is not just a dubious lifestyle choice. It’s a national disaster.

  • Arnold Kiel 18th Oct '17 - 9:24am

    Catherine Jane Crosland,

    I am rephrasing: you disagree with Juncker from quite a few angles.

    On defence, the idea is to bundle European capabilities for greater effectiveness and efficiency; not in itself an aggressive idea which, imo, has strategic benefits.

    On Brexit-negotiations: he believes that Brexit is an idiotic and destructive act promoted by a few radical politicians and media-moguls, triggered by misled people and abjectly enacted by a weak and bad Government that is unwilling to face up to its most basic implications; most informed people throughout Europe, including the UK agree. Showing this occasionally may be tactless, but always responding amicably to this madness is asking a lot.

    On the Burqa (sorry, Mathew for going off topic): i am lecturing a politically active western woman on feminism with great hesitation, but it must be done: I lived and worked in the Islamic Republic of Iran for one year. I have not spoken to a single muslim woman who did not despise the state’s imposition of the veil and long clothes on them. They see no religious need to do so whatsoever. Whenever I boarded a plane out, the procedure was as follows: on BA, all veils came off upon boarding, on IranAir, they all came off upon touch-down. Don’t tell me none of these women were muslim. And this is just the veil! You will surely not suggest that women from Afghanistan are more advanced in their “freedom of religious expression”. Have you ever thought about what it means to walk through your entire public live unrecognized in a weareable prison, never to swim in the sea, never to have a ray of sunlight on your skin (very high rates of osteoporosis throughout the muslim world), never to get a relief from 40+ degree heat? All the while, your husband wears shorts, a polo, and flip-flops.

    This has nothing to do with the freedom of expressing your religious beliefs, it is the suppression of women by old, bearded men who still remember their inability to channel their suppressed libido.

    This does not mean I support a burqa ban, although I am very torn on this question, because it would result in these women being locked away from public life altogether. But viewing this as a voluntary expression of religious beliefs is a very simplistic and unreflected response (especially by a woman, sorry) to a grotesque and widespread violation of basic human rights.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Oct '17 - 1:44pm

    Arnold Kiel, of course it is also a violation of human rights if women are forced to wear a burqa, either by a government, or by their husband or father. But the burqa bans in some European countries do not seem to be motivated by a desire to liberate women. Such bans are motivated by Islamophobia and racism, or by governments trying to pander to racists for fear of losing votes to the far right.
    There can be no doubt that some women do freely chose to wear the burqa, including some educated, independent minded women. The fact that we may find their choice hard to understand, does not mean we should not respect it. And as you say, even if women are being coerced into wearing the burqa, a ban would not liberate them, but would lead to them having far less freedom. If they cannot wear a burqa in public, some women will seldom or never leave the house. And how can it be fair that the fines that are imposed are imposed on the women, not on the men who perhaps may have coerced them into wearing it – punishing the victim.
    I know this is rather off topic, but the fact that the largest political group in the EU (to which the EU President belongs) has called for an EU wide burqa ban, shows that the EU is not necessarily always all about progress and liberalism.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Oct '17 - 2:05pm

    Arnold Kiel, and on the subject of the EU army that Junker seems to want, it is worrying in several ways. You argue that such an army would only be about defense. But for an institution to be thinking about building an army, suggests that it sees war as a possibility that it is prepared to countenance. Not the sort of attitude one would expect from the “greatest force for peace in human history”! It’s not enough that EU countries are not at war with each other. The EU ought be be building friendly, peaceful relationships with non EU countries, not building an army to threaten them with.
    Such an army suggests a common foreign policy, and the prospect that at some point the EU might go to war, with all members expected to take part. If Britain were still a member, we could be forced into such a war against our will.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Oct '17 - 9:35am

    A bit late, but relevant to our discussion on a European army: an article (in English) in a German newsmagazine on lacking NATO-readiness. Seen in a Trump-context, it makes a stong case for closer European defence cooperation:

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