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A passionate supporter of the European Union, a polyglot Brit looks at life post Brexit vote.

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David Lammy Showed He is a Man of Principles and Values

Every now and then a politician brings tears to my eyes and this time it was David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham who explained why he would not be voting to trigger Article 50 and so disobey his party’s 3 line whip.

david-lammy

You can watch his speech here, or read it below. 

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/fe6bc3c9-5d0b-4808-ba0b-8ce9c08475c1 starting at 19:42.

On Tuesday evening (31st January) I spoke in the Second Reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

Many members of this House have long believed that the United Kingdom’s interests would be best served outside of the European Union.

They campaigned passionately for what they believe in and in their view we must now leave the European Union – no ifs, no buts and no questions asked.

It would be unfair if I didn’t acknowledge that 52% of those who voted on June 23rd voted to Leave.

The Prime Minister says she wants to deliver a Brexit that works for all and a Brexit that unites our divided country.

I too want to bring this country back together.

Members right across this House will have experienced just how divided the country has become in the months leading up to last June and in the months since.

Young and old. Graduates and non-graduates. The haves and the have nots. City dwellers and those who live in smaller towns and rural communities.

Unprecedented, deep divisions of the kind I have not seen in my lifetime.

But we cannot bring the country back together if we pretend that the country has spoken with one united voice.

People who voted to Leave voted for all sorts of reasons, many of which had absolutely nothing to do with the European Union.

I knocked on doors all over the country, from Hornsey to Huddersfield, and a lot of the Brexit voters I spoke to were actually voting against David Cameron and the Conservative Government.

Some voted for Leave to send a message to Westminster and register a protest vote.

Some said they were fed up with public services stretched to breaking point.

Some said they felt trapped and helpless so they voted for Leave because – as one voter put it to me – “well things can’t get any worse, can they?”

So when the Prime Minister speaks of “the will of the people”, her interpretation is frankly no clearer or more precise that anyone else’s.

Let’s not pretend that the people have spoken, because not all of them have.

In fact only 27% of the people of this country voted to Leave.  13 million people didn’t vote.  Another 7 million eligible voters weren’t registered.  1 million British expatriates weren’t allowed to vote.

16 year olds were denied a say, even though it was their futures that were on the ballot paper.

Only 2 of the 4 nations that make up the United Kingdom voted to Leave. There was no quadruple lock.

There was no two-thirds super-majority – which is common in other countries for a constitutional change of this magnitude.

Even so, we are told that the people have spoken.

Look at what we have allowed ourselves to become.

In a matter of months our public discourse has been consumed by vitriol and abuse. Hate crimes rose 40% in the aftermath of the referendum vote, and we do not yet know what forces our actual departure will unleash.

It is easy to dismiss views with which you disagree if you never actually listen to them at all. If you just dismiss the people who hold them as villains or enemies of the people.

But it is in those terms that we are being asked to rubber stamp a blank cheque for the Government to deliver the most extreme version of Brexit imaginable.

We are being asked to ignore the fact that leaving the European Union will saddle us with a £60 billion divorce bill.

The OBR has forecast that Brexit will cost us another £58 billion over the next 5 years. Where will these cuts fall? We’re not even supposed to ask.

We are not going to get tariff-free access to EU customers whilst rejecting free movement. That is not on the table.

We are not going to get a more favourable trading arrangement with Europe from outside the Single Market. That is a paradox.

We are not going to come to a full agreement with Europe within 2 years. Believing otherwise completely flies in the face of precedent and all evidence.

Exiting without a deal and falling back on World Trade Organisation rules is being talked about as if this is a good option. That is totally wrong. It would be an absolute disaster for this country.

Even on the optimistic assumption that we can sign trade agreements all over the world, this will not even come close to making up for the loss of the single market.

We are facing a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland and a breakdown of the union with Scotland.

We are not reclaiming sovereignty, another promise that falls apart under any scrutiny. We are just transferring it behind the closed doors of negotiating rooms, where other countries will hold a gun to our heads.

But we are being asked to forget about all that.

Our doctors are against Brexit because our health service will collapse without European staff.

Our scientists are against Brexit because they will lose research grants and talented researchers.

Our manufacturers are against it because they will lose tariff-free trade with our biggest market.

Our financial services are against Brexit because they will lose their pass-porting rights.

Our universities are against Brexit because they will lose funding, staff and students.

Our exporters are against Brexit because if we leave the customs union they won’t be able to trade without goods being detained and checked at borders.

But why would we listen to these people – they are only the experts after all.

What happens in the next two years will define the future of our nation for generations.

In everything we have heard so far – the soft Brexit, hard Brexit, clean Brexit, grey Brexit and the red, white and blue Brexit – the Government has shown very little understanding of the huge obstacles they must overcome in the next two years, and even less understanding of the devastating consequences of failure.

We have decided that we are leaving, but it is the EU nations that decide how we leave and what we end up with.

Article 50 is the start of a process, not the end, and this process will be out of our hands as soon as Article 50 is triggered.

Where could we end up in 2019? Out of the single market. Out of the customs union. No trade deal with Europe or anywhere else.

Our only friend a President with a flagrant disregard for human rights.  Do we really want to let ourselves become the 51st state of Trump’s America?

We shouldn’t fool ourselves.

This is not, and it never has been a debate about the economy. This has always been a debate about immigration.

We are staring down the barrel of a hard Brexit because immigration has been prioritised above all else – even the economy, jobs and living standards.

During the campaign, we were sold the lie that we could cut immigration without hitting our economy.

We were sold the lie that immigrants come here and take more than they contribute.

Between 1995 and 2011 European immigrants made a net contribution of £4.4 billion to our public finances. In the same period our native population cost us £591 billion.

Economic migrants are educated at another country’s expense so they subsidise our public spending on the young, the sick and the elderly.

78% of working age EU migrants are in work, compared to 74% of UK natives. The employment rate of migrants from the 8 countries that joined the EU in 2004 is over 80%.

Our economy can’t exist without people coming here to do the jobs that people in this country either don’t want to do or don’t have the right skills to do.

So not only will our economy take a hit when we leave the Single Market to control immigration, reducing immigration itself will further hurt our economy and make us poorer.

And another truth that the Leave campaign persuaded us to ignore. Last year more people arrived from outside the EU than from within the EU.

When we go around signing new trade deals, countries will demand visas for their people in return.

People have been told that immigration is going to disappear, but we will just be swapping EU immigration for non-EU immigration.

This is a voracious race to the bottom that will never end. And so when things go wrong, the backlash against migrants and minorities will be even worse.

It is almost half a century since a Member of this House, in a very different era, made these same warnings of “wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth”, “children unable to obtain school places” and “homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition”.

How far we have fallen when a black British Member of Parliament, of African and Caribbean descent, has to stand up and start quoting Enoch Powell.

On both sides of the Atlantic we can see the resurgence of far-right nationalism and nativist, xenophobic bigotry. Appeasement and compromise won’t work. It never has and it never will. We must meet it head on, before it’s too late.

It is the easy option to blame migrants who come here with skills instead of successive Governments – both Conservative and Labour – who have failed.

Failed to educate our own to compete.

Failed to build affordable housing.

Failed to fund our public services.

Failed to ensure that growth is felt outside of London and the South East.

A hard Brexit won’t deal with any of the long-standing, structural problems highlighted by the Brexit vote. It will make them worse.

The real tragedy is that with Whitehall and Parliament so consumed with Brexit for the next 10 years, we will have no capacity to address these problems.

London and the South East are the only regions where GDP per person is higher today than it was in 2007. Everywhere else, people are worse off than they were before the credit crunch.

Our economy is an hour glass, with the middle section hollowed out.

The middle rungs of the ladder – the breadwinner jobs that paid enough to raise a family on have disappeared. We now only have an asset class and an under-class.

Poverty is no longer an issue that afflicts the workless. More than half of all people who are in poverty – 7 and a half million in our country – are in a working family.

Real wages have fallen by 5% since 2009. And at the same time, the average property owner in London makes more money per year from the increased value of their home than the average London salary.

I will not take lectures about listening to left behind communities.

I have seen two riots in a generation in Tottenham.

My constituents have borne the brunt of austerity since 2010, and it is they who will pay the price of a hard Brexit.

Child poverty is at 40%. The council spends £20 million a year on bed and breakfasts just to keep families off the street.

So I will not betray my constituents by standing by and staying silent as this recklessness drives our economy off a cliff.

Members opposite have been dreaming of a low-tax, low-wage, low-regulation offshore tax haven for decades, and now they have it in their grasp they salivate at the thought of us becoming the new Singapore.

I will not stand with them.

If we let the Prime Minister pursue this reckless course – this Brexit at any cost – we know that as always it will be the poor, the weak and the vulnerable who suffer.

The referendum was not simply the rebellion of working class Labour heartlands that has been portrayed.

52% of Leave votes lived in the South of England. 59% were middle class. 58% of those who voted Conservative in 2015 voted Leave in 2016.

Colleagues on these benches must remember who the Labour Party represents – the very people and communities who will pay the price. This is not the time to stay silent or fall into line.

How can you walk into the voting lobby shoulder to shoulder with the party of Nigel Farage and the very people whose vision of society we all went into politics to oppose?

And as for Members opposite, where are you? Where are your better instincts? Why have you rolled over and given in to the hard Brexiteers, who have always been on the fringes of your party but who have never, until now, been in the driving seat?

This is not a time to put self-interest or party interest ahead of the national interest. There is too much at stake.

Let me finish by asking just one simple question, once asked by one of our most celebrated Parliamentarians.

“Is it prudent, is it even possible, however much we might desire it, to turn our backs upon Europe?”

When Churchill spoke those words, he was talking about appeasement and he was going very much against the prevailing wind. The same is true today.

Patriotism requires more than blind faith. We must remember our history, our values, what we represent and what we stand for. Most of all, we should remember what we stand against.

For all of these reasons, and for the sake of the country that I love, I will be voting against the triggering of Article 50.”

 

What a speech.  My thanks to him and all the MPs who voted against the triggering of Article 50 for similar reasons, who put their conscience and patriotism before their career.

 

 

Letter to MP: Demand a Final Vote on Brexit by the People

Feel free to plagiarise my letter and write to your own MP.

Dear xxx,

The Prime Minister’s Brexit speech outlined what she wants to achieve in negotiations with the EU27 albeit with many idealistic aims rather than plans and in contrast with the Conservative Party Manifesto commitment to remain in the Single Market. Your Leader has demonstrated her wish to sacrifice jobs and business to satisfy the demands to control immigration. Yet as Home Secretary for six years, she had the opportunity to control immigration but chose not to. She could have applied the EU 2004 law whereby EU migrants must prove they have a job, are studying or have financial means to support themselves within three months of arrival. However, she knew that EU migrants actually earn the UK economy far more in net taxation than they cost, a message she is ignoring now to satisfy the right-wing Eurosceptics and constituencies where UKIP are chasing the Conservative vote. How shameful that she is protecting her own position and keeping her government in power to the detriment of the country’s future.

I am glad that Mrs May has agreed to give Parliament a vote on the final destination but there must also be a vote by the people. This will include (a) all the 15-17 year olds who were too young to vote in 2016 but whose future will be affected and (b) must include UK citizens living in EU27. The outcome of these negotiations affects their rights as UK citizens too. As my MP, I ask you please to demand this vital democratic right.

I am also pleased that Mrs May has just announced a White Paper on the bill to trigger Article 50 giving all MPs and Peers a chance for full debate and to table amendments. The government lost 80 days and a great deal of taxpayers’ money by choosing to challenge the High Court judgment but must not now rush either House with this vital step.

Are our acquired rights as EU citizens about to be taken away?

The Leave campaign asserted that, in the event of the vote going in their favour, Article 70 of the little known Vienna Convention of 1969 would protect all those rights acquired by UK citizens during the UK’s 44 years of EEC/EC/EU membership.

I do not believe that the vote to leave provides any mandate to take away our individual rights acquired over 44 years of the UK’s membership of the EEC/EU. Indeed, Lord Neuberger’s statement that “certain rights enjoyed by UK citizens will be changed” appears to be one of the principal reasons that the Supreme Court has ruled that Article 50 cannot be triggered without the approval of Parliament.

Will “taking back control” mean a loss of acquired rights? The May Administration must answer these questions concerning the rights of UK citizens living in the UK and abroad. Here are a dozen initial questions:

  1. Post Brexit, will UK citizens be able to study, live, work (employed or self-employed) and retire freely anywhere in EU27?

  2. Will travelling to EU27 require UK citizens to join separate immigration queues and obtain visas?

  3. Will UK citizens maintain access to a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that currently enables them to receive health care free or at reduced cost at the point of use? The EHIC has reduced the cost of travel insurance. Health insurance is vital for UK citizens living in EU27.

  4. Will UK citizens be able to shop and bring home goods from anywhere in the EU27 (subject to laws concerning illegal or restricted items) without paying tariffs or excise duties?

  5. Will retired UK citizens in EU27 countries be able to continue living in their country of choice or will they need to reapply for residency and will their state pensions be protected, whether paid by the UK or an EU state?

  6. Will children of UK citizens working and living in the EU27 still be able to attend local state schools and will secondary education qualifications gained by UK citizens in other EU countries still be recognised for access to UK universities?

  7. Will children of UK citizens be allowed to attend low cost EU universities? Will they be allowed to remain in the EU27 after taking their degree(s)?

  8. Will UK workers in the EU27 be subject to the requirements for obtaining a work permit if Freedom of Movement is no longer possible and will their professional and educational qualifications be recognised in the same way as they are today?

  9. Will they be able to apply to become nationals of their chosen country and so hold dual nationality?

  10. Will young UK citizens continue to benefit from the Erasmus student exchange programme, which currently allows UK university students to study or work abroad for between 3-12 months and receive free tuition and some living costs from the EU?

  11. Will the government guarantee that the withdrawal from EU agencies such as Europol and Eurojust will not expose us to greater risks in the fight against serious international crime and terrorism? If so, how will this be done?

  12. Will the government guarantee that the rights of safety and protection provided through our membership of agencies such as the following will not be impaired, if so, how will this be done?

  • European Agency for Health and Safety at Work

  • European Aviation Safety Agency

  • European Food Safety Authority

  • European Medicines Agency

  • European Chemicals Agency

Finally, Charles Goerens MEP proposed that UK citizens who do not wish to lose the rights of EU citizens be granted Associate EU Citizenship and I fully support this idea.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Antonia Harrison

My Positive View Towards EU

Having lived and worked in two other EU countries for 16 years, and bothered to learn four other European languages, I have a different outlook to many Brits. I hold a long term, bigger picture view of Europe which is definitely about being stronger together and not about finding differences or reasons to stand apart. Just as in any relationship, look for what works then focus on improving the rest. Don’t just walk away.

I know the EU has problems as you would expect of an organisation of 28 different nationalities, cultures, languages, ways of working and inevitable bureaucracy. After 58 years of existence since formation in 1958 and having grown from 6 to 28 countries, who would expect different?

On the plus side, we are the largest economic trading block in the world with a population of over 500 million and most countries share a common currency, the Euro .  We have achieved peace throughout Europe since two horrendous World Wars which started in Europe.  Twelve countries were formerly behind the Iron Curtain .  It is quite astonishing what has been achieved.  I prefer to focus on the positive.

Unfortunately, the UK media, at least the populist media, has been negative portraying the EU as a cash-sucking machine rather than a source of inward investment.  Rarely are we told of the specific investments in eg infrastructure which are positively announced with a large EU flag on the Continent.  It is unbelievable how many people still believe that EU migrants are to blame for most of the ills in our economy, from NHS, housing and education through jobs rather than the honest fact that EU migrants bring a positive benefit to our country to the tune of £20 billion in net taxation receipts.  There are many reasons why our country is one of the most overcrowded in Europe and why the NHS always seems to be in crisis but these are nothing to do with EU migrants and more a result of policies from successive governments.  On the contrary, I value their contribution to our economy, our rich multicultural society and particularly their huge presence within the NHS at all levels.  Did you know there are Italian doctors working in various aspects of mental health services which is an area severely underfunded by this government?

Brexit focused largely on two false promises which they know they cannot fulfil ie:

  1. Saying the UK contribution to the EU is £350 million a week (false figure) and this saving would be spent on the NHS.  They now admit this figure is wrong and that money cannot go to the NHS.
  2. Saying they would cut immigration.  They have admitted they have no plans for how to cut immigration.

The Brexit campaign lied to the people.  They portrayed the European Union in a very negative way instead of a balanced look at the good and areas for possible reform.

 

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