Miles Martin gave this speech at Bath for Europe’s Pulse of Europe on 13 May, 2018.
My name is Miles and I’m Véronique’s husband.
So, Wednesday was Europe Day: an annual celebration of everything European. I am sure you all agree that there’s a lot to celebrate in Europe, but also that it’s a rather bittersweet event this year for us in the UK.
There are people who claim they are pro-Europe, even though they are anti the EU. But I don’t think that argument really holds water. We must always remember that Europe is not just a beautiful land mass; it is a diverse collection of people and cultures, and to really love Europe you have to love the PEOPLE of Europe.
And that’s why I am fan of the EU project, and the UK’s place in it. It’s because it focuses on the people. It promotes equal rights and opportunity for everybody across the continent. It promotes peace and cooperation between our countries which, after centuries of fighting one another, I thought, was an indication that we had finally grown up; matured into responsible adults.
Of course the EU is not perfect. Of course reforms are needed, but surely there isn’t a large organisation in the world that doesn’t need constant improvement?
And of course we still have massive challenges. The tragic news coming from Paris overnight is another reminder that security is always going to be an uphill struggle. But surely this is the kind of thing that we need to fight together, as a team.
Trying to pull up the drawbridge will not help us. But ongoing cooperation, standing side by side with our neighbours, WILL make a difference.
And when it comes to Brexit, my main concern is again for the PEOPLE it will affect.
In Britain, we know that higher food prices (which are already starting to bite) will force more and more families into poverty.
We now know that the NHS will almost certainly struggle to offer the range of drugs, and cancer care, that it needs in order to provide an adequate service to patients.
Opportunities for us to travel, study, work and live in our neighbouring countries will become something only for the well-off.
And for EU citizens here? Well, they will suffer a drastic reduction in rights, so much so that staying in this country will no longer be feasible for some. And even for those who are allowed to stay, with growing incidents of xenophobic and racist attacks on our streets, what kind of incentive is that?
As you have just heard, unless the rules change, Veronique is one of those citizens who may not have a right to stay here. And that’s after 28 years of being a Bathonian, and being married to a Brit.
But, of course, Brexit will also be stripping me of MY freedom of movement, which means that wherever else in the EU Veronique may have to go, I would not have the right to follow.
That’s what the hostile environment means to us.
So, that’s just our personal situation. But we know it is representative of countless other difficult, and sometimes extremely distressing, scenarios being faced by EU citizens across the UK, not to mention Brits currently living in the rest of the EU.
We are told by many that Brexit is the result of a democratic decision by the British voters. But I thought fairness was one of the mainstays of a true democracy!
- So how is it FAIR to exclude existing and future generations from the exiting opportunities our continent has to offer?
- And how is it fair to withdraw rights from EU27 citizens who have built a whole life in this country, on our invitation?
We must rebuild a fairer, better Britain, and that must start with a rethink on Brexit. Let us turn away from the obstructive notions of sovereignty, identity and nostalgia, and refocus our thoughts on the PEOPLE of Europe, and that INCLUDES the British people.
Let us promote peace and acceptance, unite AGAINST hatred and division, and fight for the ongoing prospect of international love, marriage, families and, above all, friendship. We need to stop Brexit, to save Britain.