Peace was the main theme of Bath for Europe’s monthly rally on Sunday 3rd November. As members of the armed forces gathered outside Bath Abbey to remember those who had died in past wars, supporters of the local pro-EU campaign group assembled at Laura Place to hear the experiences of two members who had spent their early years as children of war. Simon Campbell-Jones was born in England and Klaus Riekemann in Germany.
Their countries were once enemies but Klaus and Simon are friends, both passionate about campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. Simon’s reminiscences included his time in the US as a refugee before returning on an ocean liner that narrowly avoided being torpedoed. He also recollected seeing the skies above Bath black with planes flying over to Normandy for the D-Day landings. Klaus also told of a narrow escape. As a small child, living close to a chemical factory in the industrial Ruhr, he noticed a plane that seemed to drop from the sky before it began to fire at him while he ran down the street, bullets hitting the pavement to his left and right. He also spoke of terrible shortages after the war and of joining other children to break into the homes of the British army officers occupying the area to raid their larders for food. Both Simon and Klaus emphasised the importance of the EU as a peace project. “Europe has experienced wars, on average, every fifty years. That means,” said, Klaus, “we have now enjoyed nearly seventy-five years of peace.” Simon ended with the words of Spanish MEP Esteban González Ponz, “European is the peace that came after the disaster of war. Europe is the fall of the Berlin Wall.” A timely thought as this week marks the 30th anniversary of that ground-breaking event.
The final speaker was Simeon Wakely, a campaigner for disability awareness. He shared his experiences of being verbally abused for being in a wheelchair and felt he and other disabled people were ignored by the government and did not have a voice. His real concern is the impact of Brexit on those with disabilities. He said the Matt Hancock, the health secretary, had admitted he could not guarantee disabled people would not die if there were a no deal Brexit, because disabled people might not receive their medication supplied by EU companies. Simeon added, “We will also lose the European Social Fund. The loss of the European Social Fund could be disastrous for disadvantaged groups, including people with a disability. The fund currently gives £500m a year to organisations in the UK that provide employment and training support for people who are often neglected by mainstream providers.”
Emma Knaggs, Chair of Bath for Europe, spoke about the general election on December 12th and encouraged everyone to remind friends and family to register to vote if they had not already done so. https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
The group held a town hall meeting afterwards to discuss how it will support pro-Remain Parliamentary candidates in Bath and North East Somerset as well as neighbouring constituencies.