How We Keep Britain Open, Tolerant and United @BelindaBG

Thank you for inviting me and thank you Julia, Jackie and all of you for everything you are doing for the European cause.

I should explain a bit about my role in ALDE party. As you know the political parties are arranged in political groups, and the Liberal Democrats belong to the Association of Liberal Democrats in Europe or ALDE for short and they vote as a block, so I have a role in developing the policy on which all the liberal parties in Europe vote. Some countries have two liberal parties, like D66 and VVD in the Netherlands we just saw top the vote in the Dutch elections and keeping the forces of division and nationalism in the form of Mr Geert Wilders at bay. 
I am one of five people nationally elected to do this and it is very rewarding work. It means I have to know what our own MPs and Peers are voting on, so it helps that I sit on the party’s policy committee too.We’ve heard a lot about policy today, and we’ve heard today of the economic problems we’ll face if we do leave the EU.

I want to tell you a bit about how Brexit has already affected my University where I am AD for Science. After the vote last year shell-shocked post-grads and researchers were immediately terrified that they would not be able to finish their contracts or jobs. Some had been racially abused on buses or trains. One colleague wrote to me that the £1 million pound MRI scanner cost the university 15% more because of the slump in the pound.

My own research is on civil liberties and protection of the vulnerable. Especially migrant populations, trafficked women, and abused children.  But we lose the EU funding of programmes and refuges that protect women and young people from violence.

Hard Brexit means we would no longer be part of a Europe taking the lead to halt climate change.  And everything we’ve seen since the vote from the government rolled back on Renewable obligations. The impact on Suffolk will be terrible.

The country is now divided. I grew up in Nigeria under a dictatorship. I saw division and bloodshed following the Biafran war with burnt-out cars lay by the roadside. 

That’s why i value the European project of peace  and I want it to be there for others too.

I’ve seen the painful cost of a dis-united country. I don’t want a dis-united Kingdom in a dis-united Europe. The situation in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Gibralter shows that dis-unity is possible how fragile it all is. Europe keeps us all together.

I live with a vet and I’ve seen the impact of disease through intensive farming. Not only is animal welfare very important to us as a family. But as a mother, the safety of the food I feed my family matters. Yet the Food Standards Agency is just one of 40 pan-European organisations that we will lose. 

Because Europe gives us better consumer protection. 

Take standardization - people used often laugh at Brussels for it. But it means that manufacture costs are lower and it ensures safer, better quality goods. Remember how before the vote last year bendy bananas were an issue used by Brexiters. But people are starting to realize, as food prices are rising, and as standards drop, that ‘Project Fear’ was actually Project Understatement’.

Because more than two thousand faulty items are banned each year - from Chinese rubber ducks to suspect tattoo chemicals from the USA. It means we can make informed choices. 
And it means that we don’t have to face some terrible ones. As the control of hazardous chemicals thirty thousand of them, like dioxin, is done by the EU. And products coming in and out of this country will have to be stopped at the border controls, then the A14 will turn into a car park.

The benefit of living in a European Union is that health care is improved. The Medicines Agency ensures the scientific evaluation of drugs. With standards across Europe for screening and diagnosis.  

When our 4 children fall ill, they are cured with drugs that rely on large trials across Europe because drug development isn’t done by one country on its own, but on a continental scale.
My children have grown up having the benefit of cheaper goods, everything from phone tariffs to cheap flights, because of European co-operation.

I care about Europe because I believe in equal treatment between women and men. It was a founding principle of the EU in 1957 when the Treaty of Rome laid down the Principle of Equal Pay. Since then, European laws expanded our choices and improved ALL our lives including paid annual leave, protection from harassment at work, parental leave, and maternity rights.

I campaigned for 20 years for rights the European Social Chapter gave us.  I am not about to give them up now. Rights matter. Gay, straight, bi, trans… the EU makes ALL equal before the law. 

We can only meet the challenges of the future if we stay. The decision we take in the next two months will shape all our children’s futures. It’s a decision we take at a time of fear and insecurity. Fear of terrorism, and violence, and extremism. 

And it is our choice. We don’t have to cast ourselves adrift with Mrs May’s Hard Brexit.
Condemning ourselves to irrelevance as other leaders (first NZ prime minister, and now even Mr Trump) makes their first deal with the EU rather with Britain. We CAN change the direction of the country.

This election is about the values we hold dear. The values, not of fear and isolation, but of human dignity, and freedom.  Not of supremacy, but of democracy & equality. And of justice & respect for human rights. And of the belief that the European project, like most of our families, is not perfect, but is still pretty wonderful.

Analysis done by the British Election Study shows that more people have fallen off the voting register who voted Leave – (died!)  than those who have come onto the register – the young people who vote Remain and care about Europe. And who have marched in their thousands with energy and enthusiasm for their right to remain European.

It is not too late to still be part of a great, and peaceful, sustainable and strong Europe, 
Where Britain can still lead not leave.
We can do this.
Everyone here is part of the solution.
There is a job every person can do.
Votes matter. 
And we have to fight for every person’s vote, and then get them to polls.

Thank you.