Speech in defence of free movement, Broomhall, Sheffield, June 2

Posted by Natalie Bennett on 2nd June 2017

Welcome to Sheffield and the wonderful, diverse community of Broomhall. A community that just yesterday in this very hall held a wonderful event, Broomhall Together, celebrating the ways in which its members support and help each other.

It is a community that the rest of Britain can learn from.

Natalie Bennett Caroline LucasWe’re nearly a year on from the historic EU referendum, but it’s no surprise that Brexit is still at the forefront of political debate.

Before we go into the polling booths later this week, we need to ask ourselves a question. What is it that we’re actually hearing about in the Brexit debate?

Well we hear a lot about trade. We hear a lot about the single market.

And of course, this is all critically important. But I think something vital is being forgotten. People.

And today, we want to talk about people.

Because for too long in this general election campaign, people have been pushed to the margins of this debate.

People who have been scapegoated for problems which they did not create.

People who have been left feeling unwelcome in their own communities.

People who - nearly a year after the vote - are still living in uncertainty - both EU nationals living here, and so many Britons across the continent.

I’m hearing in Sheffield from colleagues and friends of EU nationals who’ve already given up on the UK - valued academics, senior medical professionals, loved friends who’ve already left the UK, when that wasn’t their plan before the referendum.

And I’ve met EU nationals who are thinking about following them.

And EU nationals so concerned that they might be targeted by Theresa May’s “hostile environment” for immigrants that they don’t want to go to public meetings, don’t even want to go on political email lists - in case the immigration department finds out about it.

The debate around migration and free movement was toxic in the campaign ahead of the referendum, and it’s remained toxic since. Maybe it’s even worse.

But in a moment when it feels like the politics of hate continues to define our politics, I want to make one thing absolutely clear.

In the Green Party, we are still proud to stand up for free movement of people.

And we will always be proud to stand up for the free movement of people.

Because whether we travel for work, whether we travel for study, whether we travel for love -- or simple curiosity and desire to experience a different way of life, we are all enriched by freedom of movement.  If we stay at home, we're enriched by the travellers.

It’s not just about the economic benefit. It’s not just about what immigration does to our GDP. It’s not just about propping up our public services.

What free movement gives us is so much more than that.

It’s about culture. It’s about conversations. It’s about education. It’s about the contribution that every person makes to enrich our lives.

The Green Party led from the front when it came to making the positive case for freedom of movement, and we were joined by millions across the country.

We fought back against the myth that immigration drives down wages.

We fought back against the claim that problems in schools were caused by immigration. We pointed out that one name mostly explains those: Michael Gove.

We pointed out that housing shortages come from decades of relying on the market to supply housing, when that model’s clearly failed.

We pushed back against hate.

We set out a positive vision of a Europe that works for everyone: a changed Europe certainly, but one in which Britain is still clearly part.

But sadly - as we have seen in this General Election campaign - there are also people, parties who have lost this vision, who perhaps never fully bought into it in the first place.

So-called progressives are giving in to far-right populism. They are not boldly, confidently standing up to a government that is using people as “bargaining chips”. This a government run by what used to be called the Conservative and Unionist Party, but now would be better called the Conservative and Ukip Party.

It has to stop. Britain can be better than this.

And the Green Party has a vision for that Britain.

A caring and confident country. An outward-looking country.

A country which you can vote for on June 8th, if you vote for the Green Party.

A country which could have a strong team of Green MPs in Westminster, standing up for free movement, for the young (and the not-so-young) to have the same opportunities and freedoms we’ve enjoyed for decades.

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Reflections on the financial cost from Caroline.