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Jo Swinson's speech
22 Sep, 2019

The missing bit – where she addresses Leave voters


Jo Swinson’s speech to the September 2019 Liberal Democrat Party Conference at about one third of the way through announces the policy of revoking the Article 50 notice without a further referendum after a general election win. There is clearly a bit missing from the text where she reaches out to Leave voters and explains what the Party is going to do for them on the theme of “take back control”. London4Europe Committee Member Michael Romberg writes it for her.


The rest of my speech sets out my vision for a liberal tolerant Britain based on equality and community - and the policies to bring that about. I hope of course that our policies will appeal to everyone.

But first, I wish to talk about one specific set of policy reforms.

I turn in particular to Leave voters, few of whom are in this hall but all of whom share this country with us. We in this hall cannot form a government just for us. It has to be for all citizens.

Leave voters, I know that you will be disappointed by what I have just said about revoking the Article 50 notice if we win a majority in the general election.

But I do wish to say that I have heard you. I heard you in 2016. I have heard you in the time since. Indeed, as a Party we had been listening to you for many years.

Let me assure you, if you are a small national party competing under first past the post then you know all about not being listened to. It’s no surprise that a regular turn at the Liberal Democrat Glee Club is “Who’ll come losing deposits with me”.


“Take back control”

The message that I heard loud and clear in 2016 was that you wanted to “Take back control”. And that’s great. We all – Remainers and Leavers - wish to take back control.

After these divisive three years we need to learn how to work together again. Having a shared objective will enable us to do that.

I have already explained how Brexit is not going to help – not us, not you, not anyone but a few hedge fund billionaires.

What I now wish to do is set out how we will together take back control in a way that leaving the EU will not.

To some extent it is easy for Liberal Democrats to present proposals that will really work.

We have long supported changes that would really mean that individual voters’ views would count in Westminster and in their county. Proportional representation.  More decentralisation to local government. Local government tax reform for a site value tax to allow financial independence from Whitehall. A commitment to further education and life-long learning to enable people to have the skills and resilience to deal with whatever life throws at us.


Freedom of Movement

I am absolutely in support of freedom of movement. It gives all of us the opportunity to live, work, study, retire, fall in love and live together anywhere in the EU without having to ask an immigration officer for permission. That is a huge freedom that we all have and I am determined to pass it on to all our children. It is a fantastic way of developing our European identity, which adds to - it does not subtract from - all our other identities.

I wish to make freedom of movement real for all. So for example the EU makes Erasmus available not just to university students but to students and teachers in Further Education Colleges and apprentices. We will develop grant schemes to ensure that they can actually make use of Erasmus.

I welcome EU citizens who come to Britain. They are our neighbours, our colleagues, our friends, our partners, fellow members of our community, developing this country. They bring their own style while assimilating to British ways and so they enhance our lives.

We will apply freedom of movement as EU rules prescribe. It is not uncontrolled immigration as some suppose and as Theresa May and Labour implemented it.

Rather, after the first three months the people with a right to remain are those who are working, seriously looking for work, studying or self-sufficient. We will actually apply the EU rules.

Surveys and focus groups show that once people understand the rules even those initially opposed are generally happy with the system. We can find common ground.

We will also increase the regulatory effort to make sure that minimum wage laws and housing laws are enforced. That will stop bad employers maltreating their staff and ensure that good employers and their staff are not unfairly driven out of business.


Working together to find solutions

But we need to go further.

We will not decide this policy from the top down. Instead we will set up a network of citizens’ assemblies in every county to enable you, us – all of us – to discuss and reach recommendations on what “take back control” actually means.

We will wish to examine together policies that could make the EU more democratic, such as direct election of the President of the European Commission.

But it is the UK political system that has the biggest effects on our lives. We should focus our joint efforts on that. How can we use the refurbishment of the Parliament building to move away from confrontation across the debating chamber to a more consensual approach? What should be the purpose of the second chamber of Parliament? Once we know that we can work out how to select the personnel.

I hope that all of you, Leavers and Remainers, will join me on this journey where we shed those labels and become again citizens of our country.




You can read more in our blogs “The Prime Minister’s Rôle: to unite the country”, “Policies to ‘take back control’” and “In Defeat, Defiance; In Victory, Magnanimity”.



The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author, not necessarily of London4Europe nor of the person into whose speech we are interpolating some text.