Prejudice is now “worn as a badge and a sleeve of honour”, activist Gina Miller has said as she painted a grim picture of life for EU citizens in Brexit Britain.
Ms Miller, the businesswoman who became the figurehead in the case to get Parliament to vote on the Brexit process, laid out a list of attacks on EU citizens at a conference in central London as she urged them to cast their vote in May’s local elections.
One incident saw a Polish woman in Leicester losing her unborn twins in an attack apparently prompted by her speaking her native language at a bus stop.
In a keynote speech to the Brexit ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ conference yesterday, Ms Miller encouraged EU citizens to “get out of London” and spread their message and stop the “divisions and the distrust being built in Britain”.
She told the conference for EU citizens living in the UK: “We all want to quash those parasites in our society. Stigmatism, stigmatising people, must not happen because of the sinister consequences that comes from that.
“We must not be silent while prejudice is now worn as a badge and a sleeve of honour as people walk through the streets of Britain.
“This is not nationalism. This is hatred. Being British first does not mean everyone else is second or third. It does not mean that we have to give up on who we are. It is not an either-or choice, fellow Brits. It is British and a citizen of the world, not British because we cannot be a citizen of the world.
“British people must not allow EU citizens, in fact any foreigner, to become socially devalued. Being publicly hostile is not something any one of us should want to see.
“It is not everybody who voted Leave who voted against other people. It was a small minority, but their voices must not become the majority. People must not be told ‘speak English’.”
The activists laid out a list of incidents involving EU citizens in the audience, which drew gasps from the audience. They included: A French woman who approached Ms Miller in a florist and said she hold been told by the authorities she had to leave the UK because, as a stay-at-home mother, she was a low-skilled worker. Her husband and 12-year-old son could stay, she said. A German woman in Bristol who wrote to Ms Miller to say that her son, who had won several Paralympic medals for Team GB, had been spat at and kicked to the ground. A Polish couple in Leicester who wrote saying they had been speaking Polish at a bus stop when they were kicked to the ground and the woman kicked to the stomach, causing her to lose unborn twins. Ms Millar said their assailant told them: “No more of you bastards here.”
Ms Miller said: “This is not the Britain anyone should be proud of. This is why we must fight. We must all speak up.”
She urged the audience to ensure that they registered to vote in the local elections happening in May this year.
“Your voices can be heard,” she said. “The millions of EU citizens who can vote, must vote.
“You must make your voices heard. But not only your own voices – speak to your friends and your neighbours and encourage them too, to send letters, to write to local councillors and local MPs and demand answers.
“Why is this inhumanity happening? Why are we becoming this country where no-one speaks up for what is right? Ask them. Demand that they answer your questions.”
And she told those present that they must “get out of London”, which voted almost 60% in favour of remaining in the EU, and spread their message out to less Europe-friendly parts of the UK.
“I’m afraid we need to get out of London,” she said.
“You need to speak to anybody you might know outside London because you cannot take it for granted that the messages from London are echoing around the country. They are not. I go around the country, they are not.
“We cannot be complacent in London. We must reach out. We must go the extra mile. We must walk the extra mile.
“We must educate. We must explain that we are actually all the same. We are not different. We all love Britain. It is our home. But we need to be part of something bigger. In a world that’s moved on, we can’t go backwards.
“This is about our futures, our voices, and every single one of us has a responsibility to speak out and use it.”