German-born MP says she now ‘feels different’ about the UK as a result of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 14:11 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:13 20 December 2019

Vera Hobhouse MP. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Vera Hobhouse MP. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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New Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has said she ‘feels different about the country’ as a result of Brexit - describing the UK as “a lost soul”.

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The German-born MP for Bath, who became a British citizen after moving to the UK, added that the "relentless rhetoric and hostile environment" over freedom of movement has caused "deep wounds" that will not heal easily.

Hobhouse said whilst she has conceded that the "battle for Brexit is over", her opposition to leaving the European Union "has not melted away overnight".

She also made a passionate defence of the idea of European co-operation.

Speaking in the Commons during the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, Hobhouse said: "I am a first generation European migrant, I came here in 1990 and the passport that I was holding was not an issue.

"I was welcomed and allowed to thrive, our four children were born here and brought up here, I worked as a teacher and paid my taxes. I was, like millions of EU citizens, a part of British society."

She continued: "I became a British citizen and stood for Parliament - then came Brexit.

"EU citizens became the centre of a cynical, political ploy to divert the attention from a failure to invest in public services and pin blame on EU migration.

"Suddenly I was wondering 'am I not welcome here? Do they mean me? And if they do not mean me, who do they mean?"'

Hobhouse added that EU citizens understand that Conservatives believe they are not welcome in the UK.

"The relentless rhetoric and hostile environment created around EU free movement has wounded EU citizens to the core.

"The government's newly-found but false words about our European friends are failing to repair the damage - EU citizens have understood that this Tory government does mean them.

"No smooth words can easily heal the deep wounds that have been created here and abroad.

"I feel different about this country now then when I first arrived, and so do millions of true Brits who like me are grieving about Britain's lost soul, its shift towards small-minded nationalism," she added.

The Liberal Democrats "fought hard and well" to represent people in the UK who did not want to leave the EU, Hobhouse said.

"In a democracy, a ruling party needs a functioning opposition. Indeed, without opposition, democracy is dead.

"My passionate belief that the UK is better off as a proud member inside the EU than a European irrelevant outsider has not melted away overnight.

"I will not cease to voice this opinion, here and outside parliament, that is my democrat right.

"And whoever is trying to deny me or anybody else that democratic right is the anti-democrat, not me - but I understand that now the battle to stop Brexit is over."

Hobhouse added that leaving the EU is leaving "the ideal", and that because of this, the Liberal Democrats will be voting against the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

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