Thursday 7 July 2016

Speech to Twin Towns gathering in Bad Bruckenau

Here is the text of a speech that I delivered on Sunday 10th July in Bad Bruckenau, Germany, to the gathering of people from three small towns in Europe who enjoy warm relationships through an unusual three-way twinning arrangement. I am Chairman of the Kirkham Twinning Association, which oversees our link with the French and German twin towns.

I make no apologies for the strongly partisan pro-European tone.

"Honoured guests, fellow Europeans, friends,

It is with great pleasure and some embarrassment that we British meet you here today in the heart of Europe, as a temporary escape from our bruised and deeply divided country.

Town twinning is a powerful symbolic representation of the unified Europe that had been so painstakingly built in the wake of centuries of conflict and suffering, and the triangular relationship between three small towns such as ours is a living expression of our friendship and of our shared cultural, social and political values.

Those who dismiss the European project as the unwanted and irrelevant creation of bureaucrats and politicians would do well to witness the yearly gatherings of our three communities and the friendship and cooperation that drives it. I am always very proud of the fact that those from all three communities who take part in our twinning events are not politicians or business people seeking personal gain from their involvement, but just ordinary citizens who enjoy meeting people of a different nationality but a shared cultural, linguistic and political heritage. 

The lasting friendships and connections between our three communities stand as living proof of the true values of international cooperation and understanding which are so tragically lacking in many other parts of our world, and it is to many of us in the United Kingdom nothing short of a tragedy that the selfish and divisive voices of the so-called Brexiteers prevailed in our recent referendum.

I wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of many millions of us in Britain to the maintenance and strengthening of our European links, not least among those of us who derive so much pleasure from our twinning links with the wonderful towns of Bad Brückenau and Ancenis. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that the younger generation were 75% in favour of remaining in the EU, and therefore that the small-minded mentality which has driven the success of the Brexiteers is, perhaps, on the way out.

May I thank our friends in Bad Brückenau for the hospitality and entertainment that we have enjoyed this weekend and conclude by warmly inviting the people of the two towns to join us in Kirkham in 2017. You can be assured of a warm welcome - and you will not need a visa!

May we continue to enjoy the differences between our countries, but more importantly to celebrate what unites us. Long live twinning, long live Europe!"

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